We were noticing that this was a post that a lot of people have been looking at recently so we thought let’s just put it up at the top of the blog again! Picking out a coffee table is something that you think you just instinctually know how to do… until it’s time to find one. That’s why we made this post so you don’t have to guess what size, shape, or type you need to make the perfect sofa match. Enjoy this quick little republish with updated shippable picks. xx
The coffee table. So functional, so often an afterthought. Sofas get all the living room glory, and sure they keep us comfortable. But the coffee table is the workhorse of the living room. It holds our drinks, remote controls, beloved tech devices, treasured trinkets, and, for better or worse, our take-out dinners at the end of a long day. It occasionally doubles as a stool (which we’re not endorsing, for legal reasons, but we won’t deny having done on occasion), a desk, or a craft table. With such a big, diverse job, you’d surmise that it would be one of the first furniture pieces you thought about when moving into a new place and/or re-decorating… except it’s usually not.
How many hours do we put into choosing the perfect sofa, the perfect rug, the perfect chairs for our living room…only to throw in a hand-me-down coffee table that used to belong to Aunt Susan? (bless her heart). Okay, we don’t all go down the who-cares-about-a-coffee-table route. Plenty of you have definitely belabored the choice of a table, we’re sure, but regardless of what side of those scenarios you find yourself, you might need some guidance or inspiration in the coffee table shopping department. What size and shape go with what sofa size and shape? It might feel like a shot in the dark, but fear not, we’re here to help. We’ve put together a shopping guide with all the best coffee tables we could find—round, square, rectangular, oval!—and a few rules to keep in mind (with a diagram!) when choosing a coffee table.
First up: rules. While you can, of course, go with whatever shape and size you like, to have an ideal relationship between your coffee table and sofa, here are some general things to keep in mind: Your coffee table should be at least half the length of your sofa (but no more than roughly ⅔ the length) and should sit at about the same height as the seat, give or take 4 inches (i.e., if your sofa is 90-inches long and 20-inches tall, you should look for something, no matter the shape, that’s around 45 to 54 inches wide and 16 to 24 inches tall). However, if you have a sectional with a chaise, and your table is going within the open L-shape that sofa shape creates, that 1/2 to 2/3 guideline applies better to just the length of the horizontal seat, rather than the full length of the sofa. Here’s a quick graphic to show you what we mean, as well as a breakdown of ideal shapes by sofa configuration:
For more living room-specific tips, see this post where we broke down tons of super helpful tips like how much space you need around a table, rug size rules, lighting guidelines and more.
Once you figure out the right size and shape, after that, it’s more about making the right design choice for your space. Rectangular and oval-shaped coffee tables can almost be interchanged, depending on what kind of flow you’re looking for—same goes with round and square. Let’s break it down a bit further (with the bonus of our favorite shopping picks):
Consider rectangle (or oval but more on this shape next) if you have a standard sofa (or an extra-long sofa with chaise) so everyone can have easy access to their coffee, cocktail, or late-night snack of choice. This is also a great choice if you have a narrow space with minimal walk-around clearance. If you’re a household with more remotes or tech cords than you can count, think about getting a table with some functional but still sleek drawers like #1, #4, #18, or #21. It’s hard to see in the photo, but the table at #2 has a shadow box top (that’s great for putting in your favorite curiosities and trinkets but still having plenty of surface area for you know…real life stuff. Oh, and if you regularly eat in front of your TV (whether by choice or because you don’t actually have a formal dining area), a lift-top coffee table is super useful for not having to hunch over your plate (#10 and #20).
1. Shaw Walnut Coffee Table | 2. Shadow Box Coffee Table | 3. Pedestal Wood Coffee Table | 4. Tvilum Diana Coffee Table | 5. Logan Industrial Coffee Table | 6. Marisol Coffee Table | 7. Mabel Coffee Table | 8. Grey and White Marble Coffee Table | 9. Savi Striped Inlay Coffee Table | 10. Naya Pop-Up Coffee Table | 11. Blake Raffia Coffee Table | 12. Corbyn Coffee Table | 13. Elemental Layers Coffee Table | 14. Turned Leg Wood Coffee Table | 15. Nordcasa Coffee Table | 16. Lakin Recycled Teak Coffee Table | 17. Gold Metal And Glass Aurora Coffee Table With Shelf | 18. Bios | 19. Leon Burl Wood Coffee Table | 20. Mid-Century Pop-Up Storage Coffee Table | 21. Rosamonde Coffee Table
If you have a large comfy sectional or the traditional conversational set up with a sofa and a couple of chairs (kind of like Ginny’s living room above), a square table is a great choice. It fits perfectly in the L-shape nook of your sectional or the big space in the middle of your chat zone. The best part of a square table? You get the most styling space bang for your buck. Who doesn’t love a well-styled coffee table vignette? We really like the mix of the square top and round base of table #1 or #18 for a play on shapes. Similar to the shadow box table we talked about in the previous section, #2 from IKEA has a drawer with four sections, and the glass top lets you see all the pretty things you decide to store (definitely not the best option if you know you’ll just end up junking up that drawer with remotes and catalogs, though).
1. Square Flash Table | 2. Liatorp | 3. Profile Square Coffee Table | 4. Plywood Grid Cocktail Table | 5. Blake Rafia Square Coffee Table Indigo | 6. Vena | 7. Vaneri Wood Corner Table | 8. River Heights Square Wooden Coffee Table | 9. Streamline Square Coffee Table | 10. Rebar Coffee Table | 11. Gridiron Stainless Steel Coffee Table | 12. Chadwick Mid-Century Square Coffee Table | 13. Cabot Square Coffee Table | 14. Reclaimed English Beam Square Coffee Table | 15. Square Metal/Glass Open Shelf Cocktail Table | 16. Handmade Cube Low Square Coffee Table | 17. Lisabo | 18. Culver Square Coffee Table
For anyone living in a small space where every piece of furniture counts, think about cutting corners (literally) and going with something round. It’s also a good choice to pair with a sectional or sofa with chaise since it’s a good “nook” shape, i.e. it fits into a little nook of space nicely like in my (Arlyn’s) living room. Another hot tip if space is at a premium or if your room is already busy is to consider a glass top like #9. This helps things appear more visually open—if you don’t see it, is it really even there? Speaking of smaller spaces, storage is NEVER unwelcome in a tight room, which is why we really love #10, #11, and #17 for their deep, hidden-away storage (great for stashing hobby items, toys, and more). Round coffee tables also seem to have a bit more fun (the blondes of the table world??), so why not cash in on the availability of options for something more sculptural like #4, #6, #16, #20, and #21? But also look at those rattan stunners – #2, #7, and #15 (does this one ring a “trend bell”??)
1. Noir Tiered Coffee Table | 2. Rosie Coffee Table | 3. Gweneth Round Coffee Table | 4. Turn Coffee Table | 5. Shaker Coffee Table | 6. Spoke Marble Coffee Table | 7. Pyronia Rattan Cage Coffee Table | 8. Cap Ivory Cement Coffee Table | 9. Round Glass And Metal Ilene Coffee Table | 10. Drum Storage Coffee Table | 11. Burl Rotating Coffee Table | 12. Cala Hammered Coffee Table | 13. BORGEBY | 14. Milking Table LAX Series | 15. Round Natural Ribbed Rattan Cyrus Coffee Table | 16. Betania Petite Coffee Table | 17. Turning Table | 18. TROMSO | 19. Annabel Round Mango Wood Coffee Table | 20. Anya Travertine Coffee Table | 21. Santoro White Quartz Coffee Table
Oval is a good call if you have some small humans running around and want to attempt to avoid any face-to-table sharp-edge encounters (round is also good for this). If your living room is a high-traffic area (like, do you have to walk through it to get to another space like the kitchen or dining room?), a more sinuous shape helps with visual flow, as well. It accomplishes the same look as a rectangle but softens a really angular or modern sofa. The classic mixed marble and wood design (#1) is a favorite around here (check it out in Emily’s living room here). The thin legs keep it light and floaty (which balances the heavier wood at the bottom). Of course, the Platner table (#5) and the brass table from Brady’s living room (#7) are perfect if you love a modern design classic. However, if you’re into making a bit more of a statement, check out the table from West Elm at #11; it has a postmodern-inspired vibe that could add a serious cool factor to a simple, stripped-back living space.
1. Thomas Bina Olivia Coffee Table | 2. No No Table | 3. Bordeaux Coffee Table | 4. Palais Ovale Coffee Table | 5. Platner Coffee Table | 6. Wood Coffee Table | 7. Massenburg Coffee Table with Tray Top | 8. KÅSEBERGA | 9. Mid-century Modern Coffee Table | 10. Nova Oval Coffee Table Black | 11. Organic Modular Table | 12. Olivia Storage Coffee Table | 13. Stockholm Oval Coffee Table | 14. Nero White Marble Oval Coffee Table | 15. Clairemont Oval Ebonized Coffee Table
So…what else do you wish you had guidelines for? We’ve done a handful of posts with tons of rules by room, but how would you want us to drill down deeper? What do you struggle with regularly while decorating that you want some signature EHD how-to post action on? As always, let us know in the comments.
Since you’re already riding high on design guidelines, here are some more posts that might be helpful:
- Design Mistakes: Hanging Curtains All Wrong
- Living Rules to Know
- Dining Room Rules
- Bedroom Design Rules
- My Top 3 Design Rules. Ever.
- Check out more HERE
Opening Image Credit: Photo by Tessa Neustadt for EHD | From: How to Add Style to a Neutral Living Room
Great suggestions! Question that’s been on my mind lately about coffee tables… are they always necessary? It seems to be staple in living room design, but I feel like I accomplish their purpose other ways. We use side tables for our coffee. We always sit sideways with our feet on the couch. And having a little kiddo, means that I like as much floor space for him to run around. Am I crazy for skipping a coffee table in favor of the extra room? Have you seen good examples without one?
I skipped one in my playroom/TV room, to leave room on the area rug for my kids to play. I have a small live edge stool that I move in front of me to hold drinks as needed, but otherwise keep off to the side. Can’t speak to the overall design question, but functionally it works.
We don’t have one anymore. We’re in a relatively narrow townhouse, and a coffee table takes up too much space…especially because we have the sofa bisecting the living area to provide space behind it for bookcases and chairs facing them.
I got a cool Chinese pigskin chest on a wooden frame that I now use as a side table. — lots of storage and space on top for vignettes — but it doesn’t eat up that much floor space. It’s almost as long as the width of the sofa, so it fits perfectly.
My parents have a large ottoman they use instead. Comfy as seating, but generally has a tray on it for drinks.
What about U- shape sectionals? Personally, I have a C+B leather U and paired it with a hexagon shaped decorative side wood table.
I would love to see design dilemma on creating a dual purpose great room. I’ll email the team.
Love this one!
Chris loves Julia paired their U sectional with a round coffee table. Their basement great room is amazing, you should check it out.
Yes! When I was deciding on a U shape their basement family room helped push me in that direction. Their space is really lovely.
We have a pull up coffee table while not being the prettiest, it’s the best thing ever. We use it occasionally for meals, but the kids pull it up to play games, or color and I use it for my laptop if I need to work and parent at the same time.
Oh, we got some vintage TV trays (with a stand!) on eBay that handles our eating in front of the TV issue. And then they go away when you finish eating!
We love our ugly IKEA pull up coffee table! We really need a new one but I’m having trouble finding a suitable replacement.
Not the hugest assortment of styles, but maybe one will work: https://www.thespruce.com/best-lift-top-coffee-tables-5115143
Do you have a pic showing all the round tables? It seems to be missing above the links… Thanks!
Please provide guidelines for great pairings of barstools and dining chairs (maybe you have to throw dining tables in there too) for the perfect kitchen look.
I’ve been seeing so many beautiful nesting round coffee tables of different heights – I’m bummed there wasn’t a section dedicated to these. But, as usual, great round up and thanks for the fantastic info.
I agree! I have a loveseat/sofa table in the corner that kind of makes a sectional footprint. I feel like a round table is needed with all the rectalinear going on the room (tv on the wall and rectangle end table and chest at the ends. A round nesting table situation seems so versatile.
So many fun pieces and designs! I can’t wait until we move into our new home so we can shop for some awesome pieces like this!
I ended up nixing the coffee table all together and bought an ottoman instead. Great for storage and putting your feet up. I had space for two side tables which are easier to put your drink on anyway.
Me too— last year we made a pilgrimage to the Annie Selke outlet in western Massachusetts and scored an awesome rug ottoman for next to nothing due to a very small hole on the bottom that no one sees. It’s very stiff so handles trays with ease, but is great to put your feet up on. Highly recommend their rug ottomans!
I’ve been searching for a second hand, affordable round coffee table for almost a year. I learned the hard way that a 3 legged table isn’t ideal for kids and their Lego building. My 5-year-old son flipped the table more than once just by leaning on it the wrong way. (milk, food, lego creations ended up all over the place). I finally found the perfect vintage table at a shop last week for $50!!! Four legs or a very heavy, sturdy table is the way to go with round.
I’ve been on the hunt for over a year for a coffee table that is NOT brown, NOT modern, and under $500. I think it’s impossible. LOL
Thrift stores and flea markets are your friend. Lots of vintage coffee tables have great lines and sizes, and definitely fall under $500. Consignment stores might work for you, too. I have a vintage art moderne glass, leather, and brass with a great patina coffee table in my LR that was $25 at Goodwill. And a danish modern side table that I use as a coffee table between the chairs next to the fplace that was $10 at Goodwill. They were scores, but I am sure you will find a great piece at your price point if you explore the world of second hand coffee tables.
These posts are giving me LIFE. Seriously, thank you!!!
Currently one of the things I’m struggling most with is using color. I’m SO tempted to stick with black, white and grey in every room, but I know I need to incorporate color into my space. I’m struggling to find ways to do this in the living room without feeling accosted by something too bright, and I also worry that any color I choose will feel dated quickly. I’m not sure where to add it and how much. Do I do art, throw pillows, and the rug? I want my space to feel welcoming, modern and soothing but not flat and boring. Help! 🙂
Hi Ashley! I’m similar in that I tend to gravitate towards neutral colors (I’ve yet to decide if that’s really my “style” or just because I’m too scared of color, hah). So to combat this in our renovation, I decided on muted blue-green color for the walls of our kitchen/dining area. That way I can choose neutral accessories that are easy to mix and match, but always have a dose of color no matter what.. And if I’m over that theory in a few years it’s easy to repaint. 🙂
Excited that you guys finally tackled this topic! I was struggling with this for the chaise couch I bought last year and remember scouring the web for help but NOTHING existed! We finally settled on the round mara coffee table from Article and it’s been so perfect! The most affordable marble coffee table I’ve seen: https://www.article.com/product/3245/mara-oak-coffee-table
Thank you! I love these really practical posts!
I think it’d be so great to have a post/series on how to fill/style awkward spaces — like “you have a weird bit of trapped narrow space between two walls” or “you have an empty corner where you can’t hang anything on the wall”… I don’t know exactly… but just the idea of grouping little decorative props by size/shape/heavinessvs.lightness, as in little “style props for specific design problems/spaces.” For me, specifically, I’m trying to find an oval tray and some short stuff to fill it with as a centrepiece for our dining room table (something that can stay there and not interfere with conversation), and keep getting stymied. And, we also have a really long hall wall, but with a bulk head running the entire length (so it’s unusually short), plus it goes from being a hall to the wall of a room… and I also keep getting stymied about how to break it up.
I hope you have ESP, because that wasn’t very clear… hopefully you understand!
I second this! I struggled for a long time with a bedroom that had only one window in an awkward spot. It was and is our master in an apartment that we love. Putting a giant mirror in a strategic spot made a world of difference. Tricks for awkward layouts, awkward dead spots, and awkwardness in general would be lovely!
Trunks for coffee tables please- thanks
Great post! I’d love to hear more about how deep/large a coffee table should be. Is a large square table too overwhelming for a standard 3 cushion sofa with a chair on one side? We have a fairly large open area between our couch and the credenza on the opposite wall, so my instinct is to fill it up with something more hefty.
I wish you would show storage tables and other options for small spaces. There is one round table here that slides open. That C&B wood & brass one is so disappointing this way!
Proportions are SO important I love all these rules of thumb! Wanted to share a cool round driftwood coffee table that I crafted from driftwood that we gathered from the lake! It’s kind of similar to one you linked: https://www.charlestoncrafted.com/2017/11/14/diy-driftwood-coffee-table/
I’d love a post on how to coordinate more than one seating area in a large living or family room!
This is so helpful, thank you! What do you recommend using for laying out a LR plan? Is there a free or accessible tool online where you can plug in shapes and see the hypothetical layout?
I like the rug in very first picture
Curious about coffee table height. Some feel too low, others too tall. Any tricks?
Hi Diana! Emily regularly uses the 4-inch rule for coffee table height, i.e. it should be within 4 inches of your seat height to be comfortable for everyday use (plus it doesn’t look out of proportion with the sofa!). Hope that helps!
Great Post! I was wonderfing, what shape table would you recommend for a U-Shaped sofa? We have an L-shaped sofa with a chaise on the other side, making it a L. I have measured the space in between the “U” and it seems that we have room for something around 3 feet wide.
Hi Avia! A U-shaped sofa works great with a round or square table, since that’s the nook shape that sofa naturally creates (for the most part). A rectangular table would also work if the sides of the sofa aren’t super long (you don’t want to leave anyone sitting on the edges of the sides without easy access to a table, afterall).
I’d love some bathroom design rules…I’m thinking of things like tap and faucet height, storage, mirror heights, best placement for lighting etc!
While the EDH team is based in the US, I understand that you have a worldwide readership. I often wondered if it could be fun to create a 1 room/2 ways-style post or series with one version featuring pieces from US vendors, and the other featuring vendors from another country. If required, readers from those countries could even suggest vendors or makers as a starting point, or individual pieces that may fit the style.
I wish I had had this post years ago! I had a 6 year journey to find a coffee table to replace the glass topped Ikea one that I inherited from my husband’s bachelor pad (the constant cleaning of smudge marks drove me crazy). I prioritized being able to sit on the floor with my legs straight out under the coffee table because this is how I used to work on jigsaw puzzles, lol (flash forward 3 years later with a kid and I haven’t done a puzzle in 2 years…). After years of searching for something under $500, we eventually splurged on a Chilton coffee table from Room and Board (https://www.roomandboard.com/catalog/living/coffee-tables/chilton-coffee-table-in-walnut) because we realized it’s the piece of furniture we use the most in the whole house (we eat a lot of meals in front of the TV after the baby is in bed). Anyway, thank you so much for this super helpful post!
Any suggestions for coffee tables for homes with small children? I have a nine month old son who is pulling up and crawling. We just moved and I bought a new sectional sofa but don’t have a coffee table yet. Our old furniture is in the basement living area. I recently bought a marble and brass side table that I loved, but I had to move it out of the living room because my son almost knocked it over and tried to pull up on it. Should I just get used to the idea of not having a coffee table until he is older or should I look for something with rounded corners and heavy enough that he can pull up on it without knocking it over?
How about a post on vent covers- much like a discussion on outlet switches you did in your “what you liked/would do differently in your kitchen”. We all know the standard boring and functional options. What kind of high- end or beautiful/not ugly options are there?
Amazing its really nice and good post i have no word to say amazing.
We gave up our coffee table about three years after my husband required a walker after back surgery and we needed the ‘room’. Result: our family room seemed to lose it’s center….and even with side tables for drinks…there wasn’t even parking space for a popcorn bowl or appetizers during movie night. Back with one four feet long and two feet wide…will never let it go again!
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I would love love love to see a roundup of the best cocktail ottomans for coffee table use! I am looking for something that is kid-friendly as my current wood table has been the source of many “boo-boos”.
EHD recently put together a post on “The Rules To Picking The Most Comfortable Sofa (Plus The Ones We Can Guarantee)” which was wonderful! Would you guys be able to add on to that post by offering multiple coffee tables that could be paired with each sofa featured (in the vein of “Power Couples: Sofas and Coffee Tables”)? Thanks!
I would love tips on pairing (non-matching) sofas and non-matching accent chairs in the living room. Think two non-matching chairs across from a sofa configuration. I have been looking online and I haven’t found many resources or inspiration.
Also a more specific design question but maybe others also struggle with this. All my living room furniture is more leggy so I feel my coffee table needs more weight (not leggy) to balance the room but my rug is central pattern focused. Any tips of choosing a coffee table in this dilema? Waterfall table? Lucite table?
One of the walls in my living room (the main one where the media console and tv are) is slightly askew so it’s not quite a 90 degree angle in the corner and the wall is not quite a straight line across. We camouflaged this by putting a basket and a lamp in the corner and pulling the media console forward a little on the side of the wall that goes back a bit. However, our current coffee table is rectangular, and when you sit on the couch across from the tv, you can really tell things aren’t quite even because the tv console and the coffee table lines are really mismatched. I was thinking of getting a circular or oval coffee table with maybe only three legs to help further camouflage this. Will this work? Any other ideas? I really don’t understand why the builders made the living room slightly askew! I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they had to for some sort of structural reason, but it’s been a pain to style!
This blog was super helpful and education!
I love the look of upholstered coffee tables, and it seems every English room I see has one. But they seem so impractical for holding drinks – I know you can use a tray, but it still makes me nervous. Anyone have real-world experience here to share?
I’ve styled trays and stacks of books on a low upholstered piece and found that unless handled with the greatest of care, they readily slip off and crash to the floor. Frustrated, my husband and adult daughters began wordlessly moving my arrangements to firmer surfaces – the hearth or the floor – and I can’t argue with their point. So I put away the props and now we use our upholstered piece only for impromptu seating or resting our feet. Which is absolutely lovely too.
All of our sofas have different leather ottomans or benches in front of them because we love to put our feet up and relax. I have found using small trays is the answer with a “trick”: a faux fur draped across the center to give the small tray more presence (also leaves the sides of the bench free and clear for feet). We have a 14” diameter round tray on a 24”x48” ottoman, a 15” diameter round tray on a 21”x54” tufted leather ottoman and a 14” slab of crystal white marble (an old product sample) on a 16”x45” leather bench with wooden legs. We do not put drinks on the ottomans/benches but use side tables instead.
I love the Thomas Bina Oval coffee table but worried it is just a little too big for my space. Any suggestions on a similar shape and look but smaller?
No idea about quality but here’s one that’s quite a bit smaller: https://www.wehomz.com/products/1000mm-white-natural-oval-coffee-table-with-shelf-water-proof-scratchresistant-16256?variant=42119387611348
Where can I get those pillows in your first picture?! The first picture on the page with the big windows, fig tree and blue and blush color palette. I tried to re-create it but the pillow cases I bought are too cheap looking. Thanks!
Some of them were linked here, but that was five years ago so probably not available: https://stylebyemilyhenderson.com/blog/add-style-neutral-living-room. Are there any specific ones you like?