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Rules For Picking a Coffee Table (+ 105 of Our Favorites for Every Space)

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Photo by Tessa Neustadt for EHD | From: How to Add Style to a Neutral Living Room

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. 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:

Coffee Table Size And Shape Guide

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):

Rectangular

photo by tessa Neustadt | from: mel’s living room reveal

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, #21, #23 and #30. 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 #29). 

Coffee Tables Rectangle New

1. Shaw Walnut Coffee Table | 2. Shadow Box Coffee Table | 3. Shadow Box 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. Mill Iron Coffee Table | 15. Wiley Coffee Table | 16. Fairmont Metal Coffee Table | 17. Oblique Marble Coffee Table | 18. Beckett Reclaimed Wood Coffee Table | 19. Nordcasa Coffee Table | 20. Lakin Recycled Teak Coffee Table | 21. Padre Coffee Table | 22. Hafley Coffee Table | 23.Knox Storage Coffee Table | 24.  Janelle Coffee Table | 25. Bios | 26. Sayer Coffee Table White | 27. Oscuro Coffee Table | 28. Trivia Coffee Table | 29. Mid-Century Pop-Up Storage Coffee Table | 30. Zennie Coffee Table

Square

Traditional Living Room Blue Walls
Photo by Zeke Ruelas for EHD | From: Ginny’s Living Room Reveal

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 for a play on shapes. Similar to the shadow box table we talked about in the previous section, #2 from IKEA has a draw 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). 

Coffee Tables Square New 1

1. Square Flash Table | 2. Liatorp | 3. Profile Square Coffee Table | 4. Woven Wrapped Rattan Coffee Table | 5. Strut Coffee Table | 6. Vena | 7. Whitebird Small Coffee Table | 8. Matter Cement Coffee Table Ivory | 9. Streamline Square Coffee Table | 10. Bowley Coffee Table Brown | 11. Gridiron Stainless Steel Coffee Table | 12. Brezza Coffee Table | 13. Blake Rafia Square Coffee Table Indigo | 14. Reclaimed English Beam Square Coffee Table | 15. Square Metal/Glass Open Shelf Cocktail Table | 16. Aphra Square Coffee Table | 17. Cabot Square Coffee Table | 18. Thaddeus Forged Iron and Glass Coffee Table | 19. Solano Square Coffee Table | 20. Marble Plinth Coffee Table | 21. Rebar Coffee Table | 22. Aiken Square Coffee Table | 23. Lenia Square Coffee Table | 24. Lisabo | 25. Reclaimed Russian Oak Parquet Coffee Table | 26. Plywood Grid Cocktail Table | 27. Lallerod

Round

Arlyn Hernandez Makeover Takeover Living Room Ehd2
photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: reveal: arlyn’s bright & happy rental living room makeover

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 the family room of Jaime Derringer from Design Milk above. Another hot tip if space is at a premium or if your room is already busy is to consider a glass top like #9 and #24. 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, #22 and #25 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 #27

Coffee Tables Round New

1. Noir Tiered Coffee Table | 2. Jewel Round Coffee & Side Table Set | 3. Zorina Cocktail Table | 4. Turn Coffee Table | 5. Silicus Coffee Table | 6. Spoke Marble Coffee Table | 7. Emmond Two-Tone Coffee Table | 8. Cap Ivory Cement Coffee Table | 9. Round Glass And Metal Ilene Coffee Table | 10. Drum Storage Coffee Table | 11. Brass Tray Coffee Table | 12. Marte Ottoman | 13. Modern Round Coffee Table | 14. Milking Table LAX Series | 15. Marble Coffee Table | 16. Betania Petite Coffee Table | 17. Brass Tray Coffee Table | 18.Victory Round Coffee Table | 19. Round Glass Coffee Table | 20. Arteriors Bates Large Coffee Table | 21. Edmund Silver Glass Cocktail Coffee Table | 22. Turning Table | 23. Anya Travertine Coffee Table | 24. Charlottenborg Table | 25. Cala Hammered Coffee Table | 26. Shaker Coffee Table | 27. Darbuka Black Coffee Table

Oval

Emily Henderson Waverly Living Room 2018 Fall Update 7 1670x2088
photo by tessa neustadt | from: experimenting in my living room: trying to find “the” rug

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) is a modern design classic, and while the brass table above from Brady’s living room is no longer available, we found a similar one in a brass tone (#7) if you love the silhouette but are flexible on the metal finish. If you’re into making a bit more of a statement, check out the petrol blue table from West Elm at #19; it has a retro, ’80s inspired vibe that could add a serious cool factor to a simple, stripped back living space. 

Coffee Tables Oval New

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. Leigh Coffee Table | 9. Brown Oval Coffee Table | 10. Nova Oval Coffee Table Black | 11. Oval Tribal Carved Wood Coffee Table | 12. The Floyd Coffee Table  13. Stockholm Oval Coffee Table | 14. Nero White Marble Oval Coffee Table | 15. Brodick Coffee Table With Tray Top | 16. Gallego Marbled Coffee Table | 17. Whisler Coffee Table | 18.Vintage Brass Oval Platter Table | 19.  Ruby Storage Coffee Table Blue | 20. Reeve Mid-Century Oval Coffee Table | 21. Marlow Oval 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:

Opening Image Credit: Photo by Tessa Neustadt for EHD | From: How to Add Style to a Neutral Living Room

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Mandy

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?

Erica

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.

Paula Carr

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.

Tiffanie

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.

Mary

Love this one!

Lauren

Chris loves Julia paired their U sectional with a round coffee table. Their basement great room is amazing, you should check it out.

Tiffanie

Yes! When I was deciding on a U shape their basement family room helped push me in that direction. Their space is really lovely.

Victoria

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.

Paula Carr

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!

Kp

Do you have a pic showing all the round tables? It seems to be missing above the links… Thanks!

KD

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.

Megan

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.

Joanie

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.

Paige Cassandra Flamm

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!

Paige
http://thehappyflammily.com

Sarah

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.

Trista

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.

kiki

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

Susan

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.

Ashley

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! 🙂

Heidi

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. 🙂

Zoe

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

Summer

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!

Sarah Jane

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!

Susan

Trunks for coffee tables please- thanks

Abigail

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.

Newjen

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!

Morgan

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/

Paula Carr

Beautiful!

Sarah

I’d love a post on how to coordinate more than one seating area in a large living or family room!

nichole

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?

Penny Coats

I like the rug in very first picture

Diana

Curious about coffee table height. Some feel too low, others too tall. Any tricks?

Avia Rosen

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.

Tiff

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!
Thank you!

mads

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.

Katie

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!

Becky

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?

Beth

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?

Saurabh Gupta

Amazing its really nice and good post i have no word to say amazing.
http://krmangalam.com/vaishali/

[…] •  Here’s everything you need to know about HOW TO PICK THE RIGHT COFFEE TABLE FOR YOUR SPACE. […]

Barb

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!

Chuck Marma

Nice Article!!

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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”.

Shari

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!

Alex

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?

Nimalee

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!

Stephanie

This blog was super helpful and education!

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