A coffee table does a lot of work. It needs to hold books, magazines, drinks, food, the remotes. You might want to put your feet up on it, or the kids might need a place for coloring or doing their homework. Plus it’s usually smack dab in the middle of the room, where you can’t miss it; so make sure it’s a good one. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re picking a coffee table. First think about what you need your coffee table to do for you, or what your room is missing, then pick a table that provides the solution.
If you have a very large room and a large coffee table, you can break up the scale of the table by flanking it with pairs of ottomans or benches. If you have a lot of people over, they can easily be moved out of the way for better circulation, but for everyday use these extra seats help connect the sofa at one end and the pair of chairs at the other end. Be sure to use a pair of ottomans; not just a single one.
When you have two sofas or any larger seating arrangement, a big coffee table might seem like the obvious solution. But also consider a pair of matching coffee tables. They will keep the focus off one large piece of furniture and let your eye move around the room more easily.
A tray on a coffee table is always a smart choice if you have a tendency to spill your coffee or have kids that will be using the coffee table for snacks and drinks. They’re also good if you entertain often and wish to avoid drink spills during parties.
If you don’t want the coffee table to be the focus of the room, choose one with a glass top and a finish that blends with others in the room, as in this example. This will keep the eye interested in all the items in the room, not just one layer of the design.
Metal bases with glass tops are another good choice to keep rooms feeling open. They’re also great when you have a special rug and don’t want to block views of it. Keep your glass cleaner handy, though, as there is no way around fingerprints. Keep in mind that with most glass tops, you’ll see a green tint on the sides if they are not inset. You can order a speciality glass that doesn’t have this tint, but it’s more expensive.
Go for color with an upholstered coffee table, as it will draw people to the surrounding sofas and chairs. Top it with a tray to hold books and other items (and to soften a strong color, such as the pink in this image). Choose your fabric wisely, since people may want to put up their feet (and shoes). Outdoor fabrics can be smart; steer clear of linen and fabrics with high amounts of rayon or viscose. Round coffee tables aid circulation, especially where there are many available seats, as in this example.
If not every seat can reach the table, make sure there’s another surface at hand. Using a vintage object for a coffee table, which adds a bit of history to a room. Make sure the piece is stable and all the connections are secure. If you need to refinish the piece, ask the vendor precisely what it’s made from, as this will help in the refinishing process.