It may seem like easy enough of a task, but actually when you get down to it there are a lot of components to picking the right coffee table for your space. Not that it’s incredibly difficult to do, but if these factors aren’t considered then you could end up with a room feeling off or not looking the way that you want it to.
SIZE + PROPORTIONS
The first thing you should think about is the shape of your room and the space that your coffee table needs to fill. Among those measurements is the height. Believe it or not, not all coffee table’s heights are created equal. Just like the height of every sofa and chair is not the same, so go for a coffee table that is the same height or and inch or two below the height of your sofa. If it’s too low then it will get lost in the space or feel more like a floor cushion. But make sure it isn’t too high as well! Too high and it will dwarf all the other furniture and feel awkward to look at as well as to use.
You also need to pay attention to the proportions in regards to your sofa. The general rule of thumb is that your coffee table should be 2/3 the length of your largest sofa. While I don’t think that this is a hard-fast rule, if you do have a longer/rectangular space you might want to keep this in mind. Any shorter and there will be loads of open space, too long and it will take over the space and feel cluttered.
The last measurement you need to note is the clearance. There are a few spatial rules when it comes to design that I find are rules for a functional reason:
12 to 18 inches away from the sofa – I stay closer to 16 – 18. I find 12 inches to be just too close.
between 24 – 30 inches away from tv stand or fireplace
3 feet of clearance in the major walkways (this rule of thumb is for any piece of furniture)
The first rule is to ensure that you can use the table! Meaning if you are sitting on a sofa or chair, that when you lean forward you can actually reach the table to set something on it. If you have a rather large living space, then the third rule definitely comes into play. The second rule is definitely a good place to start if you aren’t sure what size or shape to get! But if you have a larger room don’t shy away from putting ottomans or a bench in front of the fireplace to finish up the space. That would mean you could forego the second rule but it could also change the shape of your table. If you’re having a hard time finding the right table because you have a larger space, maybe consider the ottomans! Extra seating and it shapes your room.
Don’t just go with whatever shape you see first. This is where you can really bring your space to life! I tend to keep the rule that if it’s a smaller space for the coffee table, you should keep to round edges. And that can include an oval table. But make sure that the oval table is large enough to appropriately fill the space. Some can be fairly narrow and will feel too small. But I love oval tables for formal sitting areas with parallel sofa’s. Square and large circular tables/ottomans are great for living rooms almost completely surrounded by furniture. Meaning on at least three sides of the rug you have a sofa, chairs, bench, etc. I absolutely love a large upholstered ottoman for a coffee table. It feels so comfortable when done well.
Our living room in our apartment is very long. We actually have the tv at one of the short ends of the rug because it all wouldn’t fit otherwise and we wanted to maximize the space. I had thought about an oval table, however because we have an 8 x 10 rug it would have had to be such a large table to appropriately fill the space. So I went with a iron rectangular coffee table with a glass top and solid shelf at the bottom. I’m so excited that it’s finally here and that I can decorate it with my coffee table books and antique store finds!
MATERIAL + WEIGHT
When picking your coffee table you want to think about the balance of the room. Does it compliment the space and make it feel proportional? Meaning if you have a couch that has skinny or exposed legs, then I would go with a solid table, one that goes all the way to the ground. Similar to the opposite! If you have a slipcovered couch that doesn’t show the legs, then you could go with a leggy table. My general rule of thumb is if there is any accent furniture with exposed legs to go with a heavier or more solid table. I read once that a living room that is “leggy” won’t feel grounded. I tend to agree.
Next is the function of the room; is it a heavily used living room or a more formal sitting space? Are you going to be using the table and setting things on it? Are there kids that will be using the space and needs to be friendly to their uses? Reclaimed wood tables are great for heavily used rooms because it already have scratches and imperfections. So another one or two won’t stand out. I also love them with lighter/neutral sofa’s because it balances the colors. If you have a darker couch you could opt for a lighter material, especially if you already have wood floors. Too much wood in one area or too many types of wood in one area tend to clash and not go well together.
I know it all seems overwhelming, but I PROMISE the perfect table is out there for you. Maybe even one of the above!? If you need a step 1, measure the space! Literally get your measuring tape out and measure the distance between your furniture and what’s empty in the middle of your living room. And if you find it just impossible, shoot me an email or schedule a call and I’ll be happy to help you out.