How to Pick the Perfect Coffee Table

What would you consider the focal point of your living room? Your velvet sofa? Your fireplace mantle? Your brick accent wall? Those may be the centre of interest in terms of decor but what is the centre of activity? Well, we might have already given away the answer with the title of this blog post, but it makes sense, right? The coffee table is the centre of activity. Depending on the functionality of your living room, whether it’s a family room or formal sitting room, the coffee table sees the most action. It houses coffee mugs, magazines, wine glasses, board games, TV remotes, and popcorn bowls. And right now, styling a coffee table is all the rage in every design magazine, blog, and Instagram post.

So with all this attention, why is the coffee table so low in the pecking order of furniture choices? Why do we keep those hand-me-down tables that may in fact be rustic but not in a good way? We spend so much time picking the perfect sofa and finding a favourite accent chair for “that” corner, yet we hardly give the coffee table a second thought. It’s time to change all that. Let’s give coffee tables the attention they deserve!

Rules for Choosing the Perfect Coffee Table

Assessing the Width

Choosing a coffee table that is way too small or way too big is a common mistake. The wrong coffee table will throw off the scale of all your carefully chosen furniture. If you’re looking at your living room right now and thinking, “Oh, man, my coffee table is totally the wrong size,” don’t rush to your computer and eGoogle “coffee table clearance.” You’ll end up down a mean rabbit hole of endless choices. To save you from such a fate, memorize this one rule: a coffee table should be 1/2 to 2/3 the width of your sofa. Period. Exclamation mark! The only question mark allowed is if you own a sectional sofa. In which case, apply the same rule to the width of the longest section of your sofa.

“One rule to remember: a coffee table should be 1/2 to 2/3 the width of your sofa. Period. Exclamation mark!”

— DWK Team

Pro tip: Measure the width of your sofa and multiply that number by 1/2 and 2/3. Keep that range close to your heart (or a note in your phone will do just as well) while you’re out furniture shopping. You can ask the salespeople at your go-to store for a tape measure, or just come prepared and carry one in your purse. It really is worth it.

Assessing the Height

Next, you’ll need to figure out the appropriate height of your coffee table. Your coffee table should range within 8 inches of the height of your sofa seat. In other words, the height of your coffee table should be no taller than 4 inches of your sofa seat and should be no shorter than 4 inches of your sofa seat.

Pro tip: Measure the height of your sofa seat and add 4 inches to that height and subtract 4 inches from that height. You now have the perfect height range for your new coffee table. 

Choosing the Perfect Shape

Now that we have the right dimensions, let’s talk about shape. There are three main shapes to work with: rectangle, square, and circle.

Rectangle: A rectangular-shaped coffee table is perfect for long standard sofas or extra-long sofas with an attached chaise. The rectangle shape will ensure that everyone on the sofa has a place to rest his or her beverage/snack/book of choice. We’ll often choose a rectangular shape if the living space is longer than it is wide (i.e., the room is a rectangular shape as well).

Pro tip: If you’ve been gifted/cursed by the living room gods with a massive living room, we suggest you consider two coffee tables to adequately fill the space.

Square: Square coffee tables are perfect for square-shaped spaces and floor plans that consist of a shorter sofa with two opposing accent chairs.

Circle: Round coffee tables are absolutely key for small spaces. They facilitate flow in the space and allow home dwellers and guests to easily move around. We especially love to see a round coffee table paired with a sectional.

Pro tip: Consider nesting tables if you live in a condo with limited space. Three little tables that neatly fit together save space and provide additional surfaces for when you host all your friends for football Sundays!

Bonus pro tip: Consider a bi-level coffee table for small spaces: double the surface, double the storage, double the styling fun! You’ll have plenty of space to host your accessories while hiding away those pesky practicalities of life.

Choosing the Perfect Material

It’s important to consider the “weight” of your coffee table, and no, we don’t mean get out the scale and place bets with your significant other. We’re talking about “visual weight,” the way an item feels and the attention it draws.

Wood versus Glass

Natural wood coffee tables have more weight to them depending on their size and stain. If you have a large living room with an airy layout, a wood coffee table can ground the space. However, if you have a small space with an open floor plan, a big wooden coffee table may overcrowd it. A glass coffee table, on the other hand, has less visual weight than wood. Glass or mirror topped tables can make a room feel larger as they appear to be airier.

Pro tip: Consider a wood coffee table if pointy glass corners pose as a safety concern.

If you still have questions on your quest for the perfect coffee table, leave us your troubling thoughts in the Comment section! We’d love nothing more than to put your design qualms at ease.