round basket coffee table with modern farmhouse decor on colorful rug

An Easy Guide For Buying A Coffee Table

You may think you have found the perfect coffee table for your living room, but you are wrong! I am absolutely kidding, but there are quite a few considerations you probably haven’t made. Oftentimes people pick the first coffee table that looks good to them and unfortunately, there is so much more to selecting the right coffee table for your space.

You have to consider the material, the height, the width, the color, the function and so much more. Sound overwhelming? It can be, but that’s why I’ve put together this easy buying guide to help you with your next coffee table purchase. If you’re still stuck between a coffee table and an ottoman, go check out my blog on the topic to help you decide.


Coffee Table 101

standard wood topped coffee table with thin metal frame in colorful living room

Now that you know choosing a coffee table isn’t as easy as you originally thought, you’re probably wondering what factors you should consider first. It’s quite a list, but here is the down and dirty about what characteristics you need to think about before purchasing:

  • Height
  • Weight
  • Length
  • Function
  • Material and/or color
  • Type of sofa you have
  • Furniture/spacing distribution of your living room

What Does Your Sofa Look Like?

Linen colored sectional with a rectangular wood and black metal coffee table

I believe the most important consideration when it comes to your coffee table is what your sofa looks like. Why is this? Well, to keep it simple, the kind of sofa you have will ultimately determine the shape and size of your coffee table. Sofas are key to defining your space and should probably be the next blog for a good how-to buying guide, but for now, let’s make do with the one you have.

round basket coffee table in eclectic modern farmhouse living room

I’ve broken down coffee table options into three different sofa types to help you better understand how your sofa choice impacts your table. Although I’ve broken them down as if it’s paint by numbers, it never really is. Please only reference this as a guideline as you will quickly learn there are many other contributing factors to choosing the right coffee table.

  • Regular Sofa: Choose a rectangular, oval, or multiple-set coffee table that extends around 1/2 to 2/3 the length of the sofa
  • Sofa With Chaise: Select a round, oval, or rectangular option that extends 1/2 to 2/3 the length of the horizontal seat section (excluding the chaise)
  • Sectional (L-Shaped): Find a circular or square coffee table that is 1/2 to 2/3 the seat

What Else Is In Your Room?

White couches on either side of a marble and wood-legged coffee table positioned horizontal to a large fireplace

Once you identify options based on your couch, you’ll then also want to consider the size and shape based on the amount of space you have in your living room. Your coffee table should follow a few key spacing recommendations to help the room flow and function better. These spacing suggestions may also impact the shape and size of your coffee table.

modern marble coffee table with golden legs in modern grey and black living room

First, your coffee table should sit between 12 to 18 inches from your sofa. Next, look towards your TV stand or fireplace. Make sure your coffee table sits at least 24 to 30 inches from either to ensure there is enough room for incoming and outgoing traffic. This last one is probably the most subjective, but most designers encourage you to measure the length between your sofa and television stand and then subtract 42 inches to get the appropriate width of your coffee table.

With all this considered, you should have a fairly good idea of at least what shape and maybe even what size would work within your space. Now it’s time for the smaller, but still just as important details.

Height, Weight, Length

Wooden box coffee table with wheels on one end in the middle of two white sofas creating an L shape

If you didn’t already get it, your coffee table should be approximately 1/2 to 2/3 the length of your sofa. To be fair, the closer you can get to 2/3 the better, but there is definitely some wiggle room there. As far as height goes, you should aim for your sofa cushions to sit at the same height as that of your chosen coffee table. If you can’t find one of the same height, one to two inches lower should work just fine as well!

Height and length are fairly straightforward, but weight can honestly be understood in a couple of ways. First, weight could refer to the actual physical weight of the table. If you want to move the table around a lot then you probably shouldn’t purchase a heavy marble table. If you plan to move yours around perhaps try something like wood that’s a bit lighter.

Glass and gold abstract coffee table in front of linen and bronze studded sofa

On the other hand, weight could also refer to the thickness or visual heaviness of a material. In fairness, this is sometimes correlated with the actual weight but just because the table looks thicker, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily heavy. The key here is to find the balance between your furniture pieces within your living room.

If you have accent chairs with thin gold legs and a more modern couch with narrow feet, you may want to help balance the space with a legless, thick coffee table. Adversely, if your sofas and chairs are thicker you may want to add a lighter coffee table that perhaps has thin metal legs and frame. Play around with different weights to help create more visual interest in the space.

I’ll Say It Over & Over: Style + Function

large wooden coffee table with regular sofa and matching grey chair in living room

Next, think of what you need in a coffee table. Is it purely a place to rest your feet while you watch television or just somewhere to rest your drinks? Is this something you need for storage or something that’s more so a place to rest your decorations? All of this should be considered when determining the best coffee table for your space.

It’s All In The Details

Abstract coffee table made by slices of tree trunks in front of normal grey couch

Finally, it’s time to start looking at the little details! What color coffee table works in your space and what material would you like to bring in? There are so many options to choose from so select a color or material that compliments your space. Add in a new element that wasn’t there before or tie in the color from another furniture piece or decor piece.

The key to making sure your coffee table fits into your existing design is to make sure this same color has been repeated at least two other times within the space. It doesn’t have to be on a large scale, but something as small as a similar vase or candle will help tie the piece in.

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