How to Pick a Coffee Table (+ 105 Picks For Every Space)

Well, it’s been two long years since we’ve given this pretty helpful post an update/overhaul so it was time! Picking out a coffee table is something that you think you just instinctually know how to do… until it’s you actually need to buy 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. Hope you love the new picks. 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:

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):

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

Consider a rectangle (or oval but more on this shape later) if you have a standard sofa (or an extra-long sofa with a 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, #7, or #11. 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 (#15 and #20).

HOT TIP: This goes for all coffee table shapes, but a coffee table is a great way to make a visual statement! So consider choosing a contrasting material, color and/or pattern to the other pieces in your living room.

1. Torme White Oak Coffee Table | 2. Tariffville Rectangle Coffee Table | 3. Lerner Coffee Table | 4. Pedestal Wood Coffee Table | 5. Cora Burl Wood Coffee Table | 6. Patmos Coffee Table

7. Mathus Coffee Table | 8. Elemental Layers Coffee Table | 9. Estate Travertine and Metal Rectangular Coffee Table | 10. Clarkin Coffee Table | 11. Bios Coffee Table | 12. ÄSPERÖD

13. Tingsley Coffee Table | 14. Elowen Coffee Table | 15. Naya Pop-Up Coffee Table | 16. Nemus Coffee Table | 17. Willem Coffee Table | 18. Horseshoe Coffee Table | 19. Woodson Coffee Table | 20. Mid-Century Pop-Up Coffee Table | 21. Brisa Burl Wood Coffee Table

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 setup 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? Plus ones like #5, #10, #14, #15, ams #17 have an extra shelf!

1. River Heights Square Wooden Coffee Table | 2. Vander Natural Wood Square Storage Coffee Table | 3. Patricio Coffee Table | 4. Pedestal Coffee Table | 5. Balboa Rattan Coffee Table | 6. Sunako Coffee Table

7. Kanta Marble Coffee Table | 8. Enyo Square Travertine Table | 9. Flash Table | 10. Profile Coffee Table | 11. Bovisio Smoked Glass Coffee Table | 12. Couture Nicoletta Square Marble Coffee Table

13. Culver Square Coffee Table | 14. Chadwick Mid-Century Square Coffee Table | 15. Grooved Wood Square Coffee Table | 16. The Dean Coffee Table | 17. LIATORP | 18. Yoko Coffee Table

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 a chaise since it’s a good “nook” shape, i.e. it fits into a little nook of space nicely like in my (Arlyn’s) living room. They also work great because their shape beautifully contrasts the rectangular shape of a sofa. It’s a win-win!

1. Homage Marble and White Oak Wood Round Coffee Table | 2. Dev Taupe Marble and Grey Metal Round Coffee Table | 3. Aicha Coffee Table | 4. Casmera Coffee Table | 5. Santoro White Quartz Coffee Table | 6. Kendall Coffee Table

7. BORGEBY | 8. Zenaide Coffee Table | 9. Gweneth Round Coffee Table | 10. Burl Rotating Coffee Table | 11. Repaso Ebonized Ash Wood Round Coffee Table | 12. Noria Coffee Table | 13. Drum Storage Coffee Table | 14. Shaker Coffee Table | 15. Cap Ivory Cement Coffee Table

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 (#10) is a favorite around here (check it out in Emily’s old living room here). The thin legs keep it light and floaty (which balances the heavier wood at the bottom). Of course, the Aluminum Flat Leg Coffee Table (#13) and the brass table from Brady’s living room (#15) are perfect if you love a modern design classic. However, if you’re into making a bit more of a statement, check out the table from West Elm at #3; it has a postmodern-inspired vibe that could add a serious cool factor to a simple, stripped-back living space. 

1. Osiris Coffee Table | 2. Tony Coffee Table | 3. Organic Modular Table | 4. Lenia Walnut Oval Coffee Table | 5. Mariko Oval Coffee Table With Cane Front Drawers | 6. Michale Solid Wood Coffee Table

7. Clairemont Ebonized Oak Wood Oval Coffee Table with Shelf | 8. Henderson Coffee Table | 9. Nova

10. Thomas Bina Olivia Coffee Table | 11. Lippa Oval Coffee Table | 12. Bordeaux Gold Metal Marble Oval Coffee Table | 13. Aluminum Flat Leg Coffee Table | 14. Nero White Marble and Brass Base Oval Coffee Table | 15. Gaultier 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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