Is a Coffee Table Essential to a Good Living Room Design?

Shagreen Nesting Coffee Tables

A well-designed living room is a haven of comfort and style where you can relax, entertain guests, and showcase your taste. When crafting the perfect living room design, the coffee table often takes centre stage. This seemingly humble piece of furniture plays a vital role in enhancing the functionality and aesthetics of the space. In this article, we will delve into the significance of a coffee table and explore why it is an essential component of a good living room design.

The Role of a Coffee Table in Living Room Design

The coffee table is a functional and decorative centrepiece in the living room. Its purpose extends beyond providing a surface to hold beverages or books; it acts as a versatile piece of furniture that brings cohesion and balance to the overall design scheme. A thoughtfully chosen coffee table can enhance the room's style, tie together different elements, and create a focal point that draws the eye.

The Functionality of a Coffee Table

One of the primary functions of a coffee table is to provide a convenient surface for placing items within easy reach. Whether you want to rest a cup of coffee, showcase a stunning vase of flowers, or display a stack of books, the coffee table acts as a functional platform for these activities. Moreover, it offers a spot to gather around during social gatherings, making it essential for entertaining guests.

Choosing the Right Size and Shape

Considering the Room Dimensions

When selecting a coffee table, it's crucial to consider the dimensions of the living room. The table should be proportionate to the available space, neither too large that it overwhelms the room nor too small that it gets lost in the arrangement. Consider the distance between the table and the surrounding furniture to ensure easy movement and a harmonious layout.

Determining the Seating Arrangement

The size and shape of the seating area also influence the coffee table selection. A rectangular table often works well with a larger sofa, while a round or oval table complements curved seating arrangements. Additionally, consider the height of the seating. A lower coffee table can create a harmonious look for lower seating like floor cushions or contemporary low-profile sofas. On the other hand, taller seating arrangements may require a slightly taller coffee table for ease of use.

Materials and Finishes for Coffee Tables

Coffee tables come in a wide range of materials and finishes, each adding its unique touch to the overall design. The choice of material depends on the desired style, durability, and maintenance preferences. Here are some popular options:


Wooden coffee tables are timeless classics that bring warmth and natural beauty to the living room. They are available in various wood types, such as oak, walnut, or pine, each with its distinctive grain pattern and colour variations. Wood offers versatility, allowing it to blend seamlessly with different design styles.


Glass coffee tables lend an air of elegance and sophistication to any living room. They create a visual illusion of space, making them ideal for smaller rooms. Glass tops can be clear or tinted, and they pair well with metal or wooden bases, adding a touch of modernity and lightness to the design.


Metal coffee tables exude contemporary flair and industrial charm. Materials like stainless steel, brass, or wrought iron provide durability and a sleek, minimalist aesthetic. Metal tables often feature clean lines and geometric shapes, making them suitable for modern and urban-inspired interiors.

Other Materials

Apart from wood, glass, and metal, coffee tables can be crafted from various materials. For instance, acrylic or lucite tables offer a transparent, airy look that works well in contemporary and eclectic designs. Stone or marble tables add a touch of luxury and sophistication to the living room, while reclaimed or repurposed materials provide a rustic and eco-friendly appeal.

Incorporating Coffee Tables into Different Design Styles

Coffee tables have the remarkable ability to adapt to various design styles, becoming an integral part of the overall aesthetic. Here are some popular design styles and how coffee tables can complement them:

Modern and Contemporary

In modern and contemporary living rooms, coffee tables with clean lines, minimalist forms, and sleek finishes are key. Opt for materials like glass, metal, or glossy lacquer. To add visual interest, experiment with unique shapes, such as asymmetrical or abstract designs.

Traditional and Classic

Consider coffee tables with rich wood finishes, ornate detailing, and elegant curves for traditional or classic interiors. Cabriole legs, intricate carvings, and decorative accents can enhance the timeless charm of the space. Pair the table with upholstered furniture for a cohesive look.

Industrial and Rustic

Coffee tables that embrace the industrial or rustic style often feature raw and natural materials. Look for tables with reclaimed wood, distressed finishes, and metal accents. Combining wood and metal can create a harmonious blend of warmth and ruggedness, perfect for these design styles.

Eclectic and Bohemian

In eclectic or bohemian-inspired living rooms, embrace the freedom to mix and match styles, shapes, and materials. Incorporate coffee tables with unconventional designs or repurposed items, such as vintage trunks, stacked crates, or Moroccan pouffes. Let your imagination run wild to create a unique and visually captivating arrangement.

Coffee Tables as a Focal Point or Accent Piece

Coffee tables can serve as a focal point and an accent piece in the living room. Depending on the design and style of the table, it can either steal the spotlight or complement the surrounding furniture. A coffee table with a striking design, such as a sculptural base or a bold colour, can become the room's centrepiece, drawing attention and making a statement. On the other hand, a more subdued or understated table can act as a supporting element, allowing other furniture or decorative items to take the spotlight.

Storage Options with Coffee Tables

Coffee tables with built-in storage solutions are convenient and help organise the living room. Here are some popular storage options to consider:

Drawers and Shelves

Coffee tables with drawers or open shelves conveniently store remote controls, magazines, coasters, and other small items. They help reduce clutter on the tabletop while keeping essentials within easy reach.

Hidden Compartments

Some coffee tables come with hidden compartments, which can be accessed by lifting or sliding a part of the table. These hidden storage spaces offer a discreet way to store items like blankets, board games, or extra cushions, keeping them out of sight yet easily accessible when needed.

Ottomans and Coffee Table Trunks

For those seeking alternative storage solutions, ottomans or coffee table trunks can be a great choice. These multifunctional pieces provide a place to rest your feet while doubling as storage containers. Ottomans often feature removable tops or hollow interiors, allowing you to store items like throw blankets, cushions, or books.

Styling and Accessorising the Coffee Table

A well-styled coffee table can enhance the overall aesthetic of the living room. Here are some tips for adding style and personality to your coffee table:

Using Trays and Decorative Objects

Placing a decorative tray on the coffee table can create a visually pleasing arrangement and help organise smaller items. Arrange items like candles, small vases, or sculptures on the tray to add height and interest.

Incorporating Books and Magazines

Stacking a few well-curated books or magazines on the coffee table can add a touch of sophistication and allow guests to browse through interesting reads. Choose books that reflect your interests or complement the room's colour palette.

Adding Greenery and Floral Arrangements

Introducing a touch of nature to the coffee table can bring life and freshness to the living room. Place a small potted plant, succulent, or a vase of fresh flowers to add a pop of colour and create a vibrant focal point.

Coffee Tables for Small Living Rooms

In smaller living rooms, space optimisation is crucial. Opt for coffee tables with a more compact size or multifunctional features. Nesting tables, for example, provide the flexibility of multiple surfaces that can be stacked or spread out as needed. Additionally, transparent or mirrored coffee tables can create an illusion of more space, making the room feel larger and airier.

The Importance of Balance and Proportion

When selecting a coffee table, it's important to consider the overall balance and proportion within the living room. Ensure that the size and scale of the table complement the other furniture pieces. A large, bulky table may overwhelm a small space, while a small, delicate table might get lost in a room with large-scale furniture. Strive for a harmonious and visually balanced arrangement.

The Role of a Coffee Table in Entertaining Guests

Coffee tables play a significant role when entertaining guests. They provide a central surface for serving drinks and snacks, making it easy for everyone to reach and enjoy. Here are some tips for making the most of your coffee table during gatherings:

Choosing the Right Size

Select a coffee table that's large enough to accommodate drinks and plates but not so big that it takes up too much space. Consider the number of guests you'll be entertaining and choose a table with enough surface area for everyone to place their items comfortably.

Protecting the Tabletop

To prevent damage to the tabletop, consider using coasters or placemats. This will help protect the surface from spills and scratches and keep it looking its best.

Adding a Centerpiece

Consider adding a decorative centrepiece to the coffee table for a special touch. A floral arrangement, a bowl of fruit, or a seasonal display can add a festive touch and create a welcoming atmosphere for your guests.

A coffee table can be an essential element of a well-designed living room. It serves functional and decorative purposes and can help unite a room. Consider size, shape, style, and storage options when selecting a coffee table. Remember to style and accessorise the table to enhance its overall aesthetic. With the right coffee table, you can create a cosy and inviting space perfect for relaxing and entertaining.


Do I really need a coffee table in my living room?

A coffee table is unnecessary, but it can add function and style to your living room. It provides a convenient surface for placing drinks and snacks and can help tie the room together.

What is the ideal height for a coffee table?

The perfect height for a coffee table is between 16-18 inches. However, this can vary depending on the size of your sofa and chairs.

Can a coffee table double as a storage solution?

Yes, many coffee tables come with built-in storage solutions such as drawers, shelves, or hidden compartments.

What are some alternative storage solutions for small living rooms?

Ottomans, storage benches, and side tables with built-in storage are all great alternatives for small living rooms.

How can I keep my coffee table looking its best?

Use coasters or placemats to protect the tabletop, and avoid placing hot items directly on the surface. Regularly dust and clean the table using a soft cloth and mild cleaning solution.