Coffee tables have come a long way from the basic rectangular wooden boxes of the past. Today’s coffee tables are stylish works of art that make a statement in any living room. From rustic charm to sleek modern designs, coffee tables have evolved into sophisticated focal points that elevate the whole decor. Here’s an in-depth look at the growth and rising status of the once-humble coffee table.
A Brief History of Coffee Tables
Coffee tables originally emerged in Victorian England in the mid-19th century. Prior to this, most furniture was placed against walls, with open floors for dancing and socializing. The coffee table offered a new piece of versatile, movable furniture perfect for serving tea and entertaining guests around.
Early coffee tables were simple and practical – sturdy rectangular boxes set atop short legs. Wood was the material of choice, often oak or mahogany. Style-wise, they aligned with other pieces of the era, featuring cabriole legs and simple carved accents.
By the 20th century, coffee tables took on sleeker silhouettes with Art Deco’s emphasis on geometry and contrast. The 1970s saw a casual renaissance with woven wicker and rustic wood tables. Pop art and Memphis design of the 1980s brought colorful, eclectic coffee tables to the forefront.
Today’s coffee tables run the gamut from farmhouse chic to high-tech. The evolution reflects changing lifestyle needs and cultural trends. One thing remains constant – the coffee table’s starring role as the centerpiece of our living spaces.
Key Design Elements
Several key elements go into designing a stellar coffee table that uplifts your whole space.
The most common shapes are rectangular, square and round. Consider the flow of your room when selecting a shape. Rectangles work well in long narrow spaces. Squares and rounds can blend better in open floor plans.
Oval, triangle and other unique shapes also exist for those seeking a conversation starter. Avoid shapes too wide or oddly angled that will obstruct movement and traffic flow.
Standard coffee table heights range between 16 to 18 inches. This allows enough leg room clearance. For lounging spaces, consider lower heights around 12 to 14 inches. If you need more surface area, go up to 20 to 22 inches.
Test out different seated heights to find the most comfortable fit. Scale also matters – balance the height with the size of your sofa and room.
Coffee tables are made from a spectrum of materials, each with their own aesthetic:
- Wood: Timeless material with natural beauty that warms up any space. Oak, walnut, teak and mahogany are popular choices.
- Metal: Sleek, modern look offered in metals like stainless steel, brass, and bronze. Can come in silver, gold and bold colors.
- Glass: Transparent glass tops complement any base material. Tinted and smoked glass offer subtle colors. Sturdy enough for daily use.
- Stone: Elegant and durable like marble, granite, slate and travertine. Known for natural veining and textures. On the heavy side.
- Rattan and Wicker: Soften any space with natural woven textures. Typically used for more casual, coastal styles.
Consider durability, style, weight and upkeep needs when selecting materials. Also factor in safety – avoid sharp corners and edges.
Coffee tables showcase your personal style through subtle design elements:
- Traditional: Ornate accents like turned legs, carved details, skirting and luxurious materials for classic elegance.
- Contemporary: Clean, simple lines and geometric forms create sleek, modern impact. Metals, glass and plastic common.
- Rustic: Distressed, reclaimed and salvaged woods paired with textured accents give a cozy, welcoming farmhouse feel.
- Eclectic: Vintage, retro and flea market finds combined together for bohemian personality and charm.
- Industrial: Concrete, exposed brick, galvanized metal and Edison bulbs for urban, factory-chic style.
- Coastal: Driftwood, rattan and weathered finishes capture casual, beachy aesthetics.
Scale your coffee table size appropriately to your furniture and room dimensions. Standard sizes range between 36 to 54 inches wide and 16 to 32 inches deep. Leave at least 12 to 18 inches walking space around the sides.
In tighter quarters, look for oval or round coffee tables with narrower profiles. For spacious rooms, upsize to a lengthy rectangular table. Always keep functionality and circulation paths in mind.
Coffee Table Styles
With limitless options, selecting the right coffee table style can be overwhelming. Here’s an overview of popular coffee table styles to consider:
Rustic Coffee Tables
Rustic coffee tables feature natural, earthy textures and materials like weathered woods, barn metals and warm stains. Reclaimed wood tops with metal base frames are classic combinations.
Salvaged vintage crates stacked and bound together bring charming character. Whitewashed oak and pine wood offer lighter variations. Casters or wheels add industrial flair.
Rustic tables work perfectly in farmhouse, industrial and eclectic rooms. The natural wood tones also lighten up modern spaces.
Glass Coffee Tables
From sleek and shiny to frosted and smoked, glass coffee tables never go out of style. They work in both traditional and contemporary settings.
Clear glass tops keep the space light and airy. Tinted and smoked glass versions allow muted views and add subtle tints of color. For artistic flair, etched and stenciled glass designs impress.
Chrome, steel, acrylic and wood bases complement the transparent tops. Go with metal frames for contemporary edge or wood for warmth. Tables with shelving built into the base maximize function.
Marble Coffee Tables
Prized for its elegance and natural beauty, marble uplifts any coffee table with veins and swirls that resemble abstract art. Preferred types are Carrara, Calacatta and Statuario for their light grey and white coloring.
Darker options like Emperador also make dramatic accents. Combine marble with gilded accents and turned legs for chic sophistication. Acrylic legs add modern flair. Solid marble construction ensures lasting durability and style.
Concrete Coffee Tables
Concrete exudes an edgy, urban vibe through its weathered look and cool gray shades. Handcrafted concrete introduces more variation and artistry.
Sleek rectangular slabs work for modern lofts, while rounded forms soften the harshness. Distressed concrete with imprints and embedded objects boosts character. Metallic legs provide contrast.
Concrete’s sturdy density is built to last despite heavy use. Consider protective sealants to prevent staining and etching. Smaller accent tables provide a dose of concrete without dominating the space.
Wicker and Rattan Coffee Tables
For breezy, beachy charm, woven wicker and rattan coffee tables fit the bill. The natural tan color palette promotes relaxation. Abaca, banana leaf and seagrass add variety.
Look for handwoven styles to maximize texture and artisanal quality. Incorporate driftwood accents that complement the casual vibe. Whitewashed versions open up smaller rooms.
Save rattan and wicker for covered outdoor spaces to avoid moisture damage. Also select tables with weather-resistant finishes. Remember to vacuum and dust regularly to clean in crevices.
Lift-Top Coffee Tables
Dual purpose lift-top coffee tables reveal hidden storage space with their rising tops. Look for gas cylinders or spring lifts that enable smooth height adjustments.
Inside you’ll find storage for books, blankets, remotes and more. Some feature additional shelves and dividers as well. Stow games, puzzles and arts supplies out of sight but within reach.
Lift-tops come in all materials – wood, metal, glass, wicker, etc. Measure the inner depth and height to ensure your essentials will fit. Locking mechanisms are available for safety around kids.
Ottoman Coffee Tables
Ottoman coffee tables multitask as extra seating and surface space in one. Lift the padded lid to reveal convenient storage for everything from linens to board games.
Tufted tops and turned wood legs emulate posh parlor style. Leather and faux leather offer durability and sophistication. Avoid super plush cushions that won’t balance snacks and drinks.
Nesting ottoman sets allow you to separate and scatter seating based on gathering sizes. They tuck neatly under tables when not in use. For small spaces, round ottomans save room.
Unique Coffee Tables
For the bold and whimsical, eclectic coffee tables become artful centerpieces full of self-expression. Here are some creative styles worth considering:
- Tree stump and driftwood tables with organic texture
- Vintage luggage stacks for retro jetset flair
- Oversize world map designs or classic atlases under glass
- distressed antique trunks on casters doubled as tables
- Tree branch or tree root sculptural accents
- Tables made from old drums, crates, and shipping pallets
- Mosaic tile tables with colorful and geometric designs
- Outdoor table options like stone, metal, concrete
Anything goes – be adventurous and think beyond the box. Just ensure structural stability and allow enough surface space for setting drinks.
Tips for Styling Coffee Tables
A thoughtfully styled coffee table pulls your living room together visually and functionally. Follow these tips to create an inviting vignette:
- Edit clutter: Remove excess books, remotes and knick-knacks for a clean slate to layer on decor.
- Scale down: Use trays and risers to give vertical interest without taking up the full surface.
- Vary heights: Combine tall and short accents like vases, succulents, sculptures and candleholders.
- Harmonize colors: Build a cohesive color story with pillows, blankets, flowers and tabletop decor.
- Highlight textures: Introduce contrasting textures like nubby knits with sleek vases and trays.
- Keep functional: Leave space for placing down drinks and snacks. Arrange decor to the sides and back.
- Illuminate: Table lamps provide perfect versatile lighting. Go for warm bulbs to set a cozy glow.
- Bring in nature: Greens like ferns, orchids and succulents instantly refresh.
- Set the mood: Light candles and aroma diffusers transform the ambiance.
- Refresh seasonally: Rotate decor to match the seasons or occasions.
Take time finding special accents that reflect your personality. The finishing touches turn a basic coffee table into your favorite living room retreat.
Coffee Table Inspiration for Every Style
Whatever your interior motif, there’s a coffee table to match. Here are inspiring ideas:
- Marble slab table on black metal legs
- Concrete block paired with colorful abstract art
- Mirrored square table for contemporary glam
- Lucite plastic table with sleek curved shape
- Multi-level glass table with floating shelves
- Reclaimed wood plank table with galvanized metal base
- Repurposed vintage crate table with whitewashed finish
- Round cross-section tree stump table with natural bark edges
- Antique oak drawer chest on casters as table
- Washed pine wood table with metal stud accents
- Vintage Persian rug covered table with tasseled trim
- Whimsical tree branch wrought iron base table
- Moroccan drum side table in vibrant blue hue
- Wine cask table with distressed paint and stencils
- Mosaic garden stool with colorful handmade tiles
- Curved cabriole leg table with shabby chic charm
- Ornate cherry wood table with carved claw feet
- Tufted leather ottoman coffee table with turned wood legs
- Elegant gilt antique table with decorative skirting
- Round marble and metal table with geometric inlays
- Whitewashed driftwood slab coffee table
- Woven seagrass and bamboo table with circular cutouts
- Colorful lacquered Hawaiian trunk with hinged top
- Rattan table with ball and claw feet in washed gray finish
- Beachy sea shell and starfish inlay table
- Simple unfinished wood plank on black pipe legs
- Metal and wood table from salvaged factory cart
- Concrete block table with metal tool caddy organizer
- Galvanized metal tray table with riveted handles
- Raw steel I-beam on cast iron factory base
No matter your personal decor inclinations, there is a stylish coffee table option to anchor your space while showcasing your unique style. The possibilities are endless!
Coffee Table Decorating Ideas
Coffee tables offer expansive styling potential beyond just surfaces to set your latte. Strategically decorate your coffee table to create cohesive living room appeal.
Books simultaneously add color, texture and literary style to a console. Opt for nicely bound classics, colorful cookbooks, coffee table-style books and magazine collections. Stack horizontally or vertically in piles of various heights.
Houseplants instantly boost life and vibrancy – the coffee table makes the perfect pedestal for showing off trailing ivy, flowering orchids and lively ferns. Accent with planters that complement your decor.
A candle-centric coffee table setting evokes coziness and ambiance. Nestle assorted filled vessels amongst books and decor. Opt for unscented if dining nearby to avoid clashing aromas. Mix heights, shapes, colors and materials.
Trays instantly pull together scattered items into a neat stylish still life. Opt for vintage silver, graphic black and white, wood grain, or painted ceramic. Use trays to contain LEGO bricks, crayons, candles, or bar accessories.
Draw the eye with singular sculptural finds – geodes, coral pieces, driftwood, garden stones, shells, or handmade ceramics all become modern objet d’art.
Woven baskets add natural texture while conveniently corralling items like blankets, magazines and more. Try combining nesting baskets for height variation.
Cover tabletops creatively with framed photos, art prints and decorative wall hangings to emulate the look of gallery walls and add visual interest.
Coffee Table Decor for the Seasons
Reenergize your living space by decorating coffee tables to suit the seasons.
Welcome spring with a bursts of blooms. Fresh-cut tulips, ranunculus, roses, lilacs and wildflowers brighten up tables. Accent with ornamental birdcages, butterflies and figurines. Pastel hues and wood tones keep it light and airy.
Celebrate summer with seaside elements. Sand dollars, sea glass, shells and starfish make beachy accents. Add sun-bleached driftwood, sailor’s rope and ivory lanterns. Citronella candles help repel insects.
Fall tables pair pumpkin accents with autumnal foliage. Mini gourds, pine cones, acorns and maple leaves make natural additions. Warm up the palette with deep reds and oranges. Lanterns and plaids exude farmhouse charm.
Deck tables for the holidays with pine garlands, berries and pinecones. Metallic sprays and ornaments add festive flair. Woodsy wintery scents like cinnamon and pine freshen up the space. Snowy white candles establish a magical mood.
Coffee Table Organization Hacks
Keep coffee tables organized and functional for daily use with these handy hacks:
- Store extra blankets/pillows in lidded baskets under the table. Hooks on the side keep them handy.
- Attach a small magnetic wipe board for leaving messages, making lists and getting creative.
- Affix a mounted rack or holster under the table to neatly stow remotes, devices and chargers out of the way.
- Sort through game pieces and craft supplies using catch-all trays to confine the clutter.
- Use lift-top coffee tables and ottomans to gain hidden storage for items you use less frequently.
- Mount cup hooks underneath to hang reusable shopping bags, keys, leashes or handbags.
- Place a decorative box on the table to quickly toss in unsorted small items.
- Utilize vertical space with floating wall-mounted shelves above the table.
- A rolling tea cart beside the sofa provides extra surface space plus storage.
- Add handy zippered pouches to stash cables, batteries, pens and other tiny items.
With a bit of creativity, you can easily maximize surface space and keep essentials organized right within reach!
DIY Coffee Table Ideas
Want to create a one-of-a-kind coffee table on a budget? DIY options abound. Here are thrifty ways to make custom coffee tables with personality:
Pallet Wood Table
Upcycle shipping pallets into a structurally sound table. Use the original pallet wood or upgrade the planks. Sand and stain to preferred finishes.
Stack and secure vintage wooden crates together for an industrial table base. Add a reclaimed wood plank top and customize with caster wheels or eclectic decals.
Rustic Wood Trunk
Convert a vintage trunk or chest into a hinged coffee table. Look for unique details like travel labels or patina. Add hairpin legs if lid-less.
Repurposed Door Table
Salvaged old doors become instant tables with cleaned up surfaces and trimmed to fit sizes. Choose unique doors with details like knobs or window cutouts.
Wine Crate Table
Screw together the sides of a sturdy wooden wine crate, then affix a plywood top cut to size. Add trim accents if desired.
Craft a custom concrete tabletop from melamine molding and concrete mix. Embed objects if desired, then seal and mount onto a base.
Apply broken tile pieces, marbles or sea glass to a store-bought garden stool base using concrete bonding adhesive. Seal to finish.
With some DIY inspiration, you can build a super styl