How to Choose a Coffee Table for Your Living Room

The coffee table is often the centerpiece of a living room, so it’s an important furniture choice that can make or break your room’s style. With so many options on the market, from simple, budget-friendly tables to high-end designer pieces, it can be overwhelming trying to select the right coffee table for your space.

I’ll walk you through the key factors to consider when shopping for a new coffee table. We’ll look at the different materials, shapes, sizes, and styles available, and I’ll offer tips on how to choose a table that fits both your interior design aesthetic and functional needs.

By the end, you’ll feel equipped to find a coffee table that ties your living room together and enhances your home’s decor. Whether you’re searching for a sleek contemporary table, a rustic farmhouse-chic option, or anything in between, this guide will help you select a coffee table you’ll love coming home to. So brew a fresh cup of coffee and let’s get started!


What to Consider When Looking for a Coffee Table

Here are some guidelines and ideas for picking the best coffee table for your family room.

How do I pick out a coffee table? Picking out a coffee table involves considering several factors such as your personal style, the existing decor of your space, the functionality you require, and the available space. Here are some steps to help you pick out a coffee table:

Style and Aesthetics

Take into account the style and color scheme of your existing furniture and decor. You can choose a coffee table that complements the overall aesthetic, whether it’s modern, traditional, rustic, or eclectic. Consider the materials and finishes that would blend well with the surrounding furniture.

Purpose and Needs

Consider how you plan to use the coffee table. Will it primarily serve as a decorative piece or do you need additional storage or functionality? Think about whether you want a simple surface for drinks and snacks, or if you need drawers or shelves for storing items like magazines, remote controls, or board games.

Coffee Table for Your Sofa

What type of coffee table is best for your sofa? It depends on the kind of sofa you have! If you have a standard horizontal sofa, then we recommend going with an oval or rectangular coffee table. If you have a sectional or L-shaped sofa, then we recommend going with a round or square shaped coffee table to fit in nicely.

You can definitely make it work without following these rules if you really have your heart set on a specific coffee table, but these are some general guidelines.

A coffee table should be proportionate in size to the sofa. As a good rule of thumb, the coffee table you buy should be at least one-half the length of your sofa, but not longer than the sofa itself. A nice happy medium coffee table length of three-fourths or two-thirds is perfect.

The height of your coffee table should be about even with the height of your sofa seat, give or take a few inches.


Types of Coffee Tables

There are many different types of coffee tables to choose from. Let’s break it down according to the most popular and common coffee table shapes, materials, and styles.

Coffee Table Shapes

Here are the main coffee table shapes to choose from:

Oval coffee tables are great at balancing form and function. They promote movement and offer ample space for storing things on top. No sharp edges here, so oval tables are great for people with kids!

Rectangular coffee tables are decidedly more modern and they offer the most amount of surface space to work with.

A round coffee table can be really inviting to guests and large families who may want to occasionally eat around the coffee table while watching a movie. Add some floor poufs to the other side, and it’s a party!

Square coffee tables provide a nice and symmetrical look to your living space. They are the most practical coffee table shape and can sometimes offer storage beneath the surface.


Coffee Table Materials

Our favorite coffee tables are often made of marble, brass, wood, or glass. Here are a few recommendations for each material.

Marble coffee tables are one of the most highly sought-after coffee tables around. You can’t scroll through Pinterest or Instagram without seeing one!

Marble is a heavy and expensive coffee table material. That being said, you can get a pretty great knock-off for as little as $98 (Over 900 people rated it 5 stars).

White marble coffee tables are the most popular style using this material. However, black marble coffee tables are appearing more and more often, especially in dark and moody interior design homes.


Aged brass coffee tables can give a vintage appeal to your living room.


Wood coffee tables are a great choice for farmhouse homes, and anyone who wants a rustic, country feel to their living room.


Glass coffee tables are a minimal approach to the coffee table and allow the sofa to draw more attention.


Mirrored coffee tables add a touch of elegance to any living room.


Coffee Tables Styles

If your home is already decorated in a particular style, then these styles of coffee tables may interest you!

Coffee Table Design Questions

Here are some answers to common coffee table design questions!

Square vs. Round Coffee Tables

Is a square or round coffee table better? It depends! Most people prefer square coffee tables as these are easy to design around. Here are the pros and cons of each.

Square coffee table:

  • Versatility: Square coffee tables are known for their versatility. They can work well in both large and small spaces and can be easily paired with different seating arrangements.
  • Symmetry: Square tables provide a sense of balance and symmetry to a room. They are often favored in more formal or traditional settings.
  • Storage: Square coffee tables typically offer more surface area and storage options than round ones. They can have drawers, shelves, or compartments to help keep your living room organized.

Round coffee table:

  • Flow and softness: Round coffee tables create a sense of flow and softness in a room, as they lack sharp edges. They can be a good choice for spaces where you want to promote a more relaxed and casual atmosphere.
  • Space-saving: Round coffee tables are particularly suitable for small spaces or rooms with limited traffic flow. Their rounded shape allows for easy movement around the table without bumping into corners.
  • Conversation facilitation: A round coffee table encourages conversation, as people can easily face each other from all sides. It creates a more intimate and inclusive seating arrangement.
  • Child-friendly: Round coffee tables are generally considered safer for households with children, as they eliminate the risk of sharp corners that could cause injuries.

Best Coffee Table for a Small Living Room

How do I choose a coffee table for a small living room? Measure the space you have to work with. Opt for a compact or narrow coffee table that provides a functional surface without taking up too much space.

In a small living room, round or oval coffee tables can be a good choice as they tend to have a smaller footprint and eliminate sharp corners that can obstruct traffic flow. The rounded shape also creates a sense of openness and fluidity. Alternatively, consider rectangular or square coffee tables with clean lines and slim profiles to maximize the surface area while maintaining a sleek look.

Look for coffee tables with visually light and airy designs. Choose materials like glass or acrylic that can create an illusion of more space and allow light to pass through. These transparent or reflective surfaces can make the room feel less cluttered. Coffee tables with slender legs or open bases can provide a sense of openness in a small living room.

Make the most of your small living room by choosing a coffee table that offers additional storage or functionality. Look for coffee tables with built-in drawers, shelves, or hidden compartments to help keep your space organized. This allows you to maximize the utility of the table while reducing clutter.

Coffee Table for L-Shaped Couch

How do I choose a coffee table for an L-shaped couch? Take into account the overall scale of your L-shaped couch. If it is large and spacious, you can opt for a larger coffee table that complements the size of the couch. If the L-shaped couch is more compact, choose a coffee table that is proportionate and doesn’t overpower the seating arrangement.

Decide where you want to place the coffee table in relation to the L-shaped couch. The most common placement is in the center, where it can be easily accessed from all sides of the couch. Alternatively, you can position the coffee table at one end of the L-shaped couch, creating a designated seating and lounging area.

Ensure that the coffee table doesn’t obstruct the natural flow of movement around the L-shaped couch. Leave enough space for comfortable walking and maneuvering around the table. If the space is limited, consider a coffee table with rounded edges or one that is slightly smaller in size to allow for easier movement.

Coffee Table Height in Relation to Sofa

Should the coffee table be higher or lower than the sofa? Generally, the height of a coffee table should be lower than the seating height of your sofa. This is to ensure that it remains a convenient and comfortable surface for placing items within easy reach.

Aim for a coffee table height that is approximately 1 to 2 inches lower than the seat height of your sofa. This allows for a comfortable reach when sitting on the sofa and helps maintain a visually pleasing proportion between the two pieces of furniture.

The coffee table should be easily accessible from the seating area without requiring you to strain or reach too far. When seated on the sofa, you should be able to comfortably rest your arms on the table or easily place items on it without much effort.

Alternative Coffee Tables

You don’t have to stick to the traditional coffee table if you don’t want to. Many families choose to use a coffee table made from unconventional materials or objects. Think: a vintage trunk as a coffee table or a flea-market find!

Here are a few alternative coffee table ideas:


Some people choose to forego a coffee table altogether. Others opt for a slightly modified fabric version of the coffee table: the ottoman! Ottomans are great for doubling as a coffee table ADD a footrest. You can easily add a small tray to create a flat surface for when you need it. Many conveniently offer storage underneath, too!


Nesting Coffee Tables

A new interior design trend that I see more and more is the nesting coffee table. Nesting coffee tables are 2-3 separate tables of varying heights and sizes that neatly come together to form a coffee table cluster. A nesting coffee table is great for adding extra dimensions to your living room.


Freeform Coffee Tables

Freeform coffee tables are uniquely shaped tables that don’t really fit into one shape. They may be loosely square or loosely rectangular, to give you an idea of where they can fit. Freeform coffee tables are often made of live edge teak wood, but you can also find some mid-century modern freeform glass coffee tables like this one!


Group of Side Tables

Similar to the nesting coffee table, I’ve seen beautiful living rooms that incorporate 2-3 side tables placed next to each other (often of varying heights) to form a casual coffee table.

Living room with gray couch and 2 side tables as coffee tables. Design by Three Birds Renovations
Three Birds Renovations

I hope this post inspired you and made your coffee table decision a bit easier!

Let us know what you chose in the comments, or tag us on Instagram!



  1. Where is the coffee table from in the first photo? (very large, wood with piles of books on it) Thank you!!!

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