Decorating & Design - Accessories

Coffee tables

Kathleen Dore

Shorten your search for this must-have piece by finding out what coffee table would best suit your room.

Your coffee table should look good, serve well and display a few accessories that reveal your personality – and do it all with style. No wonder the right one can be so hard to find. Well, look no further – here are six classic tables plus advice on how to choose the best one for your setting, the latest looks and how to accessorize this living room essential.

Glass-topped tables
A glass-topped table visually enlarges a small space because it appears to take up less room than a solid table of the same size. The popular French Country look, with its swirly wrought-iron base, works well in a traditional yet slightly informal setting and is ideal in a garden room. If you have children, choose a table where the glass sits in a frame rather than floats on top.

Parsons table
Whether rendered in wood, metal or laminate, the simple shape of the Parsons table, with its clean lines and long, lean profile, makes it a classic that's especially at home in modern and contemporary interiors. Its beauty lies in rigorously balanced proportions, with a length at least twice the width.

Tray-topped tables
The tray-topped table suits a living area that's truly lived in. Handles make entertaining easy – just pick up the tray and pass the hors d'oeuvres – or for a cosy fireside dinner, carry the tray to a floor cushion near the hearth. A variety of styles – from traditional tole tray to contemporary clean-cut editions – proves this table's versatility. The tray table is most often smaller than standard coffee tables, so it works best in intimate seating areas.

Size matters
The standard height for coffee tables is from 16 to 18 inches, but may go as high as 21 inches. A higher table is a smart choice if you entertain frequently so that guests don't have to bend too much to set down their drinks. But, ultimately, the height of the adjacent upholstered pieces should determine the height of the table. One guideline is that a coffee table should be about the same height or one or two inches lower than the seat height of the sofa. The length of a coffee table should be about two-thirds the length of the sofa (not including arms). The width should be determined by how much room you have between the soft upholstered pieces and the table in your seating arrangement – leave at least 16 inches around each side of the table.


Image courtesy of Pottery Barn

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