How much time did you spend choosing your sofa? I’m guessing loads, like most of us! What about the coffee table? The coffee table is usually an afterthought but it’s such a useful piece of furniture and it goes a long way to bringing the whole seating area together.
Coffee tables come in something like a million shapes, sizes and styles. So it can be tricky to know how to choose a coffee table that’s right for your room. For those of us who like more minimal styles, the choice is a bit narrower but not that much. I’m going to share some tips on choosing the right coffee table for your needs and space with a focus on minimalist coffee tables that will help you create a cozy living space that comes together.
Before I get in to the tips, the most important thing is that you love the coffee table and it works for your needs and your home. After all a home reflects who you are and there is no right and wrong. But if you are looking for some ideas in narrowing down your choices or you’re not sure where to start or how to choose a coffee table, then these tips will be a handy guide in helping you choose the right one for your space.
How to choose a coffee table for a soft minimal living room
I like to start with considering the shape as it helps narrow down the options quickly. Generally speaking the shape is personal preference and my favourite is round but there are a few things to bear in mind to make it work best for your space.
round: round coffee tables are the most flexible as they can work in practically any sofa set up. Whether you have an L-shaped sofa or a regular rectangle sofa or two sofa’s facing each other, they can work. With round coffee tables you can get clusters of tables at different heights that make them a super flexible and practical choice as they can also serve as extra side tables when needed. And the clusters at different heights look great. They’re a particularly good option for small living rooms as the rounded corners help to create an illusion of space.
rectangle: this shape is probably the most popular shape and most conventional when it comes to coffee tables. The rectangle is a handy shape for long sofas as everyone can have access to the table. But this shape works in many different set-ups. It’s worth considering this shape if you have a lot of rounded furniture in the room as the clean, angular lines will add some contrast. The rectangular coffee table is also the most practical choice for narrow living spaces as you can get bench style ones or slim ones which don’t take up much width and allow plenty of clearance space.
square: large square coffee tables generally tend to work better in bigger spaces as they can take up a fair bit of room without providing the length that rectangular or oval ones do. They’re usually best between two biggish sofas opposite each other but I would say large square tables are the least flexible of all shapes. Small square tables on the other hand are for more flexible. With square tables, it’s best to let the room guide whether this will or won’t work in your room. If you have a L shaped sofa with a nook that would be perfect for a square coffee table then go for it – but you could also opt for a round one to soften the lines. If you’re going for a couple of small tables then a square one with a round one can provide a nice contrast.
oval: Oval coffee tables are similar to rectangular ones but the round edges soften the look and they look a bit more interesting. So if you have a lot of straight, angular lines in your living room, consider an oval coffee table instead of rectangular. You can also get narrow oval coffee tables which are great for small, narrow spaces. Oval (and round) are both the safest choices if you have young kids – I know this through experience having had my 3 year old cut her head on a rectangular one! (she was fine after a few stitches but it was so scary at the time).
Size matters and it also doesn’t! With size you can be flexible. There are all sorts of rules out there on size but I prefer to focus on the overall look and usage (more on this later) rather than the size. It’s more about the organic flow of the space than sticking to some rules. The main thing to consider in terms of size is that it shouldn’t be too big for the space because that’s where it will start to look awkward and can make it totally impractical to walk around. Other than that go with what you like and need – as you can see from one of the pics above, small works as a centrepiece even with a biggish sofa and you can always have additional side tables for practicality.
Personally, I prefer to go smaller than larger so that there is plenty of space to walk around and it’s always to a good idea to leave some empty floor space in any room.
A tip to avoid mistakes is to place a few boxes, masking tape or anything you have to outline the coffee table shape and size before you buy. I recently used my daughter’s hula hoop which is the same size as a round coffee table I wanted. And guess what? I’m so glad I did because it was too big!
There is nothing more impractical (and it looks ridiculous too!) than a coffee table that’s too high or too low. Opt for something that is roughly the same height as the seats on your sofa or one or two inches higher or lower. Most coffee tables come in pretty similar heights but if you have a particularly low or high sofa, you will especially need to keep height in mind.
What is your coffee table going to be used for in your home? When buying any piece of furniture, consider both the aesthetics and the practicality. This is so important. If you entertain a lot think about where everyone can keep their drinks or any snacks you may have out. If you have small kids will they spend time colouring and drawing at the coffee table – I love how they’ve considered this in the picture above. Do you love to display a vase, candles and some books on the table or do you prefer a cleaner look? Could you do with a bit more storage in your living room? Consider your usage before buying something just because it looks great.
Consider your space and the textures you already have in your living room. Texture is key to any space and it’s a mix of textures in neutral tones that brings a space alive. So bear this in mind when choosing a coffee table for your space. For e.g. if you have a lot of warm wood then you might opt for a marble coffee table to bring in a cool surface. Or if you have a small space, glass could work as it has a barely there feel. If you want more warmth or texture you could go for a rattan or wood table.
Apart from the basics of shape, size and material, coffee tables come in all sorts of styles from minimalist to maximalist, with closed storage or no storage, statement pieces vs barely there pieces. When you’re going for a soft minimal interior, less is always more so anything ornate or fussy or over the top is an instant no. Instead think of clean lines, neutral tones or organic forms without fuss or detail.
When it comes to choosing the style, things like modern, mid-century or industrial styles – nothing is off limits. This depends entirely on your taste and what style you’re going for in your home or if you’re choosing a mix which can work really well too. The only thing to remember is whatever style you choose stick to simple, clean lines and neutral colours or wooden tones.
7. break the rules
If you do a google search you’ll find plenty of coffee table rules but as I said there is no right or wrong. All you need to do is think about what you want and how you’ll use it. Just because one main coffee table is the norm, it may not be right for you. You may want a cluster of smaller tables that can be separated when needed. Or you may opt for side tables only that can double up as coffee tables when put together. If you have a small home, you can consider a simple bench or a couple of stools as your coffee table which will also double up as extra seating.
Go for what works for you and your home but if you need some ideas on how to choose a coffee table, use the tips above as a starting guide.
Want some coffee table suggestions? Here are some of the best minimalist coffee tables in different shapes and sizes – there’s sure to be one for your space.
What’s your favourite shape for a coffee table?