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“How big should a coffee table be?” is the question on everyone’s lips recently (cut something that many of us tap into our search engines). And the answer is that it depends on many variables in your living room.
Coffee Table To Couch Ratio
The best coffee tables (opens in new tab) are not made the same size. Some cute pieces are on the small side, other wow-factor furniture comes wide, and many tables we love are long. But there is a science to styling a coffee table in your living room.
Thin Coffee Table
We asked the question ‘How big should my coffee table be?’ to the professionals, who could give some damn good (universal) advice to suit all spaces – small and large.
They zeroed in on a number of important factors that can influence your decision on which table you choose to place in your living room, taking into account your living room layout, your existing furniture and how you use this social space.
‘We’ve all been there. You just bought a great sofa, and now it’s time to choose the best coffee table to match it and maximize your space. How do you decide what size coffee table to buy? This can be a difficult task, especially if you’re working with a small space,’ says resident designer Kyle Schuneman, APT2B (opens in new tab)
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‘If you choose one that’s too big, you’ll overwhelm your space. If you choose one that is too small – especially in relation to your couch – your room will look unbalanced.’
‘Your coffee table should be proportional to the couch it’s paired with and the size of the room it’s in. Usually coffee tables are bought after seating and other furniture, so if you have a tape measure and a calculator it’s easy to work out the exact size you need your table to be.’ says Amber Dunford (opens in new tab), chief stylist at Overstock.com (opens in new tab).
When you ask yourself how big a coffee table should be, you need to consider how high it can be. You don’t want it to block the view of TV after all. And on the other hand, you don’t want it to be so short, you have to adopt a deep squat to simply lower your coffee or your coffee table decoration is out of sight. So what is the magic rule to make your coffee table work for you?
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“Your coffee table should be 1-2 inches shorter than the height of your sofa’s cushions,” says Schuneman.
‘This is especially important if you like to kick your feet up. It also helps create a proper, unobstructed line of sight when sitting on the couch, and allows you to comfortably grab snacks and other items from the coffee table. This is the most important criterion when choosing the right size table, so look at table heights first.’
‘The ideal coffee table is two thirds the width of your sofa. If you have a sectional sofa with a chaise, the table should only be two-thirds the size of the sofa section. This creates a balanced look in the room.’ said Schuneman.
Scale & Proportion
‘If you have a sectional sofa with a chaise, we recommend that the coffee table does not extend beyond the chaise into the room. Otherwise, the general rule is that the size of the room determines the depth of the coffee table. If you have a narrow room, choose a table that is not very deep. If you have a larger living room, you can choose a larger, square table or even a round coffee table.’
“The depth of your coffee table should be narrow enough to leave at least 30 inches between the outer edge of the table and the next obstruction, such as your TV stand fireplace.” explained Dunford.
‘This distance can be greater in a larger living room where you have more space to work with. If you have additional seating on the opposite side of the table, just make sure there is enough room for an adult to walk comfortably between the two,’
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‘To find the perfect table depth for a small living room, measure the distance between the edge of your couch and your TV stand, fireplace or extra seating. Subtract 30 inches from that measurement. Then subtract the space you want to leave between the couch and the inner edge of the table (refer to the next section for perfect coffee table placement). The remaining dimension is the ideal depth for your new coffee table. For larger living rooms, just keep the 30-inch minimum rule in mind.’
‘If you have to leave a little less space on either side of the table than recommended here, that should be fine as long as you can still easily walk across the room. Of course, you also have to consider how much surface area is enough for everything you intend to place on the table.’
And if you’re looking for more small living room inspo, we’ve got plenty more advice on how to choose furniture for a small living room.
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Of course, if you don’t have a tape measure handy, or don’t want to do the math, there are easier, much simpler ways to figure out if a particular coffee table works in your living room layout (open new tab).
‘If your legs hit the table when you sit, the space is too narrow. If you have to strain to reach items on the table, it’s too big. The shape and style of your coffee table will also determine its size.’ said Dunford.
‘The distance from the front of the sofa to the coffee table should be between 12 and 18 inches. Fifteen inches is usually a comfortable distance for walking and for sitting.’ said Schuneman.
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‘Anything closer, and it can start to feel tight. Any further, and you won’t be able to reach it comfortably when you’re enjoying a snack or finding the remote control. Place the table in the middle of the sofa, so that there is equal space on each side of the table.
‘It also ensures that you can move around the table without having to do a side move. You’ll want unobstructed paths between the TV and the table. Otherwise, the space will feel incredibly cramped and crowded. It’s a total feng shui killer.’
‘Consider your space and make sure there is enough room for comfortable foot traffic for you and your guests. We recommend leaving about 30 inches of space between your coffee table and other pieces of furniture, such as your media stand. Remember, not all coffee tables are rectangular. Think outside the box. Often a square, oblong or circular table is best suited to the space you have to work with.’
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To create a cohesive space that has a good flow, you’ll ideally want to choose an appropriately sized table to match the look of your living room. Modern coffee tables look great in contemporary schemes and design-led pieces can create a real focal point, especially in neutrally decorated rooms.
‘Before shopping for a coffee table, it helps to take a headshot of your current living room so you can consider the table’s relationship to its surroundings.’ says Hina Khan, Senior Content Marketing Manager at Society6 (opens in new tab).
‘If you have a modern aesthetic, you’ll probably want a smaller coffee table to balance the room, while if you have more traditional pieces, you may gravitate towards larger tables.’
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‘Consider shape when choosing a new coffee table. Instead of using a classic rectangular coffee table, think about how a square coffee table, round coffee table or oblong coffee table can complement your space better.’ says Nadia McCowan-Hill, resident stylist at Wayfair (opens in new tab)
‘Rectangular tables go well with longer couches. If your room has very soft lines, consider breaking it up with a rectangular coffee table. A round shape works with shorter sofas and more condensed seating, as long sofas tend to make round coffee tables look small. They are a good option if you have small children or pets as there are no sharp corners to bump into.’
‘If conventional isn’t your style, freeform coffee tables are for you. Geometric styles, such as triangular, hexagonal and half-circle modern coffee tables (opens in new tab) will look good in a funky yet casual setting. If you choose a more abstract shape, your everyday coffee table can fit into your space like a sculpture or work of art. We recommend a freeform style if your living area has a modern, sophisticated look.’
From The Mouth Of A Designer: Here’s How To Pick The Perfect Coffee Table
As well as asking yourself the question ‘How big should my coffee table be?’ Another thing you might want to think about is the primary purpose or function your coffee table will have. While a gold coffee table is an idyllic choice to showcase modern coffee table decor, a black coffee table can be a smart option to double as a WFH desk.