How to Pick the Perfect Coffee Table
Making design decisions gets a whole lot easier if you follow the S-A-S-S-Y design solution!
S (size) - A (aesthetic) - S (scale) - S (space) - Y (why?)
By considering each design element in turn, and then your answers as a whole, you will always end up making the most practical and tailored choice. Today’s problem – how to select the best size for your coffee table? I actually like to start with the letter ‘Y’ and then work my way backwards, but you can go in any order you like – just make sure you have considered your answer to each ‘letter’s’ design question before heading to the store.
Two numbers are important here – height and distance from surrounding obstructions.
Height: A regular coffee table height is usually between 16 to 18 inches. This should put the table at about the same height as the top of the sofa seat and chair cushions, but a good rule is to keep the table height and seat height within 2 inches of each other. If you entertain on a regular basis, you may want your coffee table to be a about 1 to 2 inches higher so your guests won’t have to stretch to easily set down their drinks. If you plan to stick your feet up while watching TV you might want it to be about 1 to 2 inches lower for comfort.
Distance from sofa: Allow around 18″ between the table and sofa edge to give you good flow for getting in and out of the seating and enough leg room when seated. This distance will also make it easy for guests to set down drinks or reach appetizers without straining. In a small space this can be dropped to 12″ at a pinch, but you will notice the difference. In this instance I would recommend a round table to give you a little more wiggle room.
To me the coffee table is an opportunity to play with texture and shape. To balance all the soft fabrics typically used in a seating area, consider a raffia, lacquer or stone tabletop. If you plan to put your feet up on the table or use it for kids playtime, opt for an upholstered ottoman-style table in a contrasting fabric to your sofa. It can also be used to make a design statement with a colorful fabric that you love but are afraid to use somewhere more permanent. If you plan to use the coffee table for casual dining look for a more practical glass or leather option. A room of all rectangular and square shapes will benefit from a curved shape – round, oval or in the case of the mid century modern space below – tear drop .
Scale your coffee table to the size of your sofa. The formula for success – the coffee table should be one-half to two-thirds the length of the sofa. This can be achieved with one piece or a couple of tables that collectively ‘fill’ the space.
Styling your table will give you a professional decorated look plus keep essentials close at hand. The accessories used below by designer Robert Stilin fill out the tabletop without being over crowded, leaving space for a coffee cup or other everyday objects (although I might move one bowl to give me a little more room to set down a magazine or two). To make it even easier to display objects that can be removed at a moments notice, corral your favorite things on a tray. This is really the only way to display items on an upholstered coffee table.
When making any design decision the first question you should ask yourself is WHY? Whether it is evaluating a full reno or just buying a piece of furniture, you need to ask yourself ‘Why do I want this?’ In the case of a coffee table your answer to the question might be multi-fold – what is your coffee table going to be used for? Are you the type of person who likes to stick their feet up on the table and watch TV? Is your coffee table a weeknight dining space or the center piece of your entertaining? Do you need a coffee table that can double as storage, or a place to display decorative pieces? Whatever the reason, knowing what you want and then applying the other “rules” of the SASSY Design Solution will allow you to narrow down the options and make the best choice for you and your space.
Images Credits: House & Home |Country Living | Southern Living | House Beautiful