How do you choose the perfect coffee table for your living room?
Nothing catches the eye and finishes a living room like a stylish coffee or side table. We show you how to find the perfect mix of functionality and aesthetics
The importance of finding the perfect coffee or side table
Small, useful and elegant, a coffee or side table is an essential item of furniture, but its importance is perhaps underestimated until that moment we are sitting on the sofa or in our favourite comfy armchair, ready for some time out. Without somewhere handy to place our book, our cup of coffee or glass of wine, it all becomes just a little less relaxing and enjoyable.
Functionality aside, however, a coffee or side table is a strategic décor element for a living room, particularly if you choose a designer piece. It can pack an aesthetic punch and, positioned beside an armchair or sofa, creates an inviting self-contained corner that completes the look of the entire room.
In many ways, it becomes a miniature stage or canvas for holding decorative and useful items, from magazines and books to plants. In such cases, low versions tend to be favoured as they provide greater stability.
If it is particularly striking, unique or stylish, a side or coffee table can also to become the focal point when guests are seated, creating a convivial atmosphere and playing a central role in social dynamics.
What does all this mean? In short, there’s more to choosing a coffee table than meets the eye. You need to think about the overall look and décor of the living room, the style of the sofa and any armchairs and factors such as height, material and the location of the table itself.
To help clarify things, we take a look at the various options and how to choose the perfect coffee or side table for your living room.
Different types of living room small tables
There are all sorts of different small tables you might consider, each of which fulfils a slightly different function, so you will need to think about how each one would fit with the space and how you want to use it.
We can divide them into three categories:
- Coffee table
- Side table
- Bistro table
The names are reasonably self-explanatory, but let’s take a quick look at each. A coffee table will usually be low and wide and is generally placed in front of a sofa. It is often used as an informal division if you have guests and want somewhere to place food and drinks, or as a surface to display books or magazines.
A side table, as the name suggests, is generally placed beside an armchair or sofa and will be at a height that makes it comfortable to reach out and pick up a plate or cup, for example. It also acts as a surface for a reading light.
Although bistro tables are more commonly found in bars, surrounded by a handful of stools or chairs, it can also find its place in a living room. As a rule, this type of table will feature some sort of decoration on the top, such as mosaics or inlay.
With that said, let’s look at the two most common options, the coffee and side table, in more detail.
How to choose a living room coffee table
To clarify what we mean by a coffee table, we are talking about a height of between around 25 and 50 cm, calibrated in relation to the seats around it. The top of the table should be at the same height as your sofa or slightly lower.
As we mentioned above, the main criteria when it comes to choosing your table are functionality and aesthetics, but the starting point needs to be how much space you have available. If your living room is on the smaller size, it obviously makes sense to opt for a smaller table and a square or round shape will most likely work best in this case. If you like the idea of something more elongated, however, you could look for a rectangular model with a shelf underneath it or a built-in drawer included, as you will enjoy the benefits of more storage surfaces.
If space is no issue, however, the world is your oyster, and you can choose whatever size and shape catches your eye, with plenty of room to lay out magazines or glossy books, ornaments and vases. If you want to create a wow factor, a designer option such as a coffee table from our W range is sure to please.
No matter how large or small the room, however, you need to keep the overall harmony and balance in mind and remember that the style of your coffee table needs to be in keeping with the context it will be placed in. A modern living room calls for a minimalist, simple table, a bright, busy space works better with something in neutral tones, while a bold or striking coffee table can bring a more subdued or monochromatic décor to life.
The final aspect to consider is the type of material, given that the surface will be home to a vast assortment of items, including mobile phones, cups, glasses and much more. A table top needs to be tough and able to withstand wear and tear, and here natural stone comes into its own.
A coffee table that is the perfect height, colour, shape and material can inject visual balance into the living room, flair and style.
Side table or coffee table?
While the terms coffee and side table are often used interchangeably, the main difference is their height. A coffee table generally tends to be low and long and typically placed in front of a sofa or arrangement of armchairs, while a side table is more usually found perched by the seat arm.
A side table is ideal if you want to add a lamp to create a reading corner or if you are short on space but want to ensure there is a handy surface for placing small objects.
The key factor to consider, apart from the style which should obey the same rules as those described above, is the height of your side table. The Pietra L05 series by Piero Lissono, for example, fits the bill perfectly. Compact so as not to encroach on space, it nestles alongside a sofa or armchair, ensuring your cup or plate is at your fingertips, and has the added benefit of an original and quirky feature in the form of a hook that enables it to be easily moved around.
How to group coffee and side tables
If you have the space, an arrangement of side and coffee tables makes a stylish design statement, where the tables go beyond being merely functional items of furniture to expressing your style and creative flair. The secret is to group elements that have some sort of common aesthetic theme so that you create a harmonious synergy. That commonality may be their shape, colour or style, but the key thing is that you understand at a glance that you are looking at an artful composition rather than a haphazard placement of different pieces.
The Proiezioni collection of coffee tables by Elisa Ossino lend themselves to such a grouping, with a range of heights and shapes. Whether you choose high or low tables, square or round tops, there is no doubt that they share the same DNA. Bold geometric forms play and inlaid designs play with the light to create striking pieces of functional design that add a touch of eccentric style to a living room.
The advantages of a natural stone coffee table
The advantages of choosing a coffee or side table in natural stone are numerous, but the starting point is the sheer elegance of the extraordinary timeless material gifted by nature and prized throughout history. Even the simplest marble table immediately lifts the style credentials of a living room and the versatility of stone offers an infinite array of solutions that work with any décor style from traditional to modern. On the practical side of things, natural stone is hardwearing and difficult to scratch, important to consider when you think about how much use a typical coffee or side table is likely to withstand on a daily basis.
All the above qualities can be found in abundance in the ‘Love me, Love me not’ tables designed by Michael Anastassiades. Marble is the star of the show in this pair of designer pieces comprising a compact side table in glorious green Verde Alpi and a striking low square coffee table in inky black Noir St Laurent. Despite the sumptuousness of the stone, the matt finish and exquisite design combine to deliver an undeniably modern look.
A coffee table in natural stone and metal
If you are a fan of bold or unexpected combinations, a stone and metal coffee table offers fascinating possibilities.
The juxtaposition of cool marble with its rich and wonderful history and metal, more commonly associated with industrial design, makes for a striking pairing that introduces a note of originality into any room of the home.
Ta_Volo® epitomises how the solidity of marble and the malleability of metal make for an arresting combination. This innovative coffee table by Franz Siccardi features a monolithic slab of Bianco Carrara marble with a movable iron “sleeve” that could be described as a linear version of a Lazy Susan. Despite the immensity and weight of the marble, the table creates a sensation of lightness, almost as though it is hovering and this is the inspiration for the name, with ‘volo’ in Italian meaning ‘flight’ and ‘Tavolo’ the word for ‘table’.
Coffee and side tables are fundamental items of furniture that foster conviviality and relaxation and provide a distinctive décor touch in any living room. We have a range of collections by leading designers from around the world, who have taken gorgeous natural stone as a starting point to create tables that strike the perfect balance of functionality and design. Every single table is a unique piece of Made in Italy craftsmanship.
If you would like to find your perfect coffee table, we invite you to browse our website where you will find a host of inspiring images and designs.