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Coffee Table Guide - How To Find and Buy the Right Coffee Table For You

Updated on March 11, 2011

There is no piece of furniture more ubiquitous than the coffee table. You'll find a classic coffee table in all sorts of rooms, from home theaters to outdoor patios, and from casual family rooms to formal living rooms.

As trends in interior design ebb and flow with time, you will always find a coffee table perched in at least one room of a well-designed home. Coffee tables provide you with the perfect compliment to your couch and they offer function and style in one clean and simple piece of furniture.

Some refer to this classic staple as a cocktail table for its beverage-serving convenience, but most people refer to it as a coffee table. It is often placed in front of couches or other living area seating for effortless access to both cold and hot beverages, not just coffee, of course.

But both the label coffee table and the title cocktail table don't do justice to the modern functionality of this classic table.

Coffee tables now often bear more than just beverages. You'll frequently find magazines, plants and coffee table books sitting atop coffee tables of all kinds. Contemporary coffee tables even incorporate drawers and cabinets for even greater functionality.

Let Your Furniture Wear Your Personality

Before you settle on a new coffee table for your cozy home, I encourage you to think about how your furnishings reflect your personality. And remember also that an item as commonly utilized as a coffee table can have a significant impact on the way your guests feel when they're in your home.

If you want people to quickly lounge and relax, don't intimidate them with ornate and delicate furniture. If you prefer serious, thoughtful discussion, consider how you can keep multiple people engaged with each other through furniture positioning and help keep them attentive through the color and texture of your furniture.

All these considerations should be addressed with your simple coffee table purchase.

Modern Coffee Table
Modern Coffee Table

Square Coffee Tables, Round Coffee Tables And More

A primary reason coffee tables remain so timeless and common is that they feature all manner of sizes, shapes, colors and materials. You can find a square wood coffee table for a more classic look or you can exercise your modern taste with a round glass coffee table.

You can go from organic and earthy to sleek and contemporary by simplly changing this centerpiece to your room. Unfinished wooden coffee tables provide an earthy comfort while the sleek curves and tripod legs of a naguchi coffee table can make the most drab room look suddenly modern.

Below you can view George Nakashima's rustic art as coffee tables:

Coffee Table Video

Round Glass Coffee Table
Round Glass Coffee Table

The Glass Coffee Table

Glass coffee tables provide practicality and functionality without compromising on class.  The shape and shine provided by a round glass coffee table amplifies the style of your room, yet most glass coffee tables provide durability and flexibility as well.

But be careful about cleaning your glass coffee table, and be careful about sliding objects around on it.  A simple push of that potted plant could scratch some surfaces.  And an abrasive cleaner could also scratch some glass coffee tables.  This doesn't mean they're high-maintenance; you just have to exercise some common sense when caring for them.

Over the years, you will come to appreciate the reslience of the clear shine and the timelessness of its appearance.

Lift Top Coffee Table
Lift Top Coffee Table

Modern Utility: The Lift top Coffee Table

Despite core appeal of a coffee table being simplicity, today you'll discover a broad range of functional modern coffee tables. The most functional modern coffee table might be the lift top coffee table.

Lift top coffee tables afford you with versatile utility along with a stylish modern appearance. So if you are hoping to maximize the usage of your space, you might consider implementing a lift top coffee table in that family room or entertainment center.

Lift top coffee tables masquerade as simple tables, but when it comes to serving food and drinks, you'll love the capability to prepare your tabletop in the kitchen then just carry everything out at once, garnishings and all.

In the past, coffee tables featuring lift tops were pure function and often boring. Today furniture designers have come to appreciate how people love their lift top coffee tables and have infused them with broad range of styles and shapes. You can still find cheap lift top coffee tables if you're just after functionality, but you might at least look around at the many new versions popping up in furniture show rooms.

Classic Coffee Table
Classic Coffee Table

Old Faithful: The Square Coffee Table

Don't look at this old square coffee table design as a tired old cliche. You would be surprised how many people develop crushes on new and different coffee tables without considering how it will both feel and function with the rest of a room's furnishings.

Square coffee tables are so commonplace for a reason: they just plain work in a broad range of situations. And they provide the perfect compliment to a couch or loveseat, something most homes feature.

The square coffee table also comes in wide variety of textures, materials, colors and sizes, so going with the traditional shape doesn't mean you have to compromise your desire to do something different.

Old World Coffee Table
Old World Coffee Table

Coffee Table History

To understand the basics of coffee table history, you have to understand that there are two threads here: the development of functional furniture and what people actually called each piece of furniture.

From a functional standpoint, a low table set before various seating for the purpose of serving drinks has existed long before we have historical references to furniture referred to as coffee tables or cocktail tables.

India developed pillar and claw tripod tables and China developed square tea tables set low to the ground. The simple practicality of a coffee table's concept has crossed cultures for centuries.

From a technical standpoint, most believe the modern coffee table first appears in history during the Victorian era. At that time in England, a table designed by E.W. Godwin was built and distributed by William Watt, Collinson Lock. This table was referred to as a coffee table and furniture literature of the era mentions it often.

Many of these resources, such as Edward T. Joy's The Country Life book of English Furniture and R.W. Symonds and B.B. Whineray's victorian Furniture, were considered reputable and authoritive at their time and still remain so today.

Coffee tables exploded in popularity during the twentieth century, with styles growing more and more varied and versatile with each passing decade. Historians find it difficult to trace the origins of styles because of revivalism. This means styles of one era were essentially imitations of style from an earlier era.

Shop For Coffee Tables Online

Don't just develop a crush on one piece of furniture and buy it. As you shop around and grow to appreciate the different styles and functions of modern coffee tables, you'll likely experience shifts in your own taste.

And for this you should take full advantage of the Web. Through this delightful technology you can examine and contemplate an incredible variety of coffee table in little time and with little effort. I also suggest you take this time to compare prices among manufacturers and among styles.

You shouldn't necessarily buy online, but you should allow the Internet to help inform you on what is available and how much it costs.

However, I always urge people to visit a few furniture showrooms before they buy online. Sometimes you just can't get an accurate feel for what it will be like to have that specific coffee table around you until you've actually stood next it, sat next to it and touched it. You'll be amazed how much improves your ability to consider both its scale and its feel.

I hope you leave this hub feeling far more informed about the wonders of the simple furniture piece we call a coffee table. 


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