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Tips For Buying A Coffee Table

Updated on October 30, 2008

Buying Furniture


Coffee tables make living spaces comfortable and add convenience and beauty to any home provided they 'fit' the space and lifestyle of the people who will use it. Size, style, materials, placement, even safety are considerations.

SIZE & SHAPE: Obviously, if you have a small room, you'll want a smaller coffee table. The shape can often help with this dilemma. For instance I've seen round coffee tables of all sizes and the lack of pointy corners make navigating around them in a small room much easier. If you have a McMansion, or real Mansion, you're probably not reading this; however, a large, impressive coffee table is probably your best choice as it won't look out of place or give a 'doll house' toy effect.

Rectangles and squares work well and squares often offer a place for more people to sit near and place their drink or snack on (or, if you're in my house, prop your feet up on). Ovals help in much the same way as round - less sharp corners to bump into. Rounds and ovals will give Grandma fewer heart attacks when babies or toddlers approach them as all we can think of is 'they're going to knock their eye out!"

STYLE & QUALITY: This is a personal preference, but usually people choose the styl; modern, contemporary, antique, folk art, traditional, etc. that fits the rest of the of the decor. I imagine someone might have decorated a room around a coffee table, but I doubt if it happens often. If you're purchasing a trendy coffee table, you may not want to invest in the high-end manufacturers, as if you like trendy you'll probably be replacing it in a couple of years. If you're looking for traditional, conventional or antique, higher quality is the way to go as this coffee table will be more of an investment or keepsake.

Coffee tables that offer storage underneath are great for small spaces. Shelves, drawers and cubby holes really help keep the clutter of remotes and piles of books or magazines handy. If your table will be in a formal room that is more of a look-don't-touch area, you're probably save in buying an antique or soft wood. If your coffee table serves multiple purposes, like ours, either get one with a tougher finish or you can have a glass top made to fit it. Some of them come with low, roll out square stools that fit under them for added seating during parties.

A Glass or Lucite table makes a room look larger as you see through them. They are also easier to clean up coffee rings and salsa-cheese dip after a party.

We've used our coffee table, a rectangular oak one that my husband made when we were first married, for jigsaw puzzles, assembling small (and not so small) items, drawing and coloring pictures with the young ones, and sharing photo albums when family and friends visit. He made it out of oak, but finished the top with boat deck varnish, so we have the best of both worlds. The corners are rounded, so there was less of a 'fear factor' when the kids and grandkids were toddlers.

So, making your own is another consideration. The old cement block topped with a piece of wood is always handy if want one for short term use. A length of fabric or table cloth can hid the look if it's to 'rustic' for your tastes. I've seen home-made tables using a slice of a large old tree that's been cut down (please don't cut a large old tree to do this). A slice of grainite, one was made using the a top of a baby grand piano that had been destroyed, the ideas are endless once you stop thinking about it.

A coffee table is a great addition to any living room, rec room or famly room and I hope my tips help you choose one!


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