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When you've splashed out a new sectional sofa, you'll often want to find the perfect coffee table to complement your family room's new centerpiece.
But choosing the right coffee table can be challenging. So we spoke to some interior design and furniture experts to understand how to select a coffee table that'll work well in your space.
By understanding your sectional's style and function, exploring different coffee table shapes and sizes, and choosing the right material, you can find a functional and stylish coffee table that perfectly suits your sectional sofa.
Meet the experts
At Living Cozy, we work closely with industry experts to bring you advice and recommendations you can rely on. In this article, you'll hear from the following pros:
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Coffee Table to Pair with a Sectional Sofa
The Space Available
When pairing a coffee table with your sectional sofa, considering the space in your seating area is essential — even though there isn't a correct answer to "what size coffee table is best."
"If you're someone who loves a big coffee table that can hold all the art books and objects and remotes—great. If you prefer a minimal setup with a few smaller side tables for the occasional mug—also great," says Rob Natale, Chief of Design at Sixpenny.
Natale suggests that a coffee table should anchor the negative space in your seating arrangement. "It should be close enough to you so its contents are within arm's reach and far enough away so you can move around the sofa without constantly knocking your shins," he adds.
Kristin Patrician, founder of Dwelling Envy Interiors, shares a simple rule of thumb: measure the area between the edges of the sectional and subtract 15 inches if it's L-shaped or 30 inches if it's U-shaped. This will give you a general idea of the coffee table size to pair with your sectional.
How You Use Your Living Room
The purpose of your living space should influence every piece of living room furniture, including the type of coffee table you choose. If you frequently host gatherings, a coffee table with additional seating like an ottoman or stools could be a practical option. Alternatively, if you prefer a minimalist look, a smaller, round coffee table might serve your needs.
"Is that space intended for hosting movie nights and super bowl watch gatherings? Do you visualize using that surface for playing board games or doing puzzles, and is there a need for storage? Will you want the surface to play double duty as a footrest?" asks Golde.
"We really deep dive with our clients to understand how they plan on using the table and the sectional area," Golde adds. Once the end use of the area has been determined, you can move on to what material choices make sense, what size would be optimal, and what design will serve you the best in the long run.
Functionality and Aesthetics
The coffee table isn't just for looking great; it's also a functional part of the living room — often a place to rest your drinks or snacks or put your feet up after a long day. So when choosing a piece for your home, you should consider the functional aspects as well as the aesthetics.
For example, hidden storage could be a practical solution to keep your living space organized and clutter-free if you live in a small space. You can find coffee tables with drawers, shelves, or even lift-top coffee tables that provide ample space to store your magazines, books, and remote controls.
Regarding aesthetics, Rob Natale advises you to think about the height of the coffee table. "If you're looking to create a cozy, laid-back space, lower profile coffee tables keep sight lines clear and line up as you sink into more doughy seating," says Natale. "Taller coffee tables, on the other hand, are more conducive to slightly more supportive, upright seating."
You should also consider the interior design styles that influence the rest of your living space; for example, a mid-century modern coffee table might clash with other more traditional pieces of furniture.
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How to Choose the Right Shape Coffee Table
Round and Oval Coffee Tables
Round coffee tables take up less visual space than square or rectangular ones, so they work well in small spaces. Oval coffee tables, on the other hand, offer a bit more surface area and can be an excellent option for larger rooms or for those who love to entertain.
But when pairing an oval or round table with a sectional sofa, you need to consider the shape of your sofa and the layout of your living room.
Heather Golde suggests that an oval-shaped coffee table or two square nesting tables or end tables can be great options when working with a U-shaped sectional. "With a curved sectional, we tend to lean towards an oval or, in the best case scenario, a table with an organic shape that mimics the curve of the sofa," says Golde. Safety is another consideration, especially for families with young children, as round or oval tables with softer edges can help prevent injuries.
Rob Natale believes that round coffee tables and organic shapes work best when the seating arrangement wraps around itself. "Think corner and L-shaped sectionals, or a sectional and a pair of armchairs facing one another, since the negative space created is square or rounded," explains Natale. However, if you have a long, rectangular sectional sofa facing your TV, there may be better choices than a round coffee table, as it can leave awkward dead space in the rectangular negative space.
Rectangular Coffee Tables
Rob Natale explains that rectangular coffee tables work best in rectangular negative spaces. "A long sectional sofa or chaise sectional lends itself perfectly to a rectangular coffee table, so there's a bit of table within reach no matter where you're seated," says Natale. "Take our Kai Coffee Table, for example, which has an almost monolithically simple design, hand-carved from reclaimed Austrian oak, which pairs beautifully with our classic Neva Chaise Sectional," he adds.
Heather Golde cautions against using rectangular tables with L-shaped sectionals. "It typically looks off balance and leaves one area of the sectional without easy access to the table surface," says Golde. The one exception she mentions is when designing a space plan with a U-shaped sectional configuration, in which case a rectangular table could suit that seating style.
Square Coffee Tables
Square coffee tables can be ideal for many sectional sofa configurations, particularly when the seating arrangement's negative space is close to even on all sides.
Heather Golde notes that square coffee tables work well with most sectionals and provide optimal surface areas and flexibility in storage and use. "We work with some amazing furniture makers, and in many of our projects, we have custom tables made to perfectly fit the soft goods in a room," explains Golde.
According to Rob Natale, square coffee tables, similar to circular ones, work best when the negative space created by your seating arrangement is close to even on all sides. "Corner sectionals or long sectionals with flanking chairs are perfect here since the length and width of the seating is usually about the same," adds Natale
How to Decide between Rectangular or Square
Unsure whether a square or rectangular coffee table makes the most sense with your sectional? Kristin Patrician shares some advice,
"When a sectional is uneven or rectangular, with one side measuring longer than the other, I tend to opt for a rectangular coffee table. However, I usually choose a round or square table for sectionals that are more evenly proportioned/ symmetrical in length and width."
Ottoman Coffee Tables
Rob Natale suggests, "Using an ottoman is a versatile coffee table solution since you can always use it for extra seating. Consider adding an ottoman that pairs with your sectional so it can attach if you choose." Many modular sofas will also include ottomans that can work solo or attach to your sofa to create additional seating.
"Using an ottoman is a versatile coffee table solution since you can always use it for extra seating. Consider adding an ottoman that pairs with your sectional so it can attach if you choose."
When it comes to choosing an ottoman coffee table, Heather Golde emphasizes the importance of considering the primary use of your ottoman coffee table: "A good example would be staying away from a soft ottoman coffee table if the majority of the use will be for food serving, games, and entertainment. If comfort is key and you will only use the table occasionally for food, then maybe a fabric-covered square ottoman coffee table would be best for stretching out with a bowl of popcorn for movie night or TV viewing."
Leisyl Buxton recommends that you, "Consider a round ottoman for a soft spot to place your feet, or extra seating when entertaining. Style it with a throw blanket and a large tray so you have a hard surface to set down drinks and snacks. I generally recommend a leather ottoman so you have easy cleanup in case of spills or dirty shoes."
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Choosing the Right Material for Your Coffee Table
Another important factor to consider when choosing a coffee table is material. The material you choose will impact the aesthetic appeal of your living room and its lifespan.
Wood Coffee Tables
Wooden coffee tables are a classic choice, adding warmth and texture to your living space. You can choose from various finishes, including oak, pine, or walnut, based on your decor.
Glass Coffee Tables
Full glass or glass-top coffee tables can create a modern and minimalist look. They also add dimension to your living space as the light filters through them.
Metal Coffee Tables
A metal coffee table tends to bring an industrial feel to a living room. However, opt for copper or brass for a vintage touch or steel for a more contemporary look.
Mixed Material Coffee Tables
If you can't decide on one material, why not go for a mixed-material coffee table? These can combine a metal base with a wooden tabletop or a glass top with an upholstered base. The options really are endless.
Ash is the founder of Living Cozy. He's been featured by publishers like MyDomaine, Realtor, Real Homes, Architectural Digest, The Spruce, Homes and Gardens, and more. As a writer his work has appeared in publications like FastCompany, TNW, and Entrepreneur.
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