How to buy a Coffee Table

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

This may be the toughest piece of furniture to purchase for a home because they come in thousands of styles, shapes, materials, colours and sizes.  So often you see one in a store and it calls out to you, “Take me home with you”.  Ten minutes after you place it in the desired space you stand back and think, “What the heck was I thinking?  It doesn’t look at all like I envisioned”.   What seems really crazy is that you can go to 20 furniture stores in one day, view hundreds of coffee tables and not like even one of them.  This happens often to many people who are trying to get just the right table to make a room perfect.  So many options can make this an enormous task.  So, let’s start with the basics.

  • What size are you looking for? Sometimes taping off the size you wish on your floor can be a help.
  • What material do you want? Wood, metal, glass, plastic, leather, fabric etc.
  • Will you put your feet on it?
  • Does it need to be durable?
  • Is it in a show piece room?
  • Can you spill on it?
  • Does it need to be child friendly? No sharp edges or corners.
  • Can it be cleaned?
  • Is it easy to move around?
  • With or without legs?
  • Do want to be able to see under it?
  • What style are you looking for? Modern, country, classic, etc.
  • What level of quality are you looking for?
  • How much are you willing to spend?

PHEW!!   There are so many manufacturers representing so many levels of quality and price that you must have a budget in mind, or else when you come to a coffee table that fits all your needs but turns out to be the most expensive table in the store, you simply have to walk away.  Easier said than done!

A common size for coffee tables is 2’-0” x 4’-0”.  Obviously they are available in countless sizes but many of the manufacturers seem to use 24” x 48” as a standard.  It fits into many homes and doesn’t end up dominating the room and space.  This again is a reason that it is wise to have drawn your floorplan of the desired space, so that you can get a feel of how big of a table you wish to add.  I always suggest that you tape off on the floor of your room the approximate size you are hoping for and it will give you a much better idea about what will fit, so that you are prepared when you begin your shopping.

The construction of a coffee table should be rigid and able to support the load you are thinking of adding to it.  Is it wiggly?  A quality wood or metal coffee table should be able to support your weight effortlessly.  Glass and other materials could be another matter, but you still will require them to hold up a fair portion of weight every day without collapsing on the floor. Check to see that it is well built and up to the job ahead.  Are all of the connections strong and reinforced?  Have they used gussets on all of the corners?  Are the connections glued and screwed for stronger joinery?

One the most difficult parts is knowing what you’re after.  A big question is, do you want the ability to put your feet underneath the table.  Many coffee tables will have blocked bottoms or a low shelf or storage which will prevent you from putting your feet under there.  Cleaning under these types of tables means that you must move the unit in order to clean under it.  You’ll want to check the weight of the table to be sure that you are able to move it around the room.  The materials you end up selecting will have a lot to do the weight of the table.  A wrought iron base with a stone top will be strong, but it will also weigh over 50 lbs which is tough to maneuver alone.