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Which kind of coffee table should you buy?

From rustic wooden coffee tables to sleeker, glossier versions – which coffee table is right for you? Ask yourself these 4 questions to find out.
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Actona McCartney Table

Navigating the world of coffee tables can sometimes feel like an impossible task, especially when there’s just so much choice out there. So, before you start, ask yourself these four simple questions to help narrow down your search.

A coffee table can make or break a living room. Not only is it hard to get aesthetically right, there are practical considerations too, from basics like the size of it, to tricky situations such as having small (coffee table height) children in the house. In short, it’s no good picking something that makes all the right statements from a visual point of view, if it doesn’t end up being useful, or is a hazard with little ones.

Of course, one of the main reasons it’s so hard to choose the perfect coffee table boils down to analysis paralysis – aka when there’s so much choice, we’re left in a state of torturous indecisiveness. From rustic wooden coffee tables to sleeker versions made from glossy glass and chrome, it can all become a bit overwhelming if you don’t take a measured approach to your search.

With that in mind, we thought we’d provide a bit of guidance on how to tackle that all important living room focal point. By asking yourself the questions below, you’ll be better equipped to make a choice that ticks all the boxes, and then some.

1. What are you likely to use the coffee table for?

This may seem like an obvious consideration but it’s one that’s surprisingly easy to overlook. When thinking about your new coffee table, ask yourself what you’re most likely to practically use it for. Do you have a lot of laid back TV dinners or love family board games? If so, opt for something with a decent amount of surface area to accommodate your dishes and condiments or that Monopoly board. Something large and square would work well for this kind of use.

If you’re not a TV dinner kind of person and use your coffee table mostly for cosy afternoons reading with a cuppa, you could get away with something smaller. Just be sure to pick one with space to stack your books, like this gorgeous Furnitureland California Coffee Tablemade from white American oak.

2. What are your priorities?

Next, ask yourself what your priorities are. Do you favour hardwearing, no-fuss furniture? Or are you all about making bold statements with quirky pieces? Thinking about what really matters to you will help you sift through a lot of designs that may seem like plausible options at first, but which don’t really cut the mustard when it comes to finding that ‘have to have it’ factor.

For those who like quality furniture that looks great but isn’t overwhelming on the design front, something like the stripped back Starr Nest of Tables could be the perfect choice. With their streamlined, functional design, they’re a fantastic choice for minimalist, mid-century modern, or just generally chilled-out interiors.

If you crave something with more detail, try opting for a table with an unusual edge – something that perhaps uses a mixture of materials for a more textured vibe. The unique Fuji Coffee Table ticks all the boxes if you’re into quirky furniture that makes a statement.

3. Do you have small children?

Another key consideration when choosing the perfect coffee table is the height factor – namely, do you have kids, and will certain tables be the perfect height for them to bang their heads on? This one’s a tricky one as most coffee tables are unfortunately a bit of a treacherous height for toddlers, but you can exercise some damage control by searching for a table that’s head-friendly, such as a super soft, upholstered ottoman style coffee table that’s not actually made from hard materials at all. Avoiding sharp edges is important. Round tables are naturally the better option than square in this case (for obvious reasons) and have the added bonus of looking great as a contemporary design feature.

4. Do you need extra storage in your living room?

If your living room is lacking in storage, don’t discount the coffee table as the perfect place to stash books or magazines, electronics and other miscellaneous items. There are plenty of options on the market with built-in drawers, such as this gorgeous Veledrome Coffee Table with Drawers.

The beauty of going for something multifunctional means it streamlines your search process considerably. It’s all about picking out coffee table ‘must haves’ and using them to drive your hunt for the perfect item of furniture.

5. What’s the décor theme of your living room?

Last but definitely not least is the need to find a coffee table that complements the rest of your living room. Don’t underestimate the power of such a seemingly small piece of furniture (compared with larger items like sofas and display cabinets) to transform the look of the room.

While it might be tempting to go for something that blends in with its surroundings, your coffee table offers the perfect opportunity to break up the space. The trick is to go for something that harmonises with the general ‘vibe’ of the room, but that isn’t completely identical to other styles of furniture. Try to pick something that plays on one or two colours or materials that are already present in the room, but that has its own unique aesthetic too. That way you’ll layer up on your décor theme but won’t end up with a coffee table that’s lost in its surroundings.

Choosing the perfect coffee table is daunting, not least because it’s most probably going to sit slap bang in the middle of everything – that means no hiding in the corner. But with a little careful thought you’ll soon narrow down your choices to a short list, and then to a very short list, and then, eventually, to ‘The One’. And trust us, when you find that perfect fit, you’ll be glad you asked yourself all the right questions during the search. After all, that’s the only wayyou’re going to avoid settling with a table that’s second best. And we just don’t do second best, do we?

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