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Coffee Talk: How to Buy a Coffee Table

The coffee table is the glue that holds the style and the social space of a living room or family room together. In others words, the coffee table is important. But how do you shop for a coffee table? How high should a coffee table be? And what is coffee table height? We have crafted a brief guide to help you in selecting the perfect one for your home, whether that happens to be a mansion or a one-bedroom apartment – either way, there are sure to be tables that complete it.

How to Measure Your Space for a Coffee Table

A general guide to picking the best coffee table that best matches your living space is to choose one that is about the same height as your sofa cushions, or slightly lower. Typically, it should measure no more than two-thirds the sofa's total length. And it works best if you can keep about two feet of clearance around each side. Simply put, you don't want a coffee table that dwarfs its surroundings, and vice versa. A standard coffee table is about 16 to 18 inches, but for a higher sofa, go with 20 to 21 inches in height. After you've given your trusty tape measure a workout, consider the shape of your new table. Does a round style suit your taste and the decor that you've created? Maybe a square choice is a better fit. Rectangular may be the most popular, but oval works well, too, especially if you are baby-proofing or want to get rid of sharp corners. For a more eclectic look, choose a triangular, octagonal, or even an irregular or natural shape.

The Make and Models

Two of the most popular categories when it comes to materials are wood and glass. Wood is a great choice when the table is going to see a lot of action--from adult get-togethers where it hosts cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, to kiddie gatherings where it will hold everything from video game controls to snacks. A glass coffee table makes an ideal center piece to showcase some of your special belongings or heirloom decor. A glass tabletop can also be a good choice for small spaces to create a light and open feeling. Metal makes a modern or rustic look in turns, when supporting a glass or wood tabletop. For an ultra-modern or ultra-industrial style, choose an all-metal table.

Your Needs and Functionality

Another important factor is how it will be used. Sometimes a coffee table is a catchall for the mail, car keys, purses, and other everyday items. Sometimes it’s not for those things at all. Instead, it's an open palette that offers a quiet welcome to anyone who comes in the room. And it is the perfect canvas for displaying your favorite accents. Or maybe it's a place to store things. Board games, blankets, books--and those are just things that start with "b." Coffee tables with drawers, shelves, and hidden storage areas are very handy and versatile. Lift-top styles can open to hold a plethora of useful items that nevertheless need to be neatly stowed, like remote controls, magazines, and video games. Storage ottoman coffee tables are wildly popular for their ample space that accommodates throws, pillows, and more.

Modern and Traditional Design

A catchall, a workspace, a display for cherished decor – there are all sorts of uses for the ubiquitous coffee table. And whether you go with glass, wood, or metal, you can be sure that there is a style that fits you just right. Modern tables or a more traditional look – whatever you are searching for, you are sure to find it among the hundreds of choices here. A black or white coffee table or a dark wood coffee table are popular choices for modern home styles.

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