How To Choose A Coffee Table

The modern coffee table, or cocktail table as some of our American friends call it, is a multi-functional piece of furniture that can add the finishing touch to a living space or sitting room. Once installed and beautifully styled, the right coffee table has the power to make a genuine statement.

The breadth of options available can make the task of choosing a coffee table seem greater than it is. Use our guide to choosing a coffee table to help slim down the options to those that will compliment your home and lifestyle…

Layout and Space

Styled by Alyce Taylor for Zardi & Zardi; photographed by Mike Garlick


First off, consider the space and layout of the room. Checking a few important dimensions will help identify the optimum size for a coffee table. Start off by considering these key points:

• Allow 30cm to 45cm between a coffee table and the seating set around it.

• High traffic living rooms will need more space around the coffee table for people to move around. Allow at least 45cm of clear space around a coffee table in this situation.

• If other furniture or a fireplace will sit along one side of a coffee table, allow for a minimum of 80cm for people to walk between with ease.

• Subtracting these measurements from the full available length and width of the open space between your seating will give you the maximum size for your coffee table.

Size and Height

Second, take into account the proportions of your coffee table. The size and height should always be considered in relation to the seating around it. A few important things to keep in mind are:

• The maximum length (or diameter) of a coffee table should be two thirds of the width of the sofa it sits alongside. For example, if your sofa is 2.1m wide, the length of your coffee table should be no bigger than 1.4m.

• A coffee table has got to be level with or up to 15cm above the seating height of the main piece of seating or sofa. This is particularly important if you often host people in your living space as it makes it easier to reach and lift a drink or plate.

Finally, it’s time to focus on the looks…


Interior Designer: Juliette Byrne

Oval or round coffee tables:

The curved edges of an oval or round coffee table can soften the feel of an area that has lots of straight lines and will facilitate circulation in a high traffic living room. And if you’re looking to give the illusion of spaciousness, an oval or round coffee table will appear to take up less space. If you’ve got room, group together two or three matching round coffee tables of differing heights for an attractive layered and flexible display.

Square coffee tables:

If you have the benefit of lots of space between your seating, a large square coffee table makes a real statement. You may also consider using two or four identical square coffee tables and arranging them symmetrically. If your living area has a long sofa against one wall, a square coffee table will add depth to the seating area and break up the long lines of the furniture.

Rectangular coffee tables:

The most popular, shape-wise, is the rectangular coffee table. These look best when placed centrally in front of a sofa, echoing the proportions of the larger piece of furniture. If your living space is long and narrow, this shape will allow the maximum table space for the limited width of the room.

Materials, Styles, and Effects

Choose materials for your coffee table that will compliment your existing furniture and suit your lifestyle. A few popular options are…

Glass coffee tables

These work well in any interior and have a sophisticated look. The glass is easy to look after and the finish of the metal frame can be made to match or standout from the furniture in the rest of the room, as is the case with our new Papillon Coffee Table. A clear glass top will also give the feeling of open space and allow for a view of the rug or flooring underneath.

Marble coffee tables

Marble coffee tables need careful maintenance due to the porous nature of the material. Though, if cared for properly, a piece of marble furniture can outlast all other furniture. A beautiful marble tabletop will allow even the most modern coffee table design to sit comfortably in a traditional interior.

Metal coffee tables

Made of brass, steel or gold-plated metal like our Balzac Coffee Table, metal coffee tables also need to be cared for in order to keep the surface in good condition. A bronze coffee table will patinate beautifully as it is used, improving with age.

Every sitting area is used and styled differently, which is why we offer a broad selection of coffee table designs in a variety of shapes, sizes, finishes, and materials.

Whatever shape or material you choose to suit your lifestyle, our coffee tables can be sized to fit your space and if you prefer to stretch out your legs and want a side table instead, we can help you with that, too!