Posts

Coffee table materials

Design Basics: The Essential Guide to Coffee Table Materials

A sofa (or a sectional) is probably the most important piece of furniture in your living room—but a coffee table is a close second. Not only do they add a layer of practicality to your living room, but often this piece of furniture is a way to drive home the style of your space. So, when it comes to choosing the perfect coffee table for your living room, start with figuring out the best shape and size for your sofa and overall room. (Check out our guide to coffee table shapes and sizes for everything you need to know about that!)

Once you have a coffee table shape picked out, you’ll want to think about materials. In general, the material you choose is tied pretty heavily to your interior design style. (Not sure of your style? Take our free style quiz!) If you find yourself drawn to a certain interior design style, there are some materials that will fall into your style and others that won’t. Keep reading for a break-down on the predominant materials for coffee tables and what styles go with them!

Coffee table materialsWood Coffee Tables

Wood is the most common material for coffee tables (along with stone). As such, it fits into most styles—though different finishes will cause it to lean in different style directions, making it the material with the most diversity in it.

Wondering what finishes go best with what styles? Lighter finishes will have a more Scandinavian and modern vibe, with a lighter and airier feel. Teak or acorn finishes are very mid-century. Meanwhile, dark wood finishes will have a more classic, rustic, or industrial vibe. Weathered woods will also fit well in a rustic, coastal, or industrial space. A red-tinted finish will be in the American traditional camp, along with some classic looks. And then there are the ornamental woods, like a burl wood, will have a contemporary or glam vibe, with their nature-sculpted quality. These pieces are statements in and of themselves, a great example of material being used as ornamentation.

Different shapes will also help drive home the style of a particular wooden coffee table. A round drum coffee table will have a different style and vibe than a rectangular coffee table with tapered legs, even if they have the same finish. But, regardless of the finish and shape, a wood coffee table adds a natural and organic element to the space. Just remember to use coasters! And know that some woods require special polishes and cleaners—so be mindful of that when cleaning and maintaining your coffee table.

Shop This Look

Coffee table materialsGlass Coffee Tables

Glass coffee tables are perfect styles for those with a glam, minimal, or transitional and contemporary aesthetic. Often, glass tables will have metal frames and legs—and the color and finish of the metal will help drive home the overall style.

We love how easy a glass coffee table is to clean and maintain. However, you will still want to use coasters, and you won’t want to burn a candle straight on the glass. In fact, if you’re worried about scuffs, scratches, or other damage, you may want to layer a cloth or mat down to protect the glass. This isn’t a good material for a high-traffic space, and it’s definitely not kid-friendly.

Shop This Look

Coffee table materialsAcrylic + Lucite Coffee Tables

Looking for the best modern coffee tables out there? Go for an acrylic or lucite coffee table. They’re also perfect for glam and minimalist spaces. Many acrylic or lucite coffee tables come in an arc shape, which adds a bit of a statement in your living room, even though it’s a translucent material; this makes the shape itself the decoration. And, if they’re not entirely acrylic or lucite, they’re often paired with some sort of metal, like brass or gold legs—which really plays into a glam aesthetic.

This is a very low-maintenance and easy-to-clean material. This is a great material for small spaces; since they’re translucent, they don’t add visual weight or clutter to your space.

Shop This Look

Coffee table materialsMetal Coffee Tables

Many metal coffee tables sit within the industrial or transitional camp, especially if the metal is silver or pewter. Though, if it’s a gold or brass finish, it probably falls more in the modern or glam world. It’s rare that you’ll see an all-metal coffee table though—usually metal is paired with wood or glass elements, which will also influence what interior design style it most closely aligns with.

Metal is a strong material that’s fairly easy to clean. However, with its proclivity toward rusting, you’ll definitely want to make sure you use coasters! And you’ll want to make sure to dust often, as metals will show even the finest elements of dust. (In fact, the same goes for glass and acrylic coffee tables.)

Shop This Look

Coffee table materialsStone Coffee Tables

There are many different stone materials that can be used in a coffee table—though marble is by far the most common. Marble is really beautiful and can pair with almost all interior design styles, though you’ll most commonly see it in a glam, minimal, or modern space. We love how, with any style, it adds an organic modern touch to your living room. Some marbles are very subtle, with minimal veining, while others are actually more dominantly black with white veining (perfect for a maximalist space). Marble is similar to burl wood in that the material is the ornamentation and statement, in and of itself.

Marble is a very fussy and high-maintenance material though. While many marble coffee tables have finishes that protect the stone from water, scratches, and stains, not all do. (Make sure you read the product description so that you clean and treat the surface appropriately.) On the bright side, many stains fade over time with marble—they’ll sink deeper into the stone over time, and eventually fade or disappear completely. However, you definitely want to avoid a marble coffee table coming in contact with citrus or acid, as these will eat away at the marble or the finish.

Shop This Look

Coffee table materialsNatural Material Coffee Tables

And, of course, there are natural materials, like rattan and seagrass, which add a nice pop of texture to your living room. Depending on the shape and finish, coffee tables in natural materials can go in a boho, eclectic, or coastal space—or even some rustic contemporary or modern homes! They’re great kid-friendly coffee tables, since they typically don’t have hard edges and natural materials are pretty forgiving around kids!

Maintenance is pretty simple with a natural material coffee table—just wipe any spills down with a damp cloth, and use coasters and even trays to help keep it looking its best! With woven materials, dust could easily collect in nooks and crannies, so be sure to dust frequently!

Shop This Look

Start Styling!

Once you’ve landed on the right shape, style, and material for your living room design, you get the joy of styling your coffee table, which adds additional personality to your space. Some people prefer a very minimal and clean tabletop, while others love a highly styled look. Check out our coffee table styling ideas for some inspiration!

Ready to find the perfect coffee table for your space?

Start My Project

Coffee table ideas

13 Ways to Style Your Coffee Table

The coffee table is the centerpiece of your living room, so invest in one that suits your style and space. Keeping in mind some common coffee table dos and don’ts, you also want to make sure it’s functional for your daily lifestyle. If you have little kids, a storage table that corrals clutter can be a lifesaver, or if you love to entertain, a tiered table with an extra shelf can be a great choice.

Beyond function, though, a stylishly arranged coffee table can help set the tone in your space. It can be as simple as a few stacks of books topped with objects or one that’s organized with trays of objects. No matter your coffee table styling approach, it should feel personal and be visually appealing to you.

To inspire you, here’s a roundup of coffee table ideas with our best tips for styling it into an eye-catching visual display.

Coffee table ideasPretty & Practical

A simple arrangement of elegant everyday items can go a long way as decorative finishing touches on your coffee table. Curate accents and objects that tie back to the color scheme of your room. This grouping of coffee table books, a feather tray, and a lantern candle holder make for a minimalist display that reiterates the room’s calming, neutral vibe.

Styling Tip: Your room’s palette is a great jumping-off point if you’re not sure where to start with your coffee table decor. This approach guarantees your final display will blend seamlessly with the other pieces in your space.

Shop This Look

Coffee table ideasEclectic Mix

A good mantra for coffee table styling is to stick to the rule of three—three different kinds of objects in varying heights and shapes. Here, a decorative wood box is mixed with a tall planter that adds texture, color, and height along with a stack of vintage-style books. There’s not shortage of intrigue and balance here.

Styling Tip: An eclectic coffee table works best with an eclectic mix of objects. The wooden trunk table here offers both storage space and an unexpected look. If your style leans more quirky, consider coffee table alternatives that have the same edgy look as the items you plan to put on top of it.

Shop This Look

Coffee table ideasSimple & Understated

When it comes to cool and functional living room design ideas, you can’t go wrong with a pair of matching coffee tables—or bunching tables pushed together! With a pair of coffee tables, you already have a visually bold setup, so keep the surfaces simple. A book and a small cactus does the trick here, adding a pop of color and texture.

Styling Tip: If you go with a pair of tables or one that has a bold sculptural design, they’re already ornamental in and of themselves, so keep the surface minimally decorated. Think a small tray, a tiny plant or a scaled-down vase.

Shop This Look

Coffee table ideasTransitional Minimalist

Speaking of minimal styling in the living room, a simple wood coffee table design is the best surface for styling up or down as you like. You can layer statement decor on top or keep it tightly curated with just a few accents, like one or two gorgeous vases to compliment your room decor, like the blue-and-white combo here.

Styling Tip: Sometimes it’s all about aesthetics with your coffee table display. And there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as it ties back to the overall look of the rest of your room. This is perfect for those of you who don’t use your coffee table every day.

Shop This Look

Coffee table ideasFamily-Friendly & Functional

Coffee tables with built-in functionalities, like a hidden drawer or a tray top, are perfect multitaskers for family homes in our book. They’re made for corralling objects and styled up displays that bring focus to smaller decorative items, such as plants, candles, small trays, books, and even decorative boxes. Don’t dismiss these tables!

Styling Tip: Round tables are perfect for homes with little kids since they don’t have sharp corners. They’re also perfect for books and other more angular objects, which provide visual contrast to the table’s rounded form. It’s always a good idea to contrast shapes in this way!

Shop This Look

Coffee table ideasReading Surface

If your living room is more focused on quiet reading time than TV watching, choose a practical wood coffee table that gives you a clean surface to pile books, magazines, and other reading materials on top of. You can also stack coffee table books for a more polished look, but the idea is that this is a working surface that has everything you’re currently reading or flipping through.

Styling Tip: This is perfect for those who enjoy reading on their living room sofa. Just make sure your coffee table has a spacious surface for you to spread your reading out. One with a tiered design can give you extra storage for more books and magazines.

Shop This Look

Coffee table ideasLevels Of Use

A two-tiered coffee table is always a great choice for a living room that has furnishings in a range of styles. A tiered design also makes for fun coffee table styling since it gives you double the surface to showcase objects and accents. Or you can even turn one shelf into a full storage space for books, baskets, and even blankets.

Styling Tip: With double the surface area, it helps to designate what goes on top and what goes on the bottom. A tray on top is great for cups, plates, remotes and other loose everyday items, while the bottom shelf is always a good place for things you might need in a pinch, like a candle, a throw or even a board game.

Shop This Look

Coffee table ideasStreamlined Styling

For those after a clean-lined contemporary living room, your coffee table doesn’t have to stay bare to keep that aesthetic alive. Make sure to first choose a streamlined table that goes with your style and top it with similarly pared-down items, like a stack of magazines or a small modern votive, box, or vase.

Styling Tip: Think playful but polished when it comes to coffee table accents. And less is definitely more here, so go for the sleek and unique tray or small modern sculpture piece to give your coffee table display just the right amount of oomph.

Shop This Look

Coffee table ideasMovable Display

You’ve seen us mention trays a few times. That’s because it’s one of the easiest and most stylish coffee table ideas to work into any space. Plus, they’re endlessly functional since they’re easy to move around and can be used to hold anything from flowers and candles to tea sets.

Styling Tip: Consider styling a tray with a teapot, candle, and plant so that it’s always ready for entertaining guests and family. Our favorite is turning a coffee table tray into a breakfast tray for serving a delicious morning meal in the living room. Once you’re done, just carry the tray to the kitchen and unload everything. It’s simple and it’s stylish!

Shop This Look

Coffee table ideasWhite Hot

If your coffee table has elements of white or a marble top, consider layering it with other white accents and objects for a look that packs a punch. Whether it’s a book or a candle holder or a vase, a white on white on white look is always chic.

Styling Tip: With this coffee table styling approach, it’s less about color and all about shapes and textures. You want to group together white objects that have varying textures and details, like perforations and weathered wood or a smooth white book cover. It’s all in the contrasts.

Shop This Look

Coffee table ideasOrganization First

Two smaller trays paired together on a large wood coffee table gives you double the function and endless styling possibilities. This allows for plenty of open space still on the table surface while giving you areas to corral and curate objects.

Styling Tip: Don’t be afraid to go all out with a style or theme! Here, the trays are filled with nautical decor and accents that reflect the room’s overall coastal aesthetic. When in doubt, always look to the rest of your room’s decor for styling inspiration.

Shop This Look

Coffee table ideasSleek & Spare

For city dwellers living in sleek condos with modern furniture, coffee table styling is all about paring things down. If this is your style, consider a concrete-and-glass coffee table that comes off as a sculptural piece in and of itself, allowing you to keep it bare or style it up with a few clean-lined accents.

Styling Tip: With modern industrial coffee tables, like this one, they don’t need much styling. But if you do decide to layer on accents, keep to simple low-profile objects that don’t steal away from the table’s bold form. Think tiny vases, white-cover books, and a paper-thin tray.

Shop This Look

Coffee table ideasSculpture Show

One of our favorite coffee table decorating tricks is to curate an array of sculptural decor in varying shapes, sizes, and styles. That can range from anything like a decorative coral piece to a seashell to a porcelain bust or a super curvy vessel. Be sure to pick pieces with varying heights, which will make the display more captivating.

Styling Tip: When grouping together pieces that have varying sculptural shapes, be sure to pick pieces with different heights, which will make the display more captivating. You want to style it in a way that invites people to move in and examine each object more closely.

Shop This Look

Ready for a room refresh?

Start My Project

coffee table ideas

No Coffee Table, No Problem – 7 Things You Can Use Instead

coffee table ideas

If you give a living room a sofa, it’ll want a coffee table to go with it. Or at least that’s what those traditional interior design rules say. And it’s true that coffee tables are generally the focal point of your living room. But as these creative coffee table ideas prove, they don’t have to be!

Whether you’re struggling to design a small space, or if you want your living room to be a bit more kid-proof, here are 7 coffee table alternatives that will work in any space.

coffee table ideas – ottomanAlternative #1 – A Plush Ottoman

Ottomans are an awesome coffee table alternative because they can act as a table but are kid-proof! Plus they double as extra seating options so your kids and guests have space to sit!

coffee table ideas - 2 poufsAlternative #2 – A Pair of Poufs

Poufs are another kid-friendly favorite for living room areas. Two poufs can make a perfect replacement for a coffee table and are just right for smaller spaces and for people who like to entertain. They can double as a foot rest, side table, extra seat and more!

coffee table ideas - benchAlternative #3 – Bench

Not a fan of using a large table as your centerpiece? One of our favorite coffee table ideas is to use a bench instead. An attractive wooden or plush bench can add surface space, seating, and even extra storage. Talk about a triple-threat!

coffee table ideas - cluster of side tablesAlternative #4 – Cluster of Side Tables

A coffee table doesn’t always have to be one large table. You can add a cluster of side tables that you can easily move when you are entertaining in order to give your guests an easy place to set their drinks.

coffee table ideas Alternative #5 – Side Tables With Varying Heights

Two small side tables can also be a good alternative for smaller spaces that don’t have room for one large table. Make your space feel less cramped by opting for one short and one taller table. This is one of our favorite coffee table ideas for people who want to make their space feel more dynamic.

coffee table ideas - storage ottomanAlternative #6 – Storage Ottoman

A storage ottoman acts as a seat that can open up in order to store things underneath a lid. It’s great for storing blankets, books, magazines or other things you want to keep handy.

coffee table ideas - c-side tableAlternative #7 – C-Side Table

If you have no room at all you can try a C-side table in order to maximize space in a small room. These are small and easy to move and snuggle up close to your sofa so they don’t take up much floor space. You can also use them as an impromptu desk when you don’t want to leave the sofa to work.

These are just a few suggestions for you to use other pieces of furniture in lieu of a coffee table! What are your favorite coffee table ideas?

 

Want to see some coffee table ideas in your space?