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How to Choose the Right Coffee Table for Your Living Room

Nov 01, 2021

A coffee table with books stacked on top of it

If you think of your living room as a puzzle, the coffee table is the one last piece that can complete the picture. It’s really underrated in that regard. Maybe that’s why it ends up being more difficult than we realize to choose the perfect coffee table for our living spaces.  

So if in your mind it’s just a matter of walking into a store (or going online), picking one and you’re done, think again. There are important factors to consider when choosing a coffee table that you not only love, but that also works with the other furniture and decor in the room. And as with any piece of well-made furniture, it’s an investment — so it’s worth the time to weigh your options and make the right choice.

With that in mind, we’ve made a list of a few key considerations that will ultimately lead you down the right course in your coffee table shopping excursion.

Your Style — and Lifestyle — Needs

We all love a coffee table that looks beautiful. Since the living room tends to be a place friends and family gather to enjoy time together, a coffee table becomes the centerpiece around which gatherings happen. So the marriage of form and function truly matters here.

We aren’t saying you need to forfeit beauty and aesthetic to achieve that functional aspect. What we are saying is to simply think through how your coffee table will be used and by whom. A few questions to ask yourself include:

  • Will it be in an occasionally used formal room or an always-occupied family room?

  • Does it need to be kid-friendly and comfortable?

  • Is it just for show, or will it ultimately wind up being a footrest on movie night?

  • Are you interested in a vintage conversation piece, or do you need something that can stand up to spills?

  • Should it include storage?

Do a mental checklist of your family’s daily habits to determine what purpose you want this piece of furniture to have in the space (besides making a statement).

Choose the Right Height

Have you ever walked into a room and it just seemed … “off”? A too-short or too-tall coffee table could be the culprit. A coffee table should contribute to the total balance of your room, both spatially and stylistically speaking. One that is not aligned with your sofa and chairs can make your entire space feel disjointed and awkward.

You want to make sure the height of your coffee table is the same height as the cushions on your sofa (give or take a couple of inches) to make the room feel level. A general rule of thumb: The higher your sofa, the taller your coffee table can be; the lower your sofa, the shorter your table needs to be.1

Proportionality Is Paramount

In addition to height, determining the correct width-to-length ratio of your coffee table to your seating is key. Interior designers recommend a coffee table that’s about two-thirds the length of your sofa or sitting arrangement. It’s also important to stand back and make sure the coffee table works for the size of the room. If your living room has tall ceilings and lots of square footage, you’ll want to look at tables that are proportionate in size. On the other hand, if you are squeezed for space, opt for a smaller design so the coffee table doesn’t overwhelm.

Here’s where the No. 1 rule of furniture shopping — taking measurements — once again comes into play. Design hack: If possible, tape off the area where you envision your coffee table to be. Then, measure the length from the imaginary table to your sofa or other seating. You not only want to ensure the table you’re interested in will fit into that “two-thirds” rule mentioned above, but that you have at least 12 to 18 inches of space to easily walk between the table and your seating.2

Strike the Right Weight Balance

Now that you know about height balance and proportional balance, let’s talk about weight balance. This simply means that the weightiness (i.e., the lightness or heaviness) of your coffee table should visually counterbalance that of other furniture pieces — especially the main seating — in your living room.

For instance, if your couch has tall, thin legs that are visible as part of its design, consider a coffee table that is more weighted and solid with shorter, chunkier legs (or no legs at all) — or vice versa if the design elements are reversed. It’s all about making sure the coffee table can seamlessly complement other pieces and add dimension to your space.

Materials: Think Outside of the Wooden Box

If someone were to ask you what material coffee tables should be made of and you immediately think of the wooden variety, we encourage you to open your mind to other game-changing possibilities. Like glass coffee tables. Lucite coffee tables. Marble. Travertine. Even tables wrapped in leather, fabric or other textures. Oversized ottomans and vintage trunks also serve as inspired choices in place of a traditional table.

Of course, we recommend avoiding a glass, hard-edged coffee table if you have young children in your home. Otherwise, explore all the interesting options available; before shopping you can do some research by going to Pinterest, seeing how others are doing it and pulling inspiration from friends and family.

To End Table or Not to End Table?

As you shop, you’ll likely notice that many retailers try to sell coffee tables and two matching end tables as a set. If this is what you’d like to have, go for it — but it’s not a must. You might just want one, or none at all. It’s totally up to you, but consider your space before you commit. If you don’t have much room to begin with, adding accent tables will just create clutter.

It’s also OK to walk away from the traditional matchy-matchy rules to create your own design statement. Follow our tips about proportionality and balance when it comes to the space you have in your home, but also allow yourself to have fun mixing up materials and patterns.3

Acima Puts Affordability on the Table

As we said before, a quality coffee table can be a great investment piece for your living room. At Acima, we understand that the price tag can be overwhelming on this type of investment. But we also believe that the price shouldn’t force you to shelve your plans to acquire the table of your dreams. 

When you shop with one of our retailers, you can take home the coffee table you want with affordable lease renewal payments that feel right to you — all without credit. So go ahead: Do your design research, take your measurements, shop coffee tables today and learn how Acima lease-to-own* options can help you.


1. Don’t Make This Living Room Coffee Table Mistake” – MyDomaine, March 1, 2021

2. “Coffee Table Size Guide” – Hayneedle

3. “Do Coffee Tables and End Tables Have to Match?” – Home Decor Bliss, November 27, 2019