First think about what you need your coffee table to do for you, or what your room is missing, then pick a table that provides the solution. Before buying a table, mark the footprint with painter’s tape so you can see the scale of the piece in the room and how that affects the surrounding furniture. If you have a very large room and a large coffee table, you can break up the scale of the table by flanking it with pairs of ottomans or benches, as in this example. When there’s a party, they can be moved out of the way for better circulation, but for everyday use these extra seats help connect the sofa at one end and the pair of chairs at the other end. Be sure to use a pair of ottomans — not just a single one. When you have two sofas or any larger seating arrangement, a big coffee table might seem like the obvious solution. But also consider a pair of matching coffee tables. They will keep the focus off one large piece of furniture and let your eye move around the room more easily. One classic coffee table size is 48 by 24 inches, so you can plan on that when thinking about your furniture arrangement. A large coffee table is often double that: 48 inches square.
Many people with small children prefer a round coffee table as they consider the lack of sharp corners a safer option and less likely to cause accidents. Round tables can be difficult to fit into smaller rooms and can take up more floor space than other shapes. They can be very social however and are a good choice if you regularly sit around playing cards or board games. Consideration should also be given to whether you prefer a coffee table with legs or one that is solid to floor level. Raised coffee tables that allow a clear view under the table can help to create an impression of space; however solid coffee tables can often look more expensive and substantial.
If you don’t want the coffee table to be the focus of the room, choose one with a glass top and a finish that blends with others in the room, as in this example. This will keep the eye interested in all the items in the room, not just one layer of the design. Metal bases with glass tops are another good choice to keep rooms feeling open. They’re also great when you have a special rug and don’t want to block views of it. Keep your glass cleaner handy, though, as there is no way around fingerprints. Keep in mind that with most glass tops — if they are not inset — you’ll see a green tint on the sides. You can order a speciality glass that doesn’t have this tint, but it’s more expensive.