I love multifunctional furniture, and to me, console tables are the Trojan horses of the furniture world. At first glance, they seem to have no discernible purpose — just a decorative piece you might place in an empty spot. But given the right opportunity, and a little bit of cunning, they can be so much more (though, fortunately, they probably won’t let in an invading army and burn your home down).

Starting with the obvious, consoles most often get used to fill an empty space in the hall or entranceway, but even here, they’re surprisingly useful. Placed near the door, they’re the perfect place to leave your keys, loose change, and other detritus you empty from your pockets when you return. They can be the best place to leave shopping lists or reminders that you can pick up on the way out. If this is the kind of use you have in mind, pick a piece with slim drawers that allow you to put away keys and bills — safer than leaving them floating on the table top.

In the living room, they can occupy an empty corner to hold a curio or figurine. Another great idea is to place one behind your sofa, where they tend to be the perfect height to keep a lamp, a few books, maybe a vase. It’s also usually a great place to place your home phone on (assuming you haven’t ditched the landline and gone completely mobile).

Getting slightly more unconventional now, how about using a console as a TV unit? For a compact media centre, a slim console like the Epsilon (see pic) could be just the trick. The table top can easily hold a flatscreen TV, while the lower shelf can hold a stack of AV equipment and plenty of DVDs. Best of all? The set-up leaves a conveniently slim footprint, barely jutting out from the wall.

It’s fairly common to see a console table being used as a sideboard in the dining area, but what about replacing the dining table altogether? Obviously, this isn’t the answer for a formal dining space, but if you live in a studio or a more open plan home, a slightly larger console could work as a compact dining table. It’s the perfect solution when all you really need is a place for two or three people to set their plates down. Even if you’re not short on space, a console works well as a buffet table or breakfast counter.

Not too long ago, home computers meant beige CPU boxes and an obscenely bulky CRT monitor, a phenomenon that came with a flood of unsightly ‘computer tables’. Thankfully, times have changed, and when all you have is a laptop, your desk can be much simpler. Enter Austen (see pic), a console table but with just a little extra storage space.

These are just a few of the more noteworthy uses — the truth is there can be as many ideas as you can imagine. Add a mirror and make it a dressing table or pair it with a bar shelf for your cocktail parties — the console’s possibilities are practically endless.

The writer is product manager and designer at www.urbanladder.com, the online store that makes great furniture look easy. Mail him at hinduhabitat@gmail.com