A quick guide to help you fight the vagaries of choosing a coffee table

The range of coffee tables in most stores can seem as extensive and confusing as a Starbucks menu. Coffee and centre tables come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes, to fill a range of different needs. So how do you pick what’s best for you? Let us help, with a quick guide to choosing the perfect centre table for your needs.

Simple coffee table – Standard size

The most common variety, your standard coffee table usually measures about 24 inches wide, and 36 to 42 inches long. The surface is usually between 12 and 16 inches high, the perfect height to reach from a chair or sofa. The simple function allows for a great deal of variety on style and detailing, ranging from the simple and sleek to the intricately styled and detailed.

Simple coffee tables – low

A slight variation on the standard table, low coffee tables tend to be 8-10 inches high, and are particularly useful when using floor seating, or to keep a more open look in the centre of the room.

Simple coffee table – Compact

Sometimes, the space in a room doesn’t lend itself to a full size coffee table, and something more compact is appropriate.

Compact coffee tables are most commonly squares of around 20-24 inches, If you’re really tight for space, you could even try using a stylish end table in the centre of the room.

Simple coffee table – Large

At the other end of the scale, you sometimes need your centre table to really fill out the room. With lengths starting from 36 inches and going up to 40, most of these large coffee tables tend to be square (although you do find other shapes as well)

Outdoor and Portable Tables

The best place to enjoy a relaxing cuppa can often be on the balcony or patio, or curled up on a comfortable cushion or beanbag. Remember to make sure that the tables are suitable for outdoor use (these could be teak wood, or metal with weather resistant coatings) or that they’re small and portable enough to carry around with you – these could be folding tables, or simply very lightweight compact pieces

Storage coffee tables – Open shelves and nooks

Many coffee tables include a little useful open storage. Most commonly, they have a low shelf beneath the main table surface, which is perfect for magazines and newspapers. Other tables include useful nooks and pockets right into the table surface, making them perfect to tuck away remote controls and other odds and ends.

Storage coffee tables – closed and hidden storage

Other tables make storage their entire raison d’etre, blending style with a huge dose of practicality.

Some make their purpose quite clear with visible drawers or cabinets, while others are more stealthy, with hidden openings or sliding doors that offer a useful storage area that can sit unnoticed in the centre of your living room – always handy when you need to quickly clean up before that unexpected guest walks in.

Coffee tables with seating

Centre tables don’t always live in houses with ample seating, which is why it’s sometimes convenient to pick a table that offers its own seats. Tables that include their own low comfy nesting stools are a great way to bring the vibrant, communal nature of the (Turkish) coffee house into your own home, whether you’re having a family game night, or relaxing with friends.

A few more tips –

- For a house with kids and/or pets, make sure that the furniture is appropriate – sharp edges can be dangerous, so try to stick to rounded or chamfered edges.

- Always make sure that you use coasters when using solid wood tables, especially with beverages that are particularly hot or cold

- If you like to frequently update your décor, it’s always better to pick as simple a table as possible and dress it with a few choice accessories.

It’s a lot easier to change decorative pieces for a refreshed look, than changing a particularly distinctive furniture piece that you get bored of (not to mention, a whole lot easier on the pocket!)