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The Design Train blogs are a series of articles researched and written by Andrew Knapp for submission to various publications and sites. The articles cover a wide range of topics and can be adapted and edited for use in various styles of media application.

  • Writer's pictureThe Design Train

Cutting Through the Confusion

Updated: Jan 15, 2021

Three Easy Steps to Choosing the Perfect Coffee Table

To complement our product feature emails and in keeping with our commitment to provide our clients with interesting decorating advice, we are happy to welcome you to our exciting new monthly blog where we will be discussing topics and ideas to help assist in creating the perfect look for your home or business.

To start this new journey we have decided on a subject close to our hearts; the coffee table, more specifically, tips and advice to take into account when purchasing a new coffee table. You may think that this should be a simple task - until you are confronted with the surprising number of options available.


Something as important as a coffee table shouldn’t be relegated to the realm of an afterthought, after all, this is the workhorse that holds drinks, remotes, ornaments, snacks and meals and even doubles as a footrest or perching stool on occasion. My own coffee table often acts as a desk or additional workspace when working on a project. Taking all of this into consideration it stands to reason that you should give as much thought to your choice of the coffee table as you would your seating arrangement or floor covering.

There are three basic guidelines to take into consideration when choosing a coffee table; material, size and shape.

To help you decide which material to choose, you must first consider your lifestyle. Do you have young children where messes and spills can be easily cleaned? Are you an active family household that needs a workhorse of a table that will have to serve 101 purposes? Are you choosing a table for a formal reception room or a casual family room? Are you a growing family or empty-nesters who are down-scaling? These factors all dictate what surface finish is going to best suit you. Remember, everyone's needs are different and there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Our powder-coated finishes are a perfect choice for the young or active family home, and can easily be wiped down in the event of the inevitable accident. Many of our coffee tables have matching side tables which makes it easy for you to create a cohesive designer feel to your room.

Powdercoated metal finishes are also a practical option for the hospitality and corporate sectors where ease of maintenance is as important as high style and visual appeal.

Woodgrain veneers are a sensible option for medium traffic areas and add a natural and warm feel to a room. Incorporating a new table into an existing decor scheme is made easy with our wide range of veneers and grains. All of our table tops have a protective coating to help keep their looks for years.

Glass and stone tops like marble, are more suited to formal or light traffic areas where there is little chance of chipping or staining.

Whether your scheme is traditional or contemporary, a marble-topped table always lends an air of timeless elegance and sophistication.

As you see, which material will handle the wear and tear that daily life inflicts on your table is mainly dependent on your lifestyle. Once you have set these parameters you can start considering the technicalities of your new acquisitions size and shape.

To put an often debated topic to rest, size really does matter! A general rule of thumb when it comes to size is that your coffee table should be between ½ - ¾ the length of your sofa. The height of the table should ideally be equal to, or no more than 10cm lower, than that of your sofa’s cushions.

The sectional seating arrangement that includes a chaise is an ever-popular option. In this eventuality apply the same rules as before. Choose a table that is ½ - ¾ the length of the main seating section excluding the chaise (as opposed to the full length of the complete seating unit).

When you are working with an L-Shape or corner seating arrangement, or maybe with a small couch and two armchairs, you might want to consider either a round or square shape. It's really that simple!

Now you have ticked two of the boxes, it is time to hone your choice down to the fun aspect, style and shape. This is where you can unleash you inner-decorator and get creative.

As you have seen in the diagrams, rectangular and oval tables are easily interchanged, as are square and round shapes. The choice comes down to your preference. If your room is quite narrow, an oval-shaped table may work better as its curves ‘cuts corners’ and gives the impression of more space. It is also a practical shape when toddlers have to be taken into the equation as there are no corners to bump against.

A rectangular coffee table is a popular choice to use in most standard layouts as it provides easy reach for all seated parties, but you'd like something a bit different. As a fun alternative, maybe a nesting coffee table set that offers additional visual interest is the spark required to add some additional magic. Nests give the convenience of two surfaces that can be moved at will, yet tucked into each other to save space when necessary.

When dealing with a corner seating arrangement, or an L-shaped configuration your best option is a round or square coffee table as it helps to visually balance the seating arrangement. These are also the perfect shapes to feature an eye-catching tablescape.

A well-known decorating trick to give a room a light and airy feeling by fooling the eye by choosing a glass-topped table with a simple base. If glass is a practical option for your lifestyle, this can have the effect of making the table almost disappear into the rooms visual flow and help make a smaller space feel less cluttered than a solid table would.

Our love of cutouts and the excitement that repeat geometric lends to a table is well known in the industry and has made us experts in creating evocative outlines and tantalising silhouettes in our range of coffee and side tables that lend a fun, yet architectural air to each design.

Armed with all of this new information you can now boldly go into the multitude of styles, shapes, sizes and materials that are in the marketplace with new confidence. Even easier, of course, is to contact the Leonardo – Tables by Design team who will happily guide you through the process step-by-step.

Visit our website to view our extensive range of table options. Remember that we can custom tailor any design to your requirements, and even create individual bespoke pieces that make a personal statement.

We work extensively with the professional decorating trade and have supplied pieces for projects throughout Africa. We always welcome new trade enquiries and are happy to discuss how we can help with your latest brief.

In this age of planned obsolescence, we like to think that our tables, like our designs, will outlast fads and fashions and live on to be classics.

I do hope you enjoyed our trip through the world of the coffee table and we have piqued your interest as to what we have in store for you next month.

Yours in Design - Frank

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