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Coffee Tables 101: A Staple of Interior Design

BDI Cloud-9 Lift-Top Coffee Table

The sheer variety of coffee table sizes, structures, and styles is testament to the wide-ranging effects it can have on any living space. A well-chosen coffee table can set the tone of a room and increase its functionality. Denise Rubio, a sales associate at Copenhagen’s San Antonio showroom, explains it best:

“More and more, our home interiors have transitioned to a great room or open concept design, often with the intention of providing more functional living space. Coffee tables – though rarely the focal point of a space – are often the center pieces of daily living.”

Typically lower in height, coffee tables serve as convenient support for seating areas, whether to allow easy access to necessities like electronics and books, or to provide extra space for entertainment needs, such as serving appetizers and playing games. Read on to learn about the importance of this essential home accent and Rubio’s tips for choosing the right one for your space.

A Coffee Table For Every Space

Serving both aesthetic and functional needs, coffee tables come in a variety of shapes and sizes to complement any interior. We suggest first considering the size of your living space as well as of your existing furniture.

“A larger living space allows for more flexibility and luxury,” Rubio states. Because of this, you can easily incorporate longer rectangular and oval pieces like the Biplane Coffee Table without cluttering your space. On the other hand, Rubio says, “For a smaller space, I suggest selecting something that offers function without taking up additional space; tables with built-in storage or lift-tops are a good fit.” Smaller round and square tables are a good place to start; the Wyatt Coffee Table is half the size of Biplane, but features asymmetrical shelves for storing remotes, magazines, and more. The Tetris Coffee Table has a smaller rectangular structure but three lift-tops that transition into eating or working tables.

If your existing living room furniture is more angular, with sharper lines and edges, then softer, rounder table shapes can provide a nice contrast, with the opposite also being true. And in general, the height of your coffee table should be proportional to your seating arrangement, with the tabletop at level with your sofa or sectional seat cushions.

Easy-Care Materials to Fit Your Lifestyle

Because coffee tables now come in a variety of materials, Rubio suggests focusing on your lifestyle; “Lifestyle is one of the main elements to consider – though we want something beautiful and to-scale with a space, material type is just as important, depending on what your daily life looks like.”


Wood is a classic material and for good reason – “it automatically adds warmth to any space, lending itself to an overall feeling of comfort,” Rubio says. Wood and veneers also tend to be durable and sturdy, ideal for households with kids or pets, and can be easily protected from heat and moisture with coasters or placemats. The Enigma Round Coffee Table is the perfect classic piece for cozier gatherings.


Though coffee tables are rarely made from all metal, metal frames and accents provide sturdiness and contribute to an overall industrial or sculptural look. They also offer longevity and are easy to clean. The Victor Coffee Table’s metal base forms a show-stopping triangular design that is hard to achieve with other materials.


Glass naturally opens up a space and makes it appear larger, so this type of coffee table is perfect for smaller rooms. Glass also has a delicate look that “lends itself to contemporary spaces and adds a natural elegance,” Rubio states. Because glass tabletops need to be cleaned more regularly and can be less durable, they’re ideal for homes without kids. The clear glass top on the Atari XL Coffee Table allows you to view its artistic star-like base.


Sleek, sturdy, and visually striking, coffee tables with stone, ceramic, or marble tops add a feeling of luxury and sophistication. Though once less common, these types of tables are becoming more popular due to their natural beauty and durable surfaces. BDI’s Cloud 9 Life-Top Coffee Table features an Italian porcelain tabletop that is heat- and scratch-resistant. Ceramic often has the look of natural stone and has a durable structure resistant to everyday wear and tear.

Choose a Coffee Table that Complements Your Design Style

Once you’ve ascertained your space and material needs, it’s time to determine what style of coffee table most speaks to you and your current space’s aesthetic. Choosing a design that complements the rest of your furniture while staying true to your preferences will help create a cohesive space that feels homey.

Contemporary & Modern

These types of coffee tables tend to prioritize versatility, whether in form or function, and usually include glass or metal elements. Rubio suggests the Tempo Coffee Table as a contemporary design option: “Its combination of materials, from an organic glass top to asymmetrical bullnose chrome supports, creating beautiful statement piece.” Contemporary pieces are also very big on multifunctionality – the Reveal Coffee Table by BDI has a pneumatic lift mechanism that allows you to adjust its height for any activity.

Traditional & Transitional

With a classic look and feel, traditional and transitional coffee tables complement most color palettes and usually include wood elements with neutral tones, or a combination of materials that feel cohesive rather than contrasting. The Harwell Coffee Table utilizes wood and marble-looking ceramic in a traditional rectangular structure for a smooth, balanced look. Rubio also suggests the Dielle Coffee Table as a transitional piece; “It offers a traditional elegance, incorporating the timeless combination of glass and metal with stone pillars.”

Abstract & Art Deco

Trendy and bold, abstract and art-deco inspired coffee tables tend to feature geometric shapes, colorful tones, and contrasting materials, and are often a statement piece. Cattelan Italia’s Arena Coffee Table has a glamourous, brushed bronze structure flanked by a glass revolving top, creating an eye-catching piece that is nonetheless spacious. These types of coffee table are also an excellent choice for those with modular furniture – the unique wedge shape and hidden wheels of the Trojan Coffee Table make it easy to move around and fit in changing spaces.

The Enduring Importance of Coffee Tables

Though smaller than dining tables and shorter than desks, the power of coffee tables is not to be ignored. Used daily, as a place to set your morning coffee, afternoon snack, or game-night choice, these tables are a supportive friend to a variety of function and design needs.

“With our ever-changing lifestyles, coffee tables are constantly trending,” Rubio begins. “Many of them are now being made multi-functional to provide eating and working space, as well as to encourage movement. I see them only becoming more essential in the future.” Whether you’re looking for a coffee table that lifts and lowers for work and play, or one with a clean, simple design, Copenhagen offers a variety of coffee tables for every need and design aesthetic.

For more design help and inspiration, visit our blog or stop in-store to meet our sales and design associates.