After struggling to easily find the right items to furnish her own apartment, Kuldea Co-Founder, Deirdre Mc Gettrick, was inspired to create an online platform to make home shopping as straightforward, efficient and fulfilling as possible. Here, she shares some of the top tips she has learnt when it comes to selecting the perfect coffee table for different uses in your home.

“A coffee table is often a key focal point in a living room and one that directs the layout of other items of furniture. In modern households, the coffee table is well-used and multi-functional, often doubling up as a storage unit, dinner table, drinks holder, work station, footrest or additional seat.

Unlike other pieces of furniture which only serve one purpose, the coffee table’s many potential uses can make whittling down the endless possibilities a difficult process. I have found that considering the functionality you need before all else is the best place to start; once you make sure it will have a useful place in your home, you can then focus on the aesthetic aspects to find a table that will stylishly complement your room and other furniture. So grab a coffee, and read on for my top tips about the key factors to consider…”

Top tip 1) Usage

First things first, considering how you will use the coffee table is key. Will it be used purely for display? Will you eat at it? Will you put your feet on it? Also think about positioning. If it is going to be in the centre of a room and work in partnership with a sofa, odds are it will be subject to more wear and tear than one that is positioned on the side-line against a wall.

A regularly-used coffee table in a family room will need to be sturdier, scratch resistant and easy to clean, whilst in a formal living room you can experiment with a more delicate or ornate structure. If space is limited, you could consider using your coffee table to provide extra storage with a design that incorporates drawers or shelves. A bottom shelf can add a useful additional level for magazines, books and remote controls while leaving the top shelf clear for other daily use. Multiple surface heights also add versatility to any coffee table, and some even have surfaces you can raise for eating or working.

For smaller homes or rooms that will be used for entertaining, a stackable nest of tables provides a clever, space-saving solution. They are easy to move, and provide flexibility whilst still maintaining style consistency. Also remember that, if you have small children, it’s important to avoid coffee tables with sharp corners or fragile glass surfaces!

Top tip 2) Scale and size

Squeezing a coffee table into a space where it just doesn’t fit is always going to be a design faux pas, and a practical annoyance as well. Consider the appropriate scale based on the other items of furniture; generally, the sofa and coffee table work hand in hand, and scaling the two appropriately will ensure the best visual impact and practical partnership. Ideally they should be aligned so they complement each other visually in terms of weight and size; an overstuffed sofa and a dainty coffee table, for example, may not naturally go together.

Considering the ‘circulation’ of your room (i.e., how you move around in between the furniture) will help you to get the specific sizing right. You should be able to walk easily around the coffee table and have enough room without needing to ‘slide’. As a rough guide, allowing about 60cm of clear space on each side should provide a good walkway. The length should be around two-thirds the length of the sofa, and the height should be the same as the cushions on your sofa or slightly smaller – coffee tables are generally around 40-45 cm high, which corresponds with average sofa dimensions.

The best thing about shopping online is that you have this information at your fingertips and can plot the size out there and then in your room.

Top tip 3) Shape

The shape of the coffee table you go for will be influenced by the layout of your room, the space that it needs to fit in to, and the functionality you need it to offer. An oval or round table is ideal if you often gather around it to entertain guests, and also avoids sharp edges which could cause accidents for little ones. A rounded table also allows more space to walk around, and minimizes the risk of repeatedly knocking your shins!

A square or rectangular coffee table works well to provide a centre-point that brings together seating areas, however be aware that angular tables can make a small room look even smaller and are best in larger spaces. They can be more difficult to walk around so allow extra space for easier circulation. Also consider the legs and support of the coffee table – what’s underneath the surface can impact your comfort and add a new dimension of extra, useful, storage or display space.

Many coffee tables have shelves, drawers or alcoves underneath, but this can mean that they have closed sides, and will therefore be boxier in appearance. If you eat or work at the table regularly, this could also be a problem as you won’t be able to put your feet underneath while you ‘lean’, so a table with legs could be best.

Top tip 4) Style

As well as offering functionality, coffee tables are an accent piece that can add a high degree of style and character to a room. Both the material and overall design will contribute to creating your desired look and, whilst you might choose to play it safe when it comes to purchasing expensive items like the sofa or dining table, coffee tables can be less costly and more fun to experiment with.

You could think outside the box and go for a coffee table alternative such as an ottoman, chest, trunk or large wicker basket to add a touch of quirky uniqueness to the room. They can be more comfortable for resting feet on and can add a sizeable amount of extra storage space. Using a vintage object for a coffee table adds a bit of history to a room, but make sure the piece is stable and all the connections are secure.

You could add extra colour and warmth by choosing an upholstered coffee table or pouffee; this will attract people to the surrounding sofas and chairs and have an inviting feel. Topped with a tray to hold books and other display items, this arrangement creates a very current look.

Top tip 5) Material

Coffee tables are available in a huge variety of materials, colours and finishes. When choosing your ideal material, keep in mind the usage (hardwearing vs for show), and the general style of your room which will be influential in choosing your material. Also consider materials that will remain stylish and timeless as opposed to those on trend, and decide which route is best for you in terms of future-proofing.

There are infinite materials available but some of the most common are:

  • Wood: historically offering a more traditional feel, there is now a wide selection of modern wooden designs available too, as well as individually crafted artisan pieces. Wood comes in many different shades, including oak, walnut, cherry and maple, with each offering its own unique style and durability. Sealers and, of course, coasters can help protect the surface from damage.
  • Glass: great for small spaces to create an unobstructed view, glass or mirrored tables enhance a room’s sense of space and light. Remember that glass will smear easily so consider the maintenance if used regularly!
  • Laminate: a budget friendly option, laminate coffee tables are user friendly, multi-purpose and easy to clean with one wipe, especially handy for young children with greasy fingers. Often mass-produced, they may not offer the robustness of other materials though, especially if the table is likely to be moved around a room frequently.
  • Metal: aluminium, copper, brass or steel frames can give an industrial feel but combining metal with glass, or an alluring sculptural design, can give a highly sophisticated, modish look. However, think about how a metal table will sit on your floor, carpet or rug, as metal bases can scratch or stain the flooring.

Kuldea makes finding your perfect coffee table even easier – browse hundreds of styles from the UK’s best retailers, all here in one place!