First think about what you need your coffee table to do for you or what your room is missing then pick a table that provides the solution. Before buying a table mark the footprint with painter’s tape so you can see the scale of the piece in the room and how that affects the surrounding furniture. If you have a very large room and a large coffee table you can break up the scale of the table by flanking it with pairs of ottomans or benches as in this example. When there’s a party they can be moved out of the way for better circulation but for everyday use these extra seats help connect the sofa at one end and the pair of chairs at the other end. Be sure to use a pair of ottomans — not just a single one. When you have two sofas or any larger seating arrangement a big coffee table might seem like the obvious solution. But also consider a pair of matching coffee tables. They will keep the focus off one large piece of furniture and let your eye move around the room more easily. One classic coffee table size is 48 by 24 inches so you can plan on that when thinking about your furniture arrangement. A large coffee table is often double that: 48 inches square.
Keep an upholstered ottoman 18 inches from a sofa or chair so you can easily put up your feet and make sure the height is consistent with the surrounding seats. If you get a tufted ottoman consider the depth of the tufts — especially if you expect to eat on it. Crumbs will find their way into the tufting and are not always easy to get out. Round coffee tables aid circulation especially where there are many available seats as in this example. If not every seat can reach the table make sure there’s another surface at hand. Using a vintage object for a coffee table adds a bit of history — a story — to a room and is one of my favorite things to do. Make sure the piece is stable and all the connections are secure. If you need to refinish the piece ask the vendor precisely what it’s made from as this will help in the refinishing process. Another consideration is how it will sit on your floor or rug and if it will damage those surfaces. Splintered table legs or rusty metal bases can scratch or stain the flooring. Secondhand stores sometimes leave those areas unrefinished so be sure to check.
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