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.
On the other hand perhaps you want your space to look cozier (and you need some storage). Stash baskets trunks and old suitcases under simple legged coffee tables to ground spaces that are otherwise too open. Solid tabletops usually have a very square corner. If you have little kids or the circulation is tight allow extra space at the ends so it’s easier to get around the corners without hitting your shins. Go for color with an upholstered coffee table as it will draw people to the surrounding sofas and chairs. Top it with a tray to hold books and other items. Choose your fabric wisely since people may want to put up their feet (and shoes). Outdoor fabrics can be smart; steer clear of linen and fabrics with high amounts of rayon or viscose. Take a swatch home and test it out with dirt red wine or whatever you think your coffee table will encounter to make sure your fabric choice can handle it all.
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