In traditional living rooms, a coffee table (sometimes known as a cocktail table) was a standard item. After all, gentlemen and ladies did not put their feet on the furniture, and everyone needed a place to put their coffee cup (or martini glass) while visiting with friends. Today, our homes have changed. Formal spaces have given way to casual rooms meant for everyday living, and furniture has followed suit.
Many homeowners, when shopping for living room or family room furniture, automatically assume they need to select a coffee table. The room needs to be filled, they need somewhere to put their coffee table books…it makes sense, right? Maybe. Maybe not. Before you decide if a coffee table is necessary for your space, take a moment to consider the possibilities.
First, think about how you live in the room. Is it formal and used mostly for adult conversation and reading? Formal spaces often look best with a coffee table near the sofa. It fills in a room and functions perfectly for serving refreshments and displaying knickknacks. It can serve to anchor the seating group, giving it more presence and definition in the middle of a large room.
Or, is the room used by the kids and teens in your home, often for television viewing or movie watching and snacking? Is it a multi-purpose room – lived in everyday, but also used to entertain guests? Casual rooms may be better served by an ottoman instead of a coffee table. Does your family often put their feet on the coffee table as they get comfy to watch a great flick? Perhaps an ottoman would be more comfortable and more functional in that room. Snacks can still be served – just use a tray to serve right on the ottoman! If you are constantly stressed about your family members not using coasters on your coffee table, scratching the finish with their shoes or moving the table around the room, an ottoman may be better suited for your lifestyle.
You may also want to think about the layout of the furniture in the room. If a coffee table is placed in the space, is it easily accessible from the seating? Is it necessary? Or, are the side tables adequate for serving refreshments and holding table lamps and decorative items? Will the addition of a table make the room overly crowded with furniture? If so, an ottoman may be a better choice.
In some rooms, a coffee table can be used WITH an ottoman. Place a small ottoman near a comfy chair and a coffee table near the sofa and you get the best of both worlds.
A grouping of several small ottomans can be used together when needed, or separated and spread around the room to become extra seating when you entertain larger numbers of people. They are very flexible little things.
There is no one right answer when it comes to the debate over coffee table vs. ottoman. Depending on your lifestyle, space and needs, either can be a great choice for your home.