Before deciding which coffee table (or other occasional piece) to buy, ask yourself a few simple questions to help choose furniture that fits your life, style and space…
What practicalities do I need to consider?
Think about what your occasional furniture will be used for. Lamp tables and nests of tables are mainly called upon to house extra lighting, vases, framed photos or drinks and snacks. Whereas coffee tables are a bit more versatile: Will yours hold an artful display of beautiful books and flowers, double as a dinner table or be a craft and homework hub? How you use it will help you decide what to buy.
If it will be used for homework and informal dinners, you should probably steer clear of a white coffee table and go for wood, which is better at hiding stains.
Always losing remote controls, pens and paper? A coffee table with storage should solve the problem. Drawers are ideal – or look for one with shelves.
What size is best?
When choosing a coffee table, consider which size will fit with the proportions of your room. If it’s a small space, don’t go for something too large and overpowering, and equally if it’s a large room, don’t choose a small coffee table that’ll get lost.
A good coffee table size guide to follow is that the table should be a half to two-thirds of the length of your sofa, and no higher than the seat cushions on your sofa (and chairs). This keeps it in proportion with what is probably the biggest piece of furniture in your room.
Top tip: Leave two to three feet of space around your coffee table so you don’t knock against it when trying to get in or out – potentially with hot cups of tea!
Size guides for lamp tables and nests of tables are more relaxed. A lamp table is traditionally higher than a coffee table, allowing ambient lighting (table lamps) to be at the right level for someone sitting on a sofa or chair. If the lamp table is next to a sofa, make sure it’s no higher than the sofa arm.
Nests of tables are flexible by nature. Tables will be dotted around the room when needed and stacked neatly when not, so you just need to be happy with the size of the biggest part of the ‘nest’.
Top tip: Mark out the size and shape of potential furniture with masking tape on your floor to see if the proportions fit with your daily life.
What material is best?
Occasional furniture comes in a range of materials and finishes, all of which have pros and cons depending on your home and lifestyle.
Glass coffee tables are gorgeous and will bounce light around a room. However, glass will need more cleaning to get rid of sticky fingerprints, especially if you have kids and the sharp corners can be dangerous.
Oak coffee tables and other wooden coffee, lamp or nests of tables are versatile and durable as (providing they’re 100% real wood) they can be restored if stained or damaged. Veneers are more difficult to repair and can suffer from water spillages.
Marble is a striking material and can be extremely hard-wearing, but again the corners are a risk if you have small children running around your house.
Chrome and warmer metallic finishes add a focal point to a room, as well as reflect light. However, fingerprints will show up if you are not an obsessive polisher!
Top tip: Always use coasters for hot or cold drinks. Heat and water can ruin any surface.
What style will complement my room?
Once you’ve decided what size and material you need, it’s time to think about the style of furniture you want for your home. If your room is traditionally furnished, choose something that fits; such as wooden tables in squares or rectangles.
Metal, glass and high-gloss tables will complement modern decors, while marble can be both traditional and modern. Slimmer legs and frames generally have a contemporary feel, while bulkier pieces are more conventional.
Round coffee tables are elegant and neat (with no sharp corners to worry about), especially when sold as a pair in two slightly different sizes: This hybrid between a coffee table and a nest of tables offers real elegance, as well as several surfaces for drinks.