How to Choose a Coffee Table for Your Living Room!

Jul 16, 2022

Coffee tables despite their simplicity, are actually really hard to buy! Purchase one too big for the room and you’ll be stubbing your toe until it’s just easier to remove the toe, but get one too small and you won’t have enough space for your snacks and drink! And that’s just the size, you also have to consider what you’ll use it for, where it’s gonna go and the material, it’s enough to make you spin! Hopefully, this guide will give you what you need to know when purchasing a coffee table!

Match the Largest Seat!

Coffee Table - Mainland Furniture

In 90% of cases, the living room coffee table will be surrounded by couches on at least two sides. This makes sense as that’s what coffee tables are for, a place to host things you don’t want on the couch. So then it only makes sense that you should match your coffee table to your lounge suite because a couch/table combo that pairs nicely should feel seamless!

When it comes to the length of the table, it’s recommended to try to aim for at least two-thirds the length of the largest sofa. Doing so means that everyone on the seat has easy access to the contents on the table while also meaning that you’re not stuck for long doing that awkward shuffle between the couch and table as you try to leave your seat. You should also try to match your couch to the table’s height as well! Most coffee tables are around 45-50cm so your couch seat should be around 5-7.5cm taller, that way it’s less of a bend to reach any snacks on the table while also being the correct height to kick your feet up too! (with shoes removed of course.)

What’s the Table For?

Coffee Table with Coffee - Mainland Furniture NZ

This part might initially answer itself: Coffee Tables are used for Coffee, duh!? But what else are you going to use it for? Like any type of table, the potential activities that can be done on a coffee table are limitless. Are you the home of the weekly casual poker tournament? Are you someone who has to have the remote for every device connected to the TV at hand at all times? Are you someone who likes to leave coffee table books about your interests out in the open so people think you’re smart and sophisticated? Because depending on how you answered any of these could determine the type of table you get!

For the most part, there are three types of coffee tables: Single-tier, Two-tier and Drawered. Single tiers are perfect for those with maybe a handful of magazines, a TV remote and some coasters as their simple design also means they can easily be put anywhere. Two-tiered coffee tables are much the same with a lower shelf that’s perfect if you need some extra storage for items such as board games, jigsaws or photo books you might want to be kept close by. Finally are drawered coffee tables, these are perfect for those with a small collection of remotes they want to be kept at hand as they offer an assortment of drawers that keep the contents hidden from plain sight! (Bonus tip: keep a small tray of batteries/ charging cables for these remotes in the drawers too so they are also close at hand when the occasion arises.)

Obviously, there are tables in-between these, and your needs may not be this simple either. However, it’s still worth considering the features you’d like your coffee table to have before buying, as it may kill two birds with one stone in some situations.


This is the one category where we can provide a definite answer, if you are to purchase a coffee table make sure it is made from real wood! Not another material such as ceramic or glass, or a cheaper wood such as MDF. A good real wood coffee table is all you need!

Now to explain why: wood such as oak and pine are extremely resilient and can easily withstand whatever’s thrown at them. In the living room, the coffee table is the most likely to be thrashed from day-to-day use, whether it’s from the metal buttons of the person who decided to sit on there “just for a minute” to the constant spillages and crumbs from whatever's been eaten on top. Thus, the great thing about a wooden coffee table is stains, scratches and other forms of light damage are easily fixed with either wood filler, varnish or just hot soapy water and some elbow grease. Other materials bring their own complications into their care and end up making the table feel less like a table and more of an ornament that’s there “just for looks”. So if you plan on actually using your coffee table, we’d definitely recommend a wooden one.

Consider other options

Side Table - Mainland Furniture NZ

While a good coffee table is always nice, it might not work perfectly for your situation. Your living room may be narrow due to living in an apartment or similar so the space between couch-table-TV may just be too much of a squeeze to be worth it. In some instances, the amount of stuff you may want stored in/on the coffee table may have it be a game of I-spy and be more hassle than it’s worth. Just because everyone else has a coffee table doesn’t mean you have to!

Side tables are a great alternative for those who’d like a coffee close by and need some storage for any extra remotes. They’re also far cheaper than a coffee table and are recliner friendly if your situation requires some maxin’ relaxin’. Nests of tables are similar in that you can keep them couchside for arms-reach convenience, but are also extremely versatile for adding an extra table/chair where needed. Your living room should fit your needs, if you don’t really need a coffee table then you don’t need one. You can also consider mixing and matching between alternative tables and the coffee tables too! Whether it’s using a nest of tables as the main table set or just using a small simple coffee table with side tables flanking the couch, it pays to get creative to get your living room set up just right.

However, there are other options that are great alternatives to the standard coffee table. A blanket box still provides a large flat surface area for your drinks, but the top also raises for a large spacious opening. This could be great for those who want to keep large items such as old TV devices like DVD players and games consoles that are unsightly when left out in the open, but you may want to be kept close by for those special occasions. Even a shorter bench seat could function well for those who are limited on space and need something to cover the length of the couch in a small width as possible. Remember at the end of the day, all you’re purchasing is four legs with a surface on top, so anything can be a coffee table if you’re clever enough.

Function over Style

While it may be appealing to purchase a coffee table that comes in a unique shape or has stunning looks remember you’ve still got to use the coffee table. You’re gonna have drinks spilled on it, people will have to walk around it, and at some point someone’s gonna bang their shin on it. As such, we’d recommend just purchasing a coffee table with a simple square or circular shape. This way the table is for sure going to be functional within the space it sits, rather than having someone needing to reach further than they need to cause they got the wrong end of the triangle table.


Hopefully, this guide has aided in helping you purchase the correct coffee table for your situation. Whether you got it for afternoon tea chats, a place for board game night, or if you skipped the coffee table entirely and purchased something couch-side for that ultimate viewing experience. You should have purchased something that fits for your needs perfectly! Now your living room should be the place where you can finally live how you’d like. So do that it is that you can now do! Your living room should now be completed to your content.


Where can I purchase a good coffee table?

If you’re reading this within New Zealand, then good news! We offer a great selection of coffee tables among the other alternative options made from real wood at affordable prices! If you’re shopping from outside of New Zealand however, our best piece of advice would be to look for a business like ours. Shopping from a big-box retailer can sometimes be a losing gamble as the price-to-quality ratio of the furniture can sometimes be disappointing, even if it’s from the expensive guys. Make sure you’re able to look at and inspect the unit yourself to ensure the quality is something you’re happy with, as many places put big prices on furniture made from low-quality products, such as MDF.

How should I accessorize my coffee table?

This one’s obviously up to personal choice, but we can still offer some ideas. The first thing you should definitely consider is some quality coasters, this is not only for the longevity of the table but also to make you seem like a reformed member of society. We’d also recommend some good coffee table books or magazines, especially if it’s on an interest that you enjoy! Whether it’s the Beatles, your favourite sports team or just the history of sewing machines, people enjoy thumbing through a good coffee table book regardless of the content.

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