7 Main Coffee Table Styles

Anna Samygina
Basics of Interior Design
6 min readApr 1, 2017


A coffee table is a long, low table which is designed to be placed in front of (or next to) a sofa or upholstered chairs to support beverages, magazines, books, decorative objects, and other small items to be used while sitting, such as beverage coasters. In Europe, the first tables specifically designed as and called coffee tables, appear to have been made in Britain during the late Victorian era. Later coffee tables were designed as low tables and this idea may have come from the Ottoman Empire, based on the tables used in tea gardens. However, as the Anglo-Japanese style was popular in Britain throughout the 1870s and 1880s and low tables were common in Japan, this seems to be an equally likely source for the concept of a long low table.

Shaker Coffee Tables

Shaker furniture is a distinctive style of furniture developed by the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, commonly known as Shakers, a religious sect that had guiding principles of simplicity, utility and honesty. Their beliefs were reflected in the well-made furniture of minimalist designs. Furniture was made thoughtfully, with functional form and proportion. Rather than using ornamentation — such as inlays, carvings, metal pulls, or veneers — which was seen as prideful or deceitful, they developed “creative solutions such as asymmetrical drawer arrangements and multipurpose forms to add visual interest.” Furniture was made of cherry, maple or pine lumber, which was generally stained or painted with one of the colours which were dictated by the sect, typically blue, red, yellow or green. Drawer pulls for dressers or other furniture were made of wood.

The classic design of the Shaker coffee table allow it to work in a range of rooms. It features simple straight legs, dovetail drawer with Shaker wood knob, and a slight bevel to the top detail.

Warm Shaker Coffee Table and Monroe Square Coffee Table

Cottage Coffee Tables

In some ways, cottage style is as much a frame of mind as it is an approach to decorating. There’s an everyday ease in the way it celebrates imperfections, ordinary treasures and blended families of furniture. Cottages tend to be humble, unpretentious and full of heart — traits most of us would be proud to claim. Both cottage and country styles feature feminine lines and detailing, such as turned legs. Painted and distressed finishes are common features of country and cottage coffee tables.

Almelo Lift Top Coffee Table by Bungalow Rose and Parish Coffee Table by Birch Lane
Broyhill Mirren Harbor Rectangular Cocktail Table

Industrial Coffee Table

Industrial style evokes the purposeful look and feel of factory tools, utilising metal and wood in more rough-hewn, sturdy construction. These can pair well with loft-style living rooms, or stand in perfect contrast to softer surroundings.

Magnussen Larkin Rectangular Cocktail Table

Mid Century Coffee Table

Mid-century modern refers to the interior design style that was popular between the 1950s and 1960s. Mid-century modern coffee tables are characterised by clean, simple lines and bent wood or molded plastic construction. Most of the time, wood furniture has a simple finish to show off its natural beauty.


Parsons Coffee Table

A modern square or rectangular table, a parsons table has four flush, square legs that are equally as thick as the flat top. The parsons table is a modern design created in the 1930s. Though it has a simple shape, a parsons coffee table can be embellished with upholstery or different materials to fit many design schemes.

Modern Coffee Table

It refers to furniture produced from the late 19th century through the present that is influenced by modernism.

Glen Coffee Table Clear
Noguchi Coffee Table

Contemporary Coffee Table

Though contemporary and modern may seem interchangeable, contemporary style refers to what is currently popular. Contemporary designs often feature stark interiors with bold, bright accents. Glass tops and metal bases are common features of contemporary coffee tables.

Common Tabletop Materials

A popular pick, metal coffee tables are made out of durable iron, steel aluminum, or other alloys. Often, this easy-to-clean coffee table is complemented with a glass top or a combination of wood and glass.

By far the most common coffee table surface, wood is susceptible to water rings, so most people use trivets and coasters to protect it.

Another popular top material is glass. One thing to keep in mind when buying a glass-topped table is that water rings and spills will be more visible on glass, and it will need to be cleaned regularly.

For a traditional, stately look choose a slate-, stone-, or marble-topped table. The upkeep of a stone top will depend upon the type of stone.

If you desire a cushy place to rest your feet, an upholstered tabletop has the sturdiness of a coffee table, but the comfort of an ottoman. Placing a serving tray atop an upholstered coffee table can give you a spot to rest a drink without worry of it spilling.

Height and Width

The best size of your coffee table depends on the size of your sofa. For optimal balance and function, the coffee table should be around two thirds the width of the sofa. The height should be 5–10 cm below the height of the sofa seat. To give ample room for moving around, make sure there are around 45cm of space between the sofa and the table.



Anna Samygina
Basics of Interior Design

is a rising Interior Designer. UAL Chelsea graduate. With this blog she tries to identify how to embrace nature and manmade world under one roof. Annafiora.com