Against competing features such as the fireplace, the large heirloom painting, and a view beyond, the coffee table serves to refocus our attention to the center of the living room. By size, it’s also among the more diminutive must have items in the room. It is also surrounded by taller furniture such as the sofa and the armchairs or even the side tables and yet, such a piece occupies the center of the seating group, the center of conversations and could very well display the center floral arrangement or the conversation piece coffee table books. It’s ironic that such a tremendous position is given to a “lowly” object.
The term “coffee table” might have made its first debut around 1868 in “Victorian Furniture” by R. W. Symonds and B. B. Whineray and in “The Country Life Book of English Furniture” by Edward T. Joy. These forefathers of the modern day coffee table were probably taller to really serve tea and coffee at a height more suitable for straight back, prim and proper ladies. Lower coffee tables probably came forth with the influence of Japanese low tables.
Most famous architects had at one time in their career designed coffee tables to adorn their projects.
The 50’s gave us quite an array of classic coffee tables.
Modern day designers and architects came up with their fair share of coffee tables.
A cursory browse at popular web sites and magazines gave me clues of today’s trends in coffee tables. The rage is all on the raw wood look championed by Restoration Hardware.
Then there is the live edge slab tables. Nothing like letting nature do all the talking. I myself would breathe out various sighing curse words in various forms of inappropriateness every time I see one of these tables.
There is nothing wrong with wanting a wood table. Wood coffee tables can be quite sculptural and beautiful.
The glass coffee tables never went away. There is the seamless modern glass table that is so versatile and there are others that takes on the more classic motifs and shapes.
One doesn’t mention glass coffee tables without mentioning their distant cousins, the lucite tables. They can be quite attractive, definitely higher than the rank of a poor relation.
Glass and lucite… What come next are mirrored tables. I prefer the antiqued silver finish for mirrored tables.
Lacquer finishes on coffee table often exude elegance. Let’s hope the finish is durable enough to avoid scratches.
Stone tops are sturdy and add a cool touch to the room. Most of the stones used behave well as neutral colors such as White Carrera, Calacata Oro or Asher Grey with the occasional greyish lines. Greige is so in right now. For warmer climes, travertine and Crema Marfil are the thing to go to.
For a more casual look, rattan or woven natural materials are used.
The industrial look is not far behind among the hotties. The coffee tables come with greige woods, metal legs, casters and mechanical fasteners. I love this look especially when the tables are equipped with wheels. I get under the illusion that I can move them somewhere else when I decide to clear the living room for such things as dancing…
Chinoiserie is quite timeless when used sparingly.
One should also list the proverbial tray table. How appropriate it is to serve tea or coffee on a tray table! These tray tables come in all the styles and types mentioned in this post.
The ottoman coffee table. What a concept. The ottoman gives us the option of putting our feet up and getting even more comfortable. If coffee or tea is served, we just have to add a tray on top of it.
Coffee tables double serving as storage are great for the efficient minds. This is where trunk coffee tables work best. We see wood chests, storage trunks, and travelling trunks. The travelling trunks fuel our imagination with exotic souvenirs being kept inside the trunks.
I see the coffee table as a calm island amidst a sea of tumultuous beauties – a couch begging us to lounge and stretch our legs, the side tables with the pretty lamps, the rug that spreads warmth throughout the room and the armchair that offers cozying up. The coffee table is where I would anchor the room. For that reason, I like it to be of a simple – no fuss swooping gesture. I like my coffee tables bold, to the point and unique in its statement. Below are some of my favorites.
The half logs.
Oval coffee tables are the epitome of grace.
A modern metal tray table.
A marble top table with walnut base.
The lacquer table in the simplest form.
Last but not least. Splurge and don’t feel guilty: pure silver on reclaimed timber. Have some tea on this piece de resistance and wonder about the dichotomy between luxury and recycling…
Click on photos for sources.