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What Is a Coffee Table?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 16, 2024
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The coffee table is considered an essential piece of furniture in many living rooms and dens. Normally constructed so that the top of the table is level with the seat cushions of surrounding sofas and chairs, it serves as a convenient place for serving coffee or tea to visitors. Such a table is also an excellent means of providing a spot to set down a beverage and a book when relaxing in the room. While the traditional coffee table tends to be short and rectangular in dimensions, there is a wide range of designs and enhanced functions for this table in today’s home decorating styles.

Coffee tables come in a wide range of styles. Typically, these sets are designed to fit into several decorating styles with relative ease, although some end table and coffee table sets are specifically geared more toward either traditional or modern design. The coffee table may be created with a number of materials, ranging from wood to metal or even hard plastic.

While the main function of a coffee table continues to be providing a convenient tabletop for persons sitting on the sofa, it is not unusual for the table to also be designed to allow for storage. Some such tables include compartments or drawers below the tabletop, while other models may include a simple shelf arrangement. Several manufacturers produce hinged top coffee tables that allow for the tabletop to be adjusted along a range of heights. This allows the table to serve as a low table for coffee or tea, or be a taller table that is the right height for creating a cozy spot to enjoy a meal.

In recent years, a number of different devices have come into use as a coffee table. Low chests, a set of round ottomans, kitchen tables with shortened legs, and even old trunks have found new life as such a table in a living room or den. Designers often use these alternatives to either add a hint of whimsy to a space, or to supply the homeowner with some additional storage within the room.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including HomeQuestionsAnswered, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By anon77087 — On Apr 13, 2010

No, it can't.

By anon33817 — On Jun 12, 2009

can a cocktail table be higher than a sofa, namely 20.5" high. it is also used as storage.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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