Coffee tables serve a number of functions in a living room or den and come in many different sizes and styles. However, despite the variety of tables available, one general guideline exists: The couch should stand higher than the coffee table. Fortunately, there are solutions that allow you to get around this rule when the need arises.
Standard-sized coffee tables usually measure between 16 to 18 inches high and sometimes up to 21 inches. However, if you're having trouble deciding on the exact height of your coffee table, Apartment Therapy recommends you have no more than a 4-inch height difference between the seat of the couch and the coffee table. Ideally, the coffee table will be equal in height to the couch's cushions.
End Tables Vs. Coffee Tables
Some confusion may exist about the discrepancies between the proper height of your coffee table verses the height of the end table, making it difficult for you to choose a coffee table of the right height. As a general rule, the end tables usually stand higher than the coffee table, and each piece should be in proportion to the pieces around it. While the right height for the end tables is usually no higher than the arm of the chair or couch, the right height for the coffee table is cushion height. To look proportionate to these pieces, avoid a coffee table that measures higher than the couch.
Because the coffee table serves many functions in a room, you'll sometimes require one that stands higher than the table you have now. You have several options available to you in these situations. If you need to use the coffee table as a dining table, scoot the table away from the furniture, and place cushions around the table for an Asian-style seating arrangement. An height-adjustable coffee table -- sometimes called a lift top table -- provides you with another option. These tables raise or lower the coffee table to the height you need for the activity.
If you're planning on buying a new coffee table, some other guidelines exist in addition to how tall a coffee table should stand. The length of the coffee table should measure half that of the couch, and in a small living room or den, round tables work better than square ones. These styles take up less room and are less likely to bump someone's knee in that tight space.
- WoodBin: Tables
- Apartment Therapy; Proper Furniture Spacing Basics; Leah Moss; June 2011
- Apartment Therapy; What Is Your Favorite Piece of Decorating Advice; Leah Moss; May 2009
- Apartment Therapy; Good Questions: Convertible Coffee/ Dining Tables; June 2007
- "Good Housekeeping"; Buy Smart Finding the Perfect Coffee Table; Melinda Dodd
- Style at Home; Buying Guide Coffee Tables; Brett Walther
- Home Decorating Reviews: These Coffee Tables Are Not What They Appear to Be
- Apartment Therapy; Adjustable Coffee Table Mechanism; Regina Yunghans; June 2007
- Apartment Therapy; Look! Using End Tables as a Coffee Table; April 2008
Buffy Naillon has worked in the media industry since 1999, contributing to Germany's "Der Spiegel" magazine and various websites. She received a bachelor's degree in German from Boise State University. Naillon also attended New York University and participated in the foreign exchange program at Germany's Saarland University. She is completing her master's degree in educational technology at Boise State.