Where Designers Buy the Best Coffee Tables—Including When They’re on a $150 Budget
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Published Dec 21, 2021 1:10 AM
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You may consider yourself an expert when it comes to the ins and outs of styling a coffee table, but how seasoned are you in the art of buying a coffee table? No matter how many trinkets, trays, and books you layer on top, there’s no disguising bad furniture. Instead of considering a coffee table as an artful opportunity for a ’grammable living room moment, think of it as an anchor for your space. Every piece of furniture that surrounds it (sofa and area rug included) looks to the coffee table for stability. Suffice to say, the surface itself is just as important as what you put on top of it.
Finding the best coffee table comes down to knowing where to start. To take the stress out of your shopping journey, we rounded up the fail-proof brands designers recommend (plus a few of their picks) with every budget and style in mind.
- Best for modern metals: Crate & Barrel
- Best for bohemian woods: Anthropologie
- Best for versatile stones: Burke Decor
- Best for nesting sets: Walmart
- Best for trendy naturals: Lulu and Georgia
- Best for luxe leathers: Restoration Hardware
- Best for woven wonders: Serena & Lily
Best for Modern Metals: Crate & Barrel
What we like:
- Not as heavy as you’d think
- Super durable (great for homes with kids and pets!)
Why we choose it: One-stop shop for durable, contemporary focal points and glam-infused collaborations.
Catherine and Bryan Williamson, the couple behind the Instagram account @beginninginthemiddle, don’t typically rely on any one store when searching for the best coffee tables, but Crate & Barrel is a standout. At home, they’ve been enjoying the Fernando Metal Drum Coffee Table in a dark, powder-coated iron. “It’s pretty much indestructible,” Catherine notes. “Our toddler has drawn and spilled on it, and you’d never know. The hammered detail adds texture, and I love the contrast that the black brings to our room.” She likes to pair the rounded shape with a boxy, structured sectional sofa or between four chairs. “Another thing we love to do is group smaller accent tables and stools together. I like the flexibility of the arrangement,” she says, listing Leanne Ford’s Pedestal Coffee Table as a great place to start. “Mixing materials and heights can create a collected look—just don’t do too many! Three is a great rule of thumb.”
Best for Bohemian Woods: Anthropologie
What we like:
- Sealed with clear lacquer for protection
- Leg components are removable
- Avoid using chemical cleaners (a soft cloth will do just fine)
Why we chose it: It’s great for carefree, fun furniture featuring hand-embossed wood and reimagined antique details.
California-based designer Grace Lee-Lim often sources coffee tables through vendors who sell to Anthropologie, though sometimes she buys direct. “I love the accessibility of its products, especially the larger furniture and case goods,” she shares. In a large California living room, Lee-Lim went with a curved sectional—so anything too angular, rectangular, or square “would have felt too abrupt,” she says. The Williamsons also look here for pieces with deep wood tones, as seen in the Sonali Oval Coffee Table, part of the same collection Lee-Lim pulled from featuring ash-wood veneers reinforced with engineered hardwood.
Best for Versatile Stones: Burke Decor
What we like:
- Unique shapes and styles
- Designer brands
Why we choose it: The list of boutique brands is extensive, but its sweet spot is sturdy stone options for any style.
For ready-made pieces, designer and Hotelette founder Allison Crawford turns to Burke Decor. “Each of these tables play off classic lines with neutral colors and will work well in spaces with a variety of different styles,” she notes. “We like to focus on the correct size with iconic shapes that will both embolden a room yet keep it timeless.” That’s why she loves the Lorenzo Coffee Table: Its heft makes it a stylish choice, but its black hue hides stains and rings for maximum practicality. If maintenance is a concern, the Keppler Square Coffee Table looks like real bluestone but is actually a veneer for easier upkeep.
Best for Nesting Sets: Walmart
What we like:
- Free returns
- Two pieces for less than $200
- Easy assembly
- Not super durable
Why we chose it: A variety of materials at affordable price points (i.e., two nesting tables for less than $200)? Yes, please.
Although Breegan Jane has a couple of go-to places for coffee tables, she’ll never shy away from recommending Walmart. “I strive to create interior spaces for any budget, because I believe luxury can (and should) be very affordable,” she says. If you’re a frequent entertainer or like to change your space up a good deal, she suggests going with nesting tables, which are easier to move around and can be coupled together to create a quasi-table. “A lot of us are asking our furniture to do double duty these days,” she notes, and these two-piece sets by both Wuudi’s and Better Homes & Gardens fit the bill. Plus they’re both great small-space savers.
Best for Trendy Naturals: Lulu and Georgia
What we like
- The latest launches and design collaborations
- Natural materials
- More likely to stain
Why we chose it: For designer collaborations and natural materials in a multitude of styles.
“I always love to source coffee tables from Lulu and Georgia because of the variety of styles it offers—you can find something modern, vintage-looking, rustic, mid-century, and more in almost every material,” offers Dee Murphy. She particularly loves marble and stone of any kind; the Kohl Coffee Table is currently at the top of her list. “Some clients don’t like that it can chip and stain,” she adds. “But I say bring on the patina and imperfections!” Huda Hashim, a British-born Sudanese American designer, also turns to Lulu and Georgia for the latest trends. Her pick is the Jacob Round Coffee Table from Arteriors, a favorite of Domino editors.
Best for Luxe Leathers: Restoration Hardware
What we like:
- Unique construction
- High-end look
- Coasters are highly recommended—beverages (especially hot ones) can easily leave marks
Why we chose it: Because leather is definitely worth splurging on.
When it comes to selecting the best coffee tables, Sara Barney of Bandd Design reminds clients that wood doesn’t have to be the default. Case in point: Restoration Hardware’s Graydon Shagreen Coffee Table, which features embossed leather (made to look like the hide of a stingray) over a hardwood frame complete with metal-capped feet. When Barney doesn’t go custom, she turns to Restoration Hardware. “It tends to have pretty good quality, and the pieces are generally neutral, so they easily pop into our designs,” she notes. “For this particular table, the added texture and pattern adds a ton of modern luxury to the space.” And if you don’t have the room for a coffee table and an ottoman, the Bridge Leather Coffee Table is the best of both worlds, with an oak tray that glides along the bench’s low-profile silhouette to put drinks and books at arm’s reach. The best part? You can still comfortably prop your feet up when movie nights roll around.
Best for Woven Wonders: Serena & Lily
What we like:
- Even, hard surface
- Warms up a space
- Difficult to dust
Why we chose it: Our go-to for bringing home a bit of beachy bliss thanks to a lovely array of woven furniture.
For all things bamboo or rattan, Domino editors look to Serena & Lily, but it’s also where designer Megan Molten searches for coffee tables for both indoors and out. According to her, woven coffee tables provide just the right amount of contrast, especially if your side tables are wood and you’re looking to mix things up. Take this jute-wrapped bamboo table. The removable tray top hides a storage compartment that can hold all of your living room spillover, from throw blankets to kids’ toys. Though some argue wicker is better for baskets and trunks, both of these options offer a stable, smooth surface that favors functionality and an appealingly unruffled sensibility that’s perfect for casual entertaining.
A Few Other Options
- According to our style director, Naomi deManana, you can’t go wrong with Herman Miller. “Timeless modern design and quality you can trust—it has some great sales, too!” she notes.
- Crawford also swears by vintage. “You can find real gems for similar prices to box stores, just be sure to get out that tape measure before you bid,” she suggests. “We love to buy from 1stDibs and Chairish—a classic travertine or burl wood that stands the test of time is a solid investment.”
- For the bed-and-breakfast they’ve been renovating this year, the Williamsons have found success searching for strong, sculptural pieces and veiny marble at Design Within Reach.
- One of Jane’s all-time favorite tables is the Carved Round Cocktail Table from Hooker Furniture’s Commerce and Market. “I love the carved motif around the edges, and I really think the combination of mango wood and iron can elevate any space,” she says. “The color and grain variances give it such character. It’s definitely one I work to incorporate in client spaces.”
- For affordable living room staples on the fly, IKEA is a great, budget-friendly resource Domino editors stand by. (But for an upgrade on Scandinavian simplicity, try Hay.)
- And, of course, with all the love for Crate & Barrel, we’d be remiss not to list CB2 for edgier pieces that still boast classic lines.
How We Chose These Products
We asked nine designers where they shop to find the best coffee tables, whether for themselves or their clients. They sent us their favorites, including where their current pieces are from and the items they’re eyeing for others. Our list runs the gamut of materials, proving you don’t have to default to the traditional wood coffee table. A little bit of whimsy—in the form of wicker or leather, for example—goes a long way.
Our Shopping Checklist
Choosing the right material can feel like a daunting task, but designers say the choice is largely based on what else is present in the room, whether it’s a vibrant throw pillow, a leather sectional sofa, or iron curtain rods. For the latter, Molten suggests an iron-leg coffee table for a cohesive look. In smaller spaces, she says to go with something a bit more translucent for an optical illusion, like acrylic or glass. Jane also keeps nearby decor in mind when deciding on a material. “I may pop in a textured wood coffee table if the rest of the room has more stone or stainless steel elements,” she explains. “If I’m in a space, say, with shiplap and a velvet couch, I would most likely bring in a table with brass and Lucite detailing.”
Functionality is equally important. White marble may be a showstopping element, but if you like to drink red wine, it’s probably not the practical choice, warns Crawford. “If you have kids, avoid glass and sharp corners. If you want to host sleepovers, avoid heavy tables that are hard to move,” she adds. One of the most popular materials, wood, lends itself well to all of the above in most cases. “Coffee tables are meant to be broken in, so choosing a material that gets better with age is important,” offer the Williamsons. “We avoid anything too shiny.”
For Crawford, design is all about mathematical calculations, so get ready to bust out your measuring tape. “Be sure that what you purchase can comfortably sit about 18 inches from the sofa and within 5 inches of the height of the sofa or chair seat—height is just as important as width here,” she shares. Measuring, Jane agrees, is the single most important first step in your decorating process. To ensure accuracy, she will sometimes tape everything out on the floor.
Lee-Lim’s general rule of thumb is that the coffee table should be two-thirds the length of your sofa (for sectionals, it’s more like half to two-thirds), though she doesn’t mind a slightly oversize look. What’s important, she stresses, is flow and scale. “I think a lot of people usually buy a coffee table that’s much too small for the sofa they have, so I feel it’s really important to look at the sofa to determine if the coffee table is the right scale visually,” she notes.
Far from a basic surface for resting drinks, a coffee table these days houses everything from trinkets to book collections to secret storage for living room essentials like throw blankets and extra pillows.
Q: I don’t want a regular rectangular coffee table, but there are so many shape options. Which is the best?
This depends on the surrounding furniture; it’s all about balance. “If there are a lot of squared side tables, I’ll sometimes put in a round or oval coffee table to soften up the room,” offers Lee-Lim.
Hashim believes your space should lead the eye from one piece of furniture to the next. “I have always been a fan of sculptural coffee tables because they are the perfect mix between round and rectangular—they’re inviting and functional, yet add character to your space,” she shares.
And according to Murphy, the most important thing to keep in mind is to mix it up—add curves to a room that feels square and sharp. That’s why coffee tables are often the last piece Jane picks out. “They’re like the cherry on top,” she says.
Q: Any advice on how to style a coffee table top?
Fight the urge to put everything atop your coffee table–it still has to serve its first purpose as a spot for beverages or perhaps a weekday lunch from the couch. Domino editors are fans of knickknacks, but we corral our contents either with a shallow bowl or tray. You can also feel free to stack up a few books or display a couple taper candles or a vase of simple flowers.
Q: What is the best coffee table for sectionals?
According to Molten, this has less to do with the coffee table itself and more about the layout of your living room. With an L-shape, for example, she’ll pair the table’s long side with the chaise and place two chairs across, with another side table on the couch’s opposite arm.
The Last Word
Whether you have an apartment-size living space or a large, open floor plan, the best coffee tables span every size, style, material, and budget. The most important feature to keep in mind when shopping for the best coffee tables (aside from getting your measurements right, of course), according to designers, is looking at this particular piece of furniture as the balancing element of your room. In other words, be sure to consider the surrounding decor when making your decision.