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Coffee Vs. Side Tables: Are They Different & How to Style Them

When it comes to home decor, you need to take time to think about every decision you make. Even the smallest details can make a great difference. Cotton vs. bamboo sheets, a shower vs. a bathtub, traditional vs. unconventional picture frames, there are countless choices, and sometimes making the right one can be stressful.

If you are considering buying a new table that can add versatility to your living room, you might be torn apart between opting for a coffee table or a side table. And we get it, they are so similar but can be used in truly diverse ways. So, which one to go for?

Coffee vs. Side Tables

Coffee tables are designed for resting your drinks, snacks or magazines. They are usually lower to the ground, following the same height as the sofa. They are central pieces of furniture used for entertainment and convenience. They’re a bit bigger than side tables and can easily be the focal point of the room.

Side tables are usually taller than coffee tables, and they are usually around the height of the sofa arm. However, you can easily find side tables for living room at the same height as a coffee table. Another difference between coffee and side tables is that the surface of the latter is smaller. Because of their compact size, side tables can be placed on various locations around the home.

coffee table vs side table

Source: bigsee.eu

Where Should Side Tables Be Placed?

The most common use of the side table is in the living room. The extensive range of side tables for living room allows you to find the perfect model for that empty corner. You can place your side table next to an armchair, or between two chairs to create an intimate conversation area. You can place two side tables on each side of a couch or loveseat, spacing them at an equal distance from each arm for a symmetrical appearance.

When placed in the hallway, side tables can help create a more inviting entry atmosphere. They are often placed against a wall in an entryway, just beyond the reach of the front door.

You can use side tables to make your bedroom even more functional. You can place them on each side of your bed to act as nightstands on which you can store your bedtime essentials. If you have an armchair in your bedroom, a side table can be placed right next to it.

Although these pieces are not as commonly used in the dining room, they can find their purpose here too. When placed against a wall, a side table can be used to hold candles, china, or serve as a minibar.

Where Should Coffee Tables Be Placed?

The most common placement for a modern wood coffee table is in the centre of the living room’s seating arrangement. Because of its height, it does not block your vision, allowing you to enjoy watching TV. The general rule of thumb is to place the coffee table within 35-45 centimetres from the sofa. That’s close enough to reach for a magazine, but still offers plenty of room for your legs.

modern living room with wooden coffee table and beige sofa bed with decorative pillows

Source: ak1.ostkcdn.com



Because of the diversity of this natural material, it’s available in different finishes causing it to lean in different style directions. Light finishes on a Victorian Ash timber side table have a more Scandinavian and modern vibe, providing a lighter and airier feel. Meanwhile, dark wood finishes have a more classic, rustic, or industrial vibe. A round side table made of walnut featuring metal legs can give your living room a more contemporary feel.


Glass table tops with straight lines and a clean design can be very versatile and adaptable. They can go perfectly well with living rooms with a glam, minimal, or transitional and contemporary aesthetic. If you opt for a model combined with an interesting metal leg structure that adds a different visual take from different angles, it can easily act as the focal point of your living room.


Marble is by far the most common material for side tables, although there are many other stone materials to choose from. Purple and black agate and blue jasper are slowly marking their territory in contemporary design. Marble can be paired with almost all interior design styles, though you’ll most commonly see it in glam, minimal, or modern spaces. Stone tables can help add an organic and modern touch to your living room.

two metal and stone coffee tables for living room

Source: tikamoon.co.uk


The silver finish of a metal coffee table looks better in industrial decor spaces, while gold or brass finishes probably fall more in the modern or contemporary world. To bring an element of modern glam to your living room, you can opt for a shiny, sleek and sculpturally designed side table.

How Do I Decorate My Side Table?

Side tables are a great way to display other elements in your design. Accent lights are a good idea for decoration. You can display a colourful lamp that brings a colour pop to your space. Your side table can be the ideal place to display a few books, the ones that you are currently reading or some just for show.

Your favourite bowl, a beautiful dish or a vase with fresh flowers can be good side table decorations too. The fresh flowers can enhance the room’s ambience and infuse your space with a pleasant scent.

Can I Use a Side Table as a Coffee Table?

Decor experts agree that the coffee table doesn’t always have to be one large table. There is no strict rule of what is what, so you are free to use a side table as a coffee table if that’s what you like. You can also use a cluster of side tables as a coffee table. This way, you can easily move them when you have guests so everyone can have a place to set their drinks.