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Coffee Table vs Bench

A living room with a dark sofa and a rustic wooden bench as a coffee table.

Your home is your castle, your refuge, your sanctuary. It is the one place in which you can be completely at ease. You relax, dine, sleep, and entertain family and your closest friends in your home. You want to cultivate an atmosphere of comfort, and the best way to do that is to buy the right furniture.

The living room is the main space for gatherings and relaxation. You have only so much space to work with so you will have to make choices about the kind of furniture you want to put in it. A coffee table and a bench are among your many options.

Both are popular in contemporary homes, and both come in a wide range of imaginative types, colors, and designs. No matter how particular or peculiar your taste, you will find something, in either category, that is to your taste.

Installing furniture in your home is not something that you should do without purpose and planning. Before you select a specific coffee table or bench, you must consider appearance, functionality, expense, benefits, and durability. You must also ensure that the new furniture you purchase goes well with what is currently in your living room.

Coffee tables and benches are for people who like to entertain in their homes. If you are such a compulsively sociable person, you may, in an ideal world, want to buy a coffee table and a bench. But if circumstances compel you to choose one or the other—at least for now—then you want to make a purchase you can be proud of.

Gathering insights into each kind of furniture is key to making such a selection. This article is a good place to start.

What is a Coffee Table?

This is a close look at a wood-top coffee table with wrought-iron legs.

The coffee table is a well-known piece of furniture. It is a long, low table that is designed to hold cups, glasses, trays, and other types of dishes and serving platforms. Coffee tables are meant to be put in front of sofas and chairs.

They are also designed to blend in with the rest of the furniture in the space.

The best coffee tables have an irrepressible aesthetic value; they are decorative as well as functional. Putting a coffee table in your living room can enhance your ability to relax. It makes it easy for you to set down your drink or plate of food while you lay on the sofa.

Some coffee tables have built-in storage spaces, which can help you keep the room clean and tidy.

What is a Bench?

This is a close look at a rustic wooden bench as the coffee table.

When most people think of a bench, they think of a long seat on which a few people can sit. There are benches set out for public use. There are also benches designed for the home. They are engineered to maximize comfort and consist of arm and backrests.

It is possible to purchase a standard bench whose only function is to seat people. Or, you can buy a living room bench with built-in storage features such as shelves, divided storage compartments, or a chest of drawers underneath the seat.

Features of Coffee Tables and Benches

Coffee Tables in General

If you decide to buy a coffee table, then you should get the most for your money. In other words, the coffee table you bring home should be more than a place on which to set down drinks and magazines.

Your coffee table should help create a comfortable atmosphere by centering the room. It should also help improve your ability to entertain multiple people at the same time.

You can get a straight no-frills coffee table that is well-designed and provides a large enough surface to hold numerous drinks. You can also purchase an adjustable coffee table. The latter, as the name suggests, can be adjusted to fulfill various needs.

With some coffee tables, you can change the height in order to use it as an eating space. Other tables come with different sections that you can slide in and out to give you extra space when you need it. If extra storage space is a priority, you can buy a coffee table that is designed with this feature.

Such tables tend to have enough space to store books, DVDs, games, candles, toys, and other household goods.

Coffee Tables by Design

If style is important to you—and it probably is if you have read thus far—then you should give due attention to the design of your coffee table. You should not go out and buy any old table. Consider the general appearance and atmosphere of the room that you will put it in.

You must also think about the type of house that it will sit in.

Here are some of the most popular designs:

1. Cottage

ChooChoo Farmhouse Coffee Table, Rustic Vintage Living Room Table with Shelf, 40 White

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Whether you live mainly in a cottage home or you have a second home in the countryside, these coffee table designs are perfect for this kind of home. Cottages tend to be earthy, simple, humble, and unpretentious. A cottage coffee table should have those qualities as well. 

They should have clean lines and painted finishes. A light and rustic look will help it blend in with the rest of your furnishings.  

2. Industrial

VASAGLE Industrial Coffee Table with Storage Shelf for Living Room, Wood Look Accent Furniture with Metal Frame, Easy Assembly, Rustic Brown ULCT61X

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This kind of table should evoke the feeling of the factor. The best industrial coffee tables incorporate metal and wood in a rough-hewn construction. An industrial coffee table sits well with softer surroundings.

3. Mid-Century Modern

This is a full view of a Midcentury Modern living room with a wooden coffee table.

This table is one of the more popular vintage designs. It leans on design styles that were popular between the 1950s and 1960s. They are characterized by clean lines, bentwood, and a simple finish.

4. Parsons

This is another classic design. It consists of a thick top and four thick, flush, square legs. The Parsons coffee table was created in the 1930s and has been popular since then.

5. Modern and Contemporary

A modern coffee table refers to any design that has been in production since the late 19th century. This is not to be confused with a contemporary coffee table which refers to pieces that are currently popular. The latter designs often have stark interiors and bold accents.

Benches in General

Baxton Studio BBT5200-Grey Ottomans, Grey

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There are more benches going into homes nowadays than ever went into public spaces. What was once a fad has now become an established practice. Putting a bench in your home will definitely put you in the decorating mainstream.

There are, in general, two types of benches. Those that provide seating only and those that offer seating and storage. Seating-only benches come in a wide variety of sizes and styles. If you are simply looking for a bench that will provide a little extra seating space, then you may want to consider something small and compact.

Here are some of the most popular types of storage benches:

1. Flip Top Bench

Rolanstar Storage Bench, Flip Top Storage Ottoman, Bed End Stool with Padded Seat, Toy Storage Chest for Entryway, Bedroom, Living Room, 39’’, Rustic Brown

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This rather old-fashioned type of bench provides generous space. It consists of a single lid that also serves as a seat. You open the lid to get access to space inside.

It is easy to confuse this type of bench with a trunk. You should not make this mistake. A flip-top bench need not be pushed into a corner. It can indeed be placed in the center of your living room.

2. Cubby Bench

Shoe Bench -Shoe Storage Cabinet - Shoe Rack with Lift-Top Compartment and 3 Storage Cubbies for Hallway, Entryway - Simperfor

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The most prominent features of this type of furniture are its rectangular shape and open front.

A cubby bench can be most useful as a place to fit belongings such as shoes and bags. However, it can also be made a centerpiece of your living room. You can add to the décor of your room by placing plants and books in the cubby holes.

You can also place a cushion on the top of it to make the bench a comfortable place to sit.

3. Drawer Bench

Haotian FSR23-K White Storage Bench with 2 Drawers & Removable Seat Cushion, Shoe Cabinet Shoe Bench (Natural)

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This bench comes with pull-out storage units. The best benefit of this bench is that you can access the interior storage space without disturbing anyone sitting on it.

Most drawer benches have a solid frame and enough storage space for shoes and other personal items. The pull-out drawers can also be used to store toys and household goods that you want to keep handy.

Benches by Design

If you want a bench for purely aesthetic and seating purposes, then your primary focus should be on the design. Here are some of the styles from which you can choose:

1. Traditional

Signature Design by Ashley Haddigan Traditional Upholstered Dining Room Bench, Dark Brown

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A traditional bench should look and feel timeless. It should be carved, shaped, and engineered to evoke a sense of the past. Traditional benches can vary from simple to ornate.

You can get a bench with a velvet, suede, or leather cushion, or a top made of wood or metalwork. The most important thing is for the bench to complement your home interior.

2. Contemporary Bench

Most modern benches are bold in appearance and unique in detail. They can be versatile, innovative, and highly eclectic. You can get a contemporary bench with a neutral design or one with loud and quirky prints.

But no matter how far the aesthetic is pushed, the most important thing is for the bench you purchase to be comfortable.

3. Cottage Bench

Alaterre ACCA03BA Rustic Cottage Bench with 1 Shelf, Blue Antique

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The rustic look appeals to some people. A cottage bench has a timeworn look that brings warmth to any space.

If you have a summer or country home, a cottage bench is a perfect pick for it. The design works even in city homes that have lightly decorated and uncluttered spaces. The simplicity of a cottage bench will harmonize well with this kind of style.

4. Industrial Bench

Whitmor Modern Industrial Entryway Bench w/Shoe Storage, Brown

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This bench design is simple, easy, and useful. It has a utilitarian aesthetic and looks like it belongs on a factory floor. Most such benches come in neutral color shades, and there is usually a rack underneath the seating area that can be used as a storage space.

Industrial benches complement urban and country homes. They can stand out—in a positive way—in both types of houses. Most industrial benches use recycled materials, which makes them eco-friendly. If you want to make a bold statement, you can do a lot worse than an industrial bench.

The Most Common Materials Used in Coffee Tables and Benches

Coffee tables and ottomans are made of many different types of materials. We shall deal with coffee tables first.

A living room with a round coffee table that has a metallic sheen to it.

Metal is an increasingly popular pick among coffee table enthusiasts. Such tables are constructed of iron, steel, aluminum, and other alloys. A glass or wooden top often tops the structure. A metal coffee table will be easy to clean.

A living room with a wood-top coffee table and black sofa.

Wood coffee tables are by far the most common type. Oak, pale wood, and other types of tables offer a finished, polished, and elegant look. The only downside of wood is that water rings easily form on it, which is why it is necessary to buy and lay down coasters.

A living room with a glass-top coffee table.

Glass-top coffee tables are quite common. But glass structure coffee tables are also available. A table made entirely of glass can be striking in its appearance.

A living room with a marble top coffee table in the middle of the gray area rug.

It is also possible to get coffee tables with a stone, marble, or slate top.

An outdoor patio with a rattan coffee table.

Rattan and acrylic are also used to make coffee tables. These are lesser-known table types, but they are widely available on the market.  Rattan is often thought of as a patio furniture material.

When applied to the coffee table design, it gives the latter a more luxurious feel. Acrylic bears, in appearance, a striking similarity to glass. The material has the versatility and transparency of glass without the weight or the cost. Many of the most innovative coffee table designs use acrylic.

Now we turn to benches…

Alaterre Furniture Hairpin Natural Live Edge Wood with Metal 36" Bench

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Some living room benches are made of the same material as coffee tables. You can find living benches in wood and metal. The latter are as common as the former. But in most cases, you will find a combination of the two.

Safavieh Home Collection Leary Wicker Bench, Natural

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There are also benches made of wicker. They can be found in designs of sorts and come with plush cushioning. These benches are lightweight, which means they can be easily moved and transported from place to place.

SIMPLIHOME Dover 36 inch Wide Rectangle Lift Top Storage Ottoman Bench in Upholstered Distressed Brown Faux Air Leather, Footrest Stool, Coffee Table for the Living Room, Bedroom and Kids Room

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For those who like leather, a bench that is made of this material will only enhance the elegance of the space it is in. The soft tone and utility of a leather bench may make it perfect for your living room.

Durability of Coffee Tables and Benches

The furniture you buy should be an investment. Like any other investment, you should expect an adequate return for your money. The return you will get from a coffee table or bench comes in the form of functionality and aesthetic value.

Such furniture should also be durable. You should not have to replace the thing months after you buy it.

A coffee table that is cleaned regularly, protected by coasters, and otherwise well-maintained should last up to ten years. The quickness with which the table wears down will depend greatly on the quality of the materials used and the brand that produced them.

Though you should not believe the hype used to promote brand-name furniture, some brands have a good reputation because they make tables that are superior in design, engineering, and materials.

You can expect a bench to last between five to seven years. Coffee tables have an advantage over benches in that, for the most part, people do not sit on them. The bench you purchase may wear down faster if used with great frequency.

Benches with designs that are simple and a little more fragile will have a harder time holding up under repeated seating. But here again, the durability of the bench will greatly depend on the quality of the materials used.

Cost of a Coffee Table and a Bench

A small wooden coffee table at a living room.

It is perfectly natural to prioritize cost over all else when deciding whether to buy a coffee table or a bench. You can find a good solid coffee table for less than $400. The general price range is from $200 to $400, but you will not pay more than $500 for even the most high-end table.

Benches are a different story. Prices for living room benches go from as little as $50 to as high as $1000. It really depends on what kind of bench you want. Most of the storage and non-storage benches described above fall within the $100 to $500 price range.

If you want something especially plush and elegant, then you can get up to 4 figures.

Benefits of a Coffee Table versus a Bench

You cannot go wrong with either of these types of furniture. They each come with benefits. We will take the best qualities of a coffee table first.

One of the best things about coffee tables is that they are easy to clean. The sturdy material they are made of also makes them hard to damage. A coffee table that is of the right height and surface area can function as a kind of desk on which to use your laptop.

A living room with a gray sofa and a wooden coffee table.

Most coffee tables are streamlined in their design. They are not as heavy and bulky as other types of tables. In fact, coffee tables of the simplest design can open up more visual space, making your living space appear large and roomier.

If you have furnished your living room with mostly upholstered items, the hardness of a coffee table can enhance the atmosphere by offsetting these fabrics.

You will also benefit from the range of coffee table designs that are to choose from. No matter your tastes or size requirements, you will find a coffee table that meets them.

Versatility is the most important benefit of a living room bench. It can serve as a seat, storage space, and, in a pinch, a table—or at least, a place to put a tray. Like coffee tables, it is possible to put a bench of the simplest design in your living room. Doing so will give you extra seating without cluttering up space.

A living room with a gray sofa and a cushioned bench coffee table.

The capacity of storage benches to hold household or personal items is of great value, especially in smaller homes. Having this kind of bench will enable you to keep things tidy.

Benches come in a variety of sizes, colors, styles, and designs. If you are willing to make a significant investment into this piece of furniture, you can have a bench that is custom-made to your exact specifications. Many people who want a bench to have equal utility as a seating and storage space often go for this option.

Fun Facts from History

To make the article complete, we offer a few fun historical facts about coffee tables and benches.

Coffee tables are thought to have originated in mid-17th century London. The first tables appeared in coffee houses, which began to sprout up all over the city during this time. Coffee tables became known by this name because they functioned as places where people could put their beverages—almost exclusively alcoholic.

The original coffee tables had little to do with coffee and everything to do with beer!

Although most people think of benches as a piece of furniture for the outdoors, the first benches were used exclusively indoors. The Romans used paneled benches in their homes. During the Middle Ages, benches were the most common form of seating, as chairs were a luxury reserved for people of high status.

It wasn’t until the 16th century that benches lost favor as in-home pieces of furniture. After that time, chairs became easier and cheaper to make and thus came into wider use.

Coffee Table or Bench

The coffee table is useful as a piece of furniture. It can add to the decorative aesthetic of a home and fulfill a wide range of functions.

But if you must choose between a coffee table or a bench, we recommend a bench.

It is the versatility and flexibility of the bench that attracts us to it. A storage bench, especially, can serve a wider range of functions. It will not only give you extra seating and storage space; it can also serve as a table where people can set down their drinks or collect them from a tray.

 If you live in a small house or apartment and you like to entertain, you will get more out of a well-designed bench than a coffee table.

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