Skip to Content

Coffee Table vs Dining Table

This is a Scandinavian wooden dining table.

Turning your house into a home takes thought and effort. You will need to make many decisions about the kinds of furniture you want and where to place it. A coffee table and a dining table are two pieces that will improve the comfort and enhance the appearance of any home.

Each of these types of furniture comes in an array of shapes, designs, and styles. If you are someone who likes to socialize, if you enjoy the company of family and friends in your home, then you cannot do without a coffee table and a dining table. However, creating your dream home can take time, especially if you are on a budget.

You may have to buy one piece of highly desired furniture now and the other one later.

If you are in the market for both a coffee table and a dining table, then you should have good reasons for choosing one over the other—at least for now. The aim of this article is to give you insight into the main features, styles, benefits, durability, and cost of each category of furniture. Other important information and a few interesting facts will also be included.

Buying a new piece of furniture constitutes an investment. Your return will be the comfort provided by your new coffee or dining table and the aesthetic value it adds to your home. You should have all the facts before you make your decision. This article will go a long way toward giving them to you.

What is a Coffee Table?

This is a close look at a living room with a built-in wooden sofa and a wooden coffee table.

The coffee table is probably familiar to you. You may have seen different coffee tables in the homes of family and friends over the years. If you have gone through life not knowing the difference between a coffee table and other types of tables, do not worry.

You are not the only one with this knowledge gap.  A great many people pretend to know the defining characteristics of a coffee table to please interior design snobs, but they actually have no clue.

A coffee table is a long, low table that is designed to hold cups, glasses, trays, and other types of dishes and serving platforms. This is the simplest, most concise, and most accurate definition of it.

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 are decorative as well as functional.

Putting a coffee table in your living room can enhance your ability to relax. It will make it easy for you to set down your drink or plate of food while you lay on the sofa.

What is a Dining Table?

A rustic wooden dining table adorned by potted plants.

Simply put, a dining table is a table on which meals are eaten. This is perhaps the quality that most distinguished it from a coffee table. Meals can be eaten on the latter type of table, but this is not its main purpose.

Dining tables are designed with this aim in mind. They are engineered to make it comfortable for people to sit down and eat their food. They are also designed to help create the kind of social setting and atmosphere that makes eating with others pleasant and relaxing.

Features of Coffee Tables and Dining Tables

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.

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

Click image for more info

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

Click image for more info

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

Midcentury modern living room with a wooden elliptical 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.

Dining Tables in General

Shape is the thing that most distinguishes one type of dining table from another. The best way to discuss the general features of dining tables is to examine the different shapes they come in and provide visual examples.

Here we go.

1. Rectangular Dining Table

Signature Design by Ashley Kimonte Rectangular Dining Room Table, Black

Click image for more info

These tables tend to have strong lines that give off a formal appearance. Rectangular tables are popular in apartments. A rectangular dining table is a perfect shape to fill the void of a long and narrow room, and they can sit up to 6 people.

2. Square Dining Table

Winsome Wood Groveland Dining, Walnut

Click image for more info

There are similarities between a rectangular and a square dining table, but also a few notable differences. Perhaps the most noticeable difference is the size of a square dining table. Buying one can save you a great deal of space, as such a table can be easily set against a wall when not in use.

This table shape also creates a more intimate dining experience.

3. Round Dining Table

Amazon Brand – Rivet Noah Round Modern Ash Dining Table, 35.4"W, White

Click image for more info

This kind of dining table softens the atmosphere of any room, making it more inviting. Perhaps the best advantage of a round table is that it allows you to fit a large number of people around its circumference. Even some of the smaller brands will give you the space you need to host a sizeable dinner party.

4. Oval Dining Table

CozyCasa Farmhouse Dining Table Mid-Century Kitchen Table with Wood Tube Oval Top for Home Office Patio White(Only Table not Include Chairs)

Click image for more info

This shape brings a bit of the edged and the circular to a dining table. The sides are linear while the ends are rounded. This is the perfect dining table if want to fill a lengthy space.

Its circular features will allow you to seat more people around the table and will encourage interaction and intimacy among your guests.

Dining Tables by Design

There are way too many dining tables designs to list and describe here. However, you should know about the most popular styles on the market. They are as follows:

1. Farmhouse

Zinus Becky Farmhouse Dining Table with Two Benches / 3 piece set

Click image for more info

The table gives off a warm and cozy vibe. A farmhouse dining table will add a rugged and rustic touch to your dining room and will make you feel as though you have stepped into the country, even if you live in an urban high-rise apartment. These tables are usually made of rough and solid wood that lasts.

2. Pedestal

This style of dining table usually consists of a wide tabletop resting on a single and thick leg in the middle. However, there are designs that feature two legs supporting the pedestal.

3. Trestle

Pulaski Dark Oak Trestle Round Table Dining, Brown

Click image for more info

The trestle design goes all the way back to the Middle Ages. It is a timeless and popular style that is also highly functional. The trestle dining table consists of a large tabletop that sits on two trestle supports.

It is a natural fit in many dining rooms. It is sturdy, highly attractive, and great for hosting large dinner party groups.

4. Traditional

This style of dining table is usually made of wood with a darker finish. These tables also tend to have carved legs and extensive ornamentation. They are most suitable for a family home in which there is a large and spacious dining room.

The Most Common Materials Used in Coffee Tables and Dining Tables

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 metallic coffee table.

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 an industrial 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 close look at a glass-top coffee table in a living room.

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.

This is a marble top coffee table in a living room.

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

This is 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 dining tables…

Roundhill Furniture 5 Piece Citico Metal Dinette Set with Laminated Faux Marble Top - Black

Click image for more info

Metal is an increasingly popular material used in dining tables. Most such tables are made of stainless steel. However, a movement is afoot to use more environmentally-friendly recycled steel.

This is a glass-top dining table surrounded by pink chairs.

Glass is also used on many dining tables. You can find both round and edged tables with glass tops. The glass can be clear or frosted depending on your preference.

This is a top view of a formal dining room with a wooden dining table.

Wood is still the most commonly used material in dining tables. Hardwood is the preference of most dining table owners. It is sturdy and durable enough to withstand the wear and tear of regular use.

The common types of hardwood used include mahogany, maple oak, teak, and walnut. Softwood is also used in dining table. These include pine, ash, and white cedar.

This is a farmhouse-style dining table paired white modern chairs.

Reclaimed and recycled wood is an environment-conscious option. Such wood comes from barns, factories, and businesses. Though the wood often has imperfections in it, you can have it refurbished so that it has more of an antique appearance.

Indeed, reclaimed wood is perfect for those who want a rustic or country cottage feel in their dining room.

This is a wood-top dining table paired with matching chairs.

You can also get a dining table made of composite wood. This material consists of pieces of plywood or fiberwood that look like solid wood. These dining tables are also made by pressing softwood and hardwood together.

A laminated wooden dining table surrounded by white modern chairs.

Laminate is also a popular material. This is a substitute for real wood, is normally made of plastic, and is imprinted with a wood grain to make it look like real wood. These tables can be painted and polished to fix imperfections.

This is a marble top dining table.

Stone is yet another common material used in dining tables. Granite and marble are among the most popular stones used in them. You can select a stone that matches your tiled flooring or kitchen countertops.

The best thing about a stone dining table is that it is incredibly strong and sturdy with a smooth surface that can display a wide range of colors and designs.

Durability of Coffee Tables and Dining Tables

You are right to be concerned about the longevity of your coffee or side table. These are not pieces of furniture that you should have to buy every few months. However, it must also be said that you get what you pay for.

If you are willing to spend a substantive sum of money, then you will get a table that lasts.

This is a wood-top coffee table paired with gray sofas.

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.

The durability of a dining table depends on factors similar to the ones mentioned above. If you buy a larger dining table made of sturdy material such as hardwood, it can last quite a long time. Indeed, the higher-end dining tables can last decades and can be passed down to your children and grandchildren.

A table that is, for example, made of maple oak, teak, or mahogany will weather the years if it is cleaned and polished regularly, and if all scuffs and marks are taken care of immediately.

Cost of a Coffee Table and a Dining Table

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.

You can pay less than $100 for a dining table or more than $2000. The exact amount will depend on the size, material, design, and shape of the table. If you are looking to save money, it is possible to buy a used dining table for under $100.

Because of the wide range of types and designs to choose from it is not even possible to give an average cost or range of prices. To get either of the latter, you must figure out what kind of dining table you want in your house.

Benefits of a Coffee Table versus a Dining Table

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.

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.

Creating comfort and atmosphere are the two most important benefits of buying a dining table. A dining table will define your dining room in a way that goes further than what a coffee table does for a living room.

A dining table, unlike a coffee table, will likely be the only or the largest piece of furniture in the room. You can use it to ground and anchor the feeling of the space.

A dining table is also a comfortable place to sit down for a meal, a coffee, or a chat with your significant other or guests you might have over.

Fun Facts from History

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

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!

The dining table as a piece of furniture goes all the way back to Ancient Egypt. The Egyptians used pedestal dining tables to eat meals. The Ancient Greeks used tiny tables to dine and then stored them under their beds when finished.

The Romans made legged tables from marble and wood. The grander dining tables that are the fixture of banquets and large parties were first seen in the Middle Ages in Europe. These were used by great lords to host grand feasts that were meant to entertain their peers.

Coffee Table or Dining Table

Every home should eventually have a dining table. But if for budgetary reasons you must choose one or the other, we recommend that you buy a coffee table.

A coffee table will give you a ready-made surface for drinks and food. Some of the better coffee tables can be used as dining spaces. Even if you have people over, you can still use such a table to serve your guest’s food. You can create an open, informal, and intimate setting—one in which people will feel free to talk and interact.

More House Plans