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Coffee Table vs. Ottoman

Living room with a blue couch, a tufted ottoman, and a round coffee table over a velvet rug.

You want a house that is comfortable and inviting. The furniture you purchase will significantly influence the atmosphere of your space. When it comes to table furniture in your living room, the coffee table and the ottoman are among the most popular choices.

There is a reason for this. These two categories of tables incorporate a range of imaginative, innovative, colorful, and sometimes zany designs. You are likely to find something that suits your taste.

You will, however, need to make some tough choices before your purchase. You will need to balance appearance, functionality, cost, and durability; and you will also have to buy a table that harmonizes with the other furniture in your living space.

No one said that looking good—in interior design—was easy! But in this article, we give you some insight into the most important things to know about coffee tables and ottoman tables.

What is a Coffee Table?

White living room with a gray sofa and a wooden coffee table topped with a mug.

Nearly everyone has heard of a coffee table, but few people keep the exact definition in their heads. A coffee table is a long, low table that is designed to be put in front of a sofa or chair. This is what most distinguishes it from other types of tables that you may place in your living room.

Though it is called a coffee table, it is of course designed to hold glasses, cups, jugs, and bottles of various kinds. Coffee tables are meant to add to the aesthetic of the space. To this end, many people place decorative objects on them.

They are also designed to help people relax, which is why some homeowners leave an assortment of magazines on their coffee tables so guests are able to entertain themselves while they wait.

What is an Ottoman?

Teal lounge chair and a matching ottoman over a pink striped rug.

For the purposes of this article, an ottoman will refer to an ottoman table. The latter is a versatile piece of furniture; it is used as a coffee table, storage space, footrest, and extra seating. An ottoman can be viewed as a coffee table with a twist.

The two most defining features of an ottoman are its storage space and its aesthetic design. Because an ottoman is unlike a standard table, design means everything. The ottoman you purchase must be able to fulfill all the functions mentioned above.

Features of Coffee Tables and Ottomans

Coffee Tables in General

Buying the right coffee table can make relaxing and enjoying your space a great deal easier. That said, a coffee table should be more than a mere flat surface for you to put your beverages on. It should help center the room, give it the right feel, and help solve problems that may come up when entertaining.

Adjustable tables are, as the name suggests, designed to adjust to your different needs and requirements. In some tables, you can lift the top to change the table’s height. You may find this table especially useful if you live alone and want to use your coffee table as an eating space.

Other types of adjustable tables have different sections that you can slide in and out to change the look of the table or give you extra space when you have people over.

You don’t need to buy an ottoman to get a coffee table with space for storage. There are plenty of traditional coffee tables that have this function built-in. Some designs have an interior space that can be accessed through a removable top.

There is usually enough space to store many kinds of household goods, including books, videos, candles, and children’s toys. Having a coffee table with this kind of functionality makes it easier to get at the things you use regularly.

Coffee Tables by Design

If a 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

Blue tufted sofa and a mid-century modern 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

Ameriwood Home Parsons Coffee Table, Espresso

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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

Modern coffee table on a dark area rug.

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.

Natural Carving Wood Edge Teak Contemporary Coffee Cocktail Table with Clear Lacquer Finish and Metal Hairpin Legs for Living Room

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Ottomans in General

Ottoman tables come in many different designs. However, their storage space is the one thing they all have in common. You should keep this function in mind when buying an ottoman.

And it is important to pay attention to the configuration of the storage unit and its access point, as this will affect how the table looks in your living space.

Here are some of the most common ottoman storage configurations:

1. Open Lid

Asense Modern Fabric Storage Ottoman Footrest Stool with Removable Lid Padded Seat Side Tables for Bedroom Living Room Porch

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This is pretty simple. It consists of a lid top that is either hinged or lifted up to access the storage interior.

2. Drawer

Sorbus Storage Bench Chest with Drawers – Collapsible Folding Bench Ottoman Includes Cover – Perfect for Entryway, Bedroom Bench, Cubby Drawer Footstool, Hope Chest, Faux Linen (Gray)

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This is a subtler design in that the storage space and access point are not as easily spotted. The drawer can be built into an ottoman with high or low legs and engineered to blend in seamlessly with the rest of the piece.

3. Nested

Christopher Knight Home Drake Fabric Ottoman, Gray

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These ottoman tables combine storage capacity and reconfigurability. They come with a range of separate pieces for feet and seating. The smaller pieces can be hidden away when they are not needed.

Ottomans by Design

Ottoman designs are limited only by the imagination and creativity of designers. While you can find ottoman tables in a wide range of styles and configurations, the most prominent designs are as follows:

1. Standard

Teal lounge chair and a matching ottoman over a pink striped rug.

The traditional ottoman features a cushioned surface over a sturdy base, and it comes in a square or rectangle shape.

2. Pouf

Pink living room with a blue sofa and a pouf ottoman.

This is sometimes called a bean bag ottoman. It has—as the name suggests—a puffed structure that is not always spherical. The interior of the table is made of soft material, and it is without a solid skeleton structure.

3. Cocktail

B FSOBEIIALEO Storage Ottoman with Tray, Linen Ottoman Coffee Table Folding Long Shoes Bench Footstool, Dark Grey 30"x15.74"x15"

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This type of ottoman contains a table-like top on which to place drinks and food. This design can hold a number of drinks and is shaped in a way that allows people to comfortably sit and around it. Some models have a reversible top, which allows the table to double as a bench.

4. Cube

Cushioned armchair with a cube ottoman on the side.

This is a very popular design. Its modular shape allows it to be easily stored, moved, and repurposed with some freedom.

5. Oval

Oval ottoman with decorative fabric upholstery.

If class, luxury, and refinement are your priorities, then you cannot go wrong with this design. You can serve tea and coffee using an oval ottoman coffee table. It can also be used to seat more than one person at a time.

6. Novelty

Hippo leather ottoman with short legs on carpet.

There are also plenty of unconventional, uncanny, and downright zany ottoman designs. If your house is filled with other experimental furniture designs, then you should think about an ottoman that is a little different. There is a surfeit of innovative pieces to choose from.

The Most Common Materials Used in Coffee Tables and Ottomans

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

Metal coffee table with modern design.

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.

Gray sectional and a wooden coffee table with chevron design.

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.

Modern living room with a gray sofa and a glass-top coffee table sitting on a patterned area rug.

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.

Marble coffee table with metal base over a patterned rug.

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

Rattan coffee table and matching chairs

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.

Nathan James Nelson Coffee Table Ottoman, Living Room Entryway Bench with Faux Leather Tuft Iron Frame, Warm Brown/Black

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Though not common, leather-top coffee tables do exist. In fact, it is often difficult to distinguish such a table from an ottoman.

On to the materials used in ottomans…

Softness is the distinguishing feature of an ottoman. That is why nearly all ottoman coffee tables are upholstered.

Signature Design by Ashley Absalom Hemp Pouf, 16 x 16 Inches, Multicolored

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Fabric-based ottoman tables come in a variety of colors, textures, and appearances. From pattern to print, single to multi-color, there is no shortage of fabric ottoman tables to be had.

Leather lounge chair with  matching ottoman.

Leather ottomans are popular, especially those that double as seating. A leather ottoman gives a rich sense of texture and style to any space it is placed in. These tables come in traditional brown leather or a starker black hue.

Man with crutch sitting on sofa with his broken leg resting on a velvet ottoman.

You can also get an ottoman in velvet, which is a perfect way to spice up the room. A suede ottoman will do the same. The latter has a unique texture and feel that cannot be replicated. It is soft, lively, and fresh.

Cozy lounge chair paired  with rattan ottoman.

Ottoman tables are also made of rattan, which is lightweight and sturdy. This is a great option if you intend to put your ottoman on the patio or in some other outdoor area. Rattan bears up well against the elements.

Durability of Coffee Tables and Ottomans

Durability matters. Buying a table is an investment. It is one that you should get an adequate return on, which in this instance comes in the form not only of functionality and aesthetic pleasure but longevity as well.

The durability of your coffee table depends largely on the brand, quality of the materials, and frequency of use. To be clear, the most widely known brands do not always offer the best tables. However, some brands are well-known and popular because they set the industry standard.

In general, a coffee table that is made of the best materials is cleaned regularly, and is protected by coasters will last up to ten years.

Cozy lounge space with leather tufted sofa and a rustic coffee table.

The same factors determine the longevity of an ottoman table. However, the ottoman has a slight advantage in its durability. Because the surface of an ottoman is not made of glass or wood, it is not likely to stain as easily.

And although people can sit or rest their feet on ottoman tables, your family members and guests probably will not do so that often, as seating is not the main function of an ottoman table.


If you are like most people, then cost will be one of the main factors driving your decision on whether to buy a coffee table or ottoman. Coffee tables cost between $200 to $400. This price range covers tables that are sturdy and well-designed.

If you are looking for something especially fancy, then you can get up to the $500 mark, but you are unlikely to pay anything above this.

Modern interior with fancy tufted ottoman.

It is a little harder to gauge the average price of an ottoman. You can pay as little as $100 and as much as $800. It all depends on the intricacy of the design and the material used in the table.

In most cases, you can get away with paying less than $300 for a nice, well-made ottoman.

Benefits of a Coffee Table versus an Ottoman

There are many good reasons to buy a coffee table or an ottoman. We will review the best qualities of a coffee table first.

Close-up of a midcentury coffee table topped with coffee cup.

Coffee tables are made of hard materials, which makes them easy to clean and harder to damage. They also offer a more stable surface area for you to drink and eat on. If it is at a sufficient height, you can also use your laptop on your coffee table.

Coffee tables are simpler and less bulky in design. They open up more visual space, which will make your place appear roomier and more open. The hardness of coffee tables may introduce a design element that offsets an otherwise fabric-laden space.

There is also something to be said for the sheer volume of design options for coffee tables. The size, shape, materials, and styles you can choose from are insuperable. No matter the size of your space and the furniture you have already put in it, you will find a coffee table that suits your needs perfectly.

Comfort, functionality, and aesthetic value are the top three benefits of an ottoman coffee table.

To take comfort first, it is the main reason why people buy ottomans. One look at an ottoman table relaxes the eyes. If you want the ability to enjoy your beverage while putting your feet up and chilling out, the ottoman is the perfect table.

Man relaxing on a lounge chair with his legs on ottoman.

It will allow you to gather around your sofa with friends to chat, watch television, or play board games. The soft edges of an ottoman are also ideal if you have young children running around the house.

Functionality is another important benefit of an ottoman. The storage space available in an ottoman will help you keep your place clean and tidy. You can also keep extra pillows and blankets in the space for anyone who may spend the night.

Your ottoman doubles as a spot for extra seating.

You can easily move it to where you want it. Indeed, you can remove it from the living room altogether if you find that it clutters up space. It is perfectly fine to put an ottoman in your bedroom or den.

Last, but not least, an ottoman adds a sense of charm, luxury, and coziness to a room. It can be a welcome contrast to a room that is filled with a great many formal pieces of furniture with angular lines and hard surfaces. An ottoman is best placed in a room that is meant for lounging and relaxation.

Because an ottoman blends in well with the sofas and chairs in the room, you will be more inclined to view it as one of these rather than a table, which will lead you to keep it tidy and uncluttered.

Fun Facts from History

This little article would be incomplete without a few fun historical facts about coffee tables and ottomans.

Close-up of a coffee mug on a vintage coffee table.

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.

So, you see, the origin of the coffee table had nothing to do with coffee and everything to do with beer!

Old photo of street cafe in Istanbul.

The ottoman table has its origins in furniture used in the Ottoman Empire. Such furniture was the central piece of residential seating. It consisted of low wooden platforms filled with cushions.

The pieces used back then were as versatile and multi-functional as modern ottomans. They were designed so that people could at once eat, talk and repose. The designs found their way into Europe in the late 18th century.

The Europeans named the furniture after the place of its origin. The earliest known European use of an ottoman was in 1729. Thomas Jefferson is the first known American user of an ottoman when he bought his piece in 1789.

Coffee Table or Ottoman

The coffee table is a familiar piece of furniture that can enhance the comfort of a living area. There are plenty of styles and designs to choose from, and such tables tend to be relatively inexpensive.

We nevertheless prefer the ottoman. It is the more interesting, luxurious, flexible, and comfortable option.

The ottoman is more than a surface to hold up beverages and display magazines. Even the smallest and most basic ottoman piece serves as a decorative object in the living room. The ottoman is stable and flat enough to hold trays from which drinks and food can be served.

We also appreciate the fact that it can be used as extra seating.

Both ottomans and coffee tables are standard pieces of furniture for socializing. But we feel an ottoman evokes an even greater feeling of conviviality. It is the kind of furniture to have on hand if you are someone who entertains regularly.

And it is a better table to have if you host large parties and gatherings regularly.

The capacity of an ottoman to serve as a storage space also makes it attractive. Regularly used items in the living room can be put in this unit and easily retrieved when needed. It is also the perfect place to store pillows and blankets for the random sleepovers of friends and family members.

We are not that concerned about the expense of ottoman tables. Most of the best designs are reasonably priced. And even the more extravagant designs are still well-priced.

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