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Should Your Coffee Table Be Centered Within Furniture? The Room?

Minimal coffee table in a front view angle.

In any room, the large pieces of furniture will play a big role in defining the style and layout of the entire room. Whether it’s a sofa, other furniture, lighting, or artwork, it’s important to put some through into how your room looks as all the pieces start coming together.

Everything in the room can add to the style and flow if done right, but it can start to take away from some elements if the balance is off.

Coffee tables, for example, are an excellent way to add style or shift the focus of a room, since they’re so versatile in size, shape, and style themselves!

Related: Coffee Table vs. Side Table

Arranging a coffee table with furniture

Wooden coffee table beside a bookshelf.

While coffee tables can seem like a minor addition to your furniture, they’re often large enough (and important enough) to make or break the style and flow of your room.

Should a coffee table be the center of the room?

White room with coffee table at the center.

Whether you’re making your coffee table the focal point or not, coffee tables tend to act as a sort of anchoring point. For this reason, it’s standard to center your coffee table in some way.

If the broad strokes of your furniture layout (sofa, armchairs, console, etc) take advantage of the full space of the room, you’ll find that the natural space to place a coffee table will be in the center — of both the room and the layout!

Can a coffee table and couch be off-center?

Minimal furniture in a minimal living room.

That being said, there’s no rule dictating that your furniture has to follow the outline of the room. There are many circumstances that may lead you to off-centering your furniture. You may have an open floor-plan, with multiple arrangements existing in a single room, like a dining space and a living space.

If you live in a studio, this might mean that every space of your apartment is technically in one room! And in larger spaces, it’s also common to position the sofa, for example, away from a wall to create both a walking space behind it, as well as a more intimate seating arrangement.

In any of these cases, the coffee table should not be placed in the center of the room, but in the center of the particular arrangement it belongs to, often the living space. Think of the sofa as the back of the room and other large pieces as the side edges, with some room in front and to either side.

This is the shape of the space, and the coffee table can act as the anchoring point for that arrangement. This doesn’t mean it has to be directly in the center, but you’ll want to consider that the arrangement will flow around it.

Another option for coffee table placement is using them as the direct focal point. This is particularly impactful if you have a “statement” coffee table, since this type of furniture can take the main focus over larger items like sofas.

Statement coffee tables can include “strong, eye-catching shapes, such as an oval coffee table, oversized pieces, or a design that features a bold color or pattern.” These tables can even be standalone items with an accent chair, plant, or artwork to complement it. An arrangement like this could be the only thing in the room, and it would feel natural.

What size and shape coffee table should you have?

In most rooms, the size and shape of the coffee table defines the flow — or destroys it. You want a coffee table that fills the space, but doesn’t overwhelm it, with a shape that either complements or adds to the rest of the furniture arrangement.

Coffee table sizing

Three-legged small coffee table.

While it’s very important, there aren’t many simple rules to choosing the right coffee table size. For the most part, every room is different, as is every person’s individual style.

A table that might be massive against one piece of furniture might be the perfect fit as a statement piece. Similarly, a large coffee table might look silly across from a sofa, but perfectly complement a set of two armchairs.

The only measurement that holds true across the board is coffee table height — most coffee tables are low to the ground so it’s easy to grab from and place things on them. An easy trick is to choose a table that is one or two inches shorter than the height of your seating.

If you’re looking for a standard arrangement, specifically a rectangular coffee table to accompany a sofa, there are some guidelines to finding the right fit. To complement the room, look for a coffee table that is about two-thirds the length of your couch, and place it between 12″ and 18″ away to “allow for easy maneuvering around your coffee table.”

What shapes of coffee tables are there?

Adjacent view rectangular coffee table.

Coffee tables are just as diverse as any other piece of furniture! Outside of sizing, which can range from small accent tables to large statement pieces, choosing the right shape for your coffee table can also add style and flow to your room.

The most common coffee table shape is rectangular. This is a good shape to complement sofas and, broadly, rectangular rooms or seating arrangements.

Square coffee tables are also popular — they add surface area and can help fill open space and tie a room together. Similarly, round coffee tables can also fill open space without actually compromising on space, thanks to no sharp and bulky edges.

Oval and oblong tables are a good mix of all of these options. They can be a little larger than rectangular tables without overwhelming the arrangement, and they’re a good option if you like the style of round tables but don’t have quite enough space for one. They’re also a great option to place across from a sofa, since the length of a sofa can make a round table look small.

While those are standard shapes, coffee tables can exist in just about any shape and style. Free-form coffee tables are an excellent way to add unique style to your room.

They’re also a great way to alter the flow, particularly if you don’t want to highlight the straight edges of a room. Or, if you have an open floor-plan or unusually shaped room, free-form tables can help to guide attention and set the flow to begin with!

While rectangular coffee tables are the most popular, you may want to consider other shapes if you have a different style of room, a non-standard seating arrangement, or simply want to add your personal touch.

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