What Makes a Table a Coffee Table?

There are so many different terms for similar pieces of furniture that it can often be confusing when trying to tell the difference between them all. What’s the difference between an ottoman and a pouf when they look the same? Or different types of couches? One of the main confusing questions of course can arise about coffee tables and side tables.

These two pieces of furniture can often appear to be so similar in appearance that it is tricky to tell the difference between them all. There are of course other types of tables that you can get in the home, so this makes things even more confusing when you’re trying to work out what exactly is a coffee table.

So what makes a table a coffee table?

A coffee table is a smaller table that has been designed with a low profile form. It has been designed this way so that you can easily reach it to place your drinks and magazines when you are sitting on your couch. The lower design makes it much easier to lean forward and reach for things as and when you need them.

Coffee tables can also be made using a wide variety of materials. A lot of coffee tables tend to be manufactured using wood, however, other materials such as metal, glass, or plastic can be used, too. You may even find that some designs feature cabinets to allow you to store things in them such as extra magazines.

What is the Difference Between a Side Table and a Coffee Table?

The main difference between coffee tables and side tables is their size. Coffee tables are typically larger and feature a longer length so that you can fit more stuff on them. Side tables tend to be much smaller, as they are usually intended for fitting a cup of coffee and a lamp on them and nothing more.

Side tables also have the benefit of not taking up too much room in your living space. These will usually sit at either end of your couch so that you can use them as needed. A coffee table is typically larger because it will generally sit in front of the couch itself. If the coffee table were to be any smaller, this could border on the ridiculous when positioned in front of your couch.

Coffee tables will also be level with the seat of your couch. Side tables tend to be taller so that they can sit at the height of the couch arms.

Does a Coffee Table Have to Match a Side Table?

No, your coffee table doesn’t necessarily have to match your side table. So you can easily mix and match your furniture as you need to. If you have a particular theme in your living room, then you may want to make sure that your coffee table and side table are similar in appearance. However, this isn’t a necessity.

If you want to show more personality in your home decor, then you can of course opt for contrasting pieces if you would prefer. There’s no one rule fits all when it comes to coffee tables and side tables. If you want to have furniture that doesn’t match, that is perfectly fine.

As we’ve already mentioned, you may want your side tables and coffee tables to match if you have a particular color scheme or theme in your home. This will help to make the space more cohesive, but it certainly isn’t a necessity.

Why is it Called a Coffee Table and Not a Tea Table?

If tea is the more popular drink in your household, you may be wondering why a coffee table is called a coffee table and not a tea table. It may surprise you to learn that the first iterations of coffee tables were in fact known as tea tables. These were set at a much higher height than coffee tables, at around 27 inches instead of the traditional 18 to 19 inches that modern coffee tables sit at.

It is thought that the name tea table changed to coffee table once this beverage became more popular. The term coffee table was first popularized by a man named Stuart Foote in Michigan after he lowered his wife’s table so that she could comfortably place her drink on it from the couch without having to move.

Is A Side Table a Coffee Table?

A side table isn’t a coffee table, no. This is because side tables tend to be higher than coffee tables. Coffee tables are much lower down than side tables, because they tend to be placed in front of the couch. They need to be lower so that you can easily reach forward to grab or place your drink on them.

If you don’t have a coffee table in your home, then you can of course use your side tables for much the same thing. However, side tables tend to be placed at either end of your couch. So these aren’t the same thing as a coffee table.

Another factor to consider is how much space you have in your home. If you find that you don’t have a lot of space for a coffee table, you can of course use your side tables to place your coffee on instead.

In Summary

So there you have it! A coffee table is a table that features a lower profile design so that you can comfortably reach forward to place your drinks on it while you sit on your couch. Coffee tables tend to be placed directly in front of your couch to make the whole process easier. It’s important not to confuse coffee tables with side tables, as these are completely different things.

Side tables are smaller tables that sit at a much higher height. These will typically sit at either end of your couch where you can place lamps so that you have adequate lighting. You can choose whether you want your coffee table to match your side table, or whether you want different statement pieces.