The coffee or cocktail table is a relatively new furnishing – they were virtually unheard of until the late Victorian period, and even then were used more as a touch of international style than as a staple of the sitting room. It was in the 1930s or 40s that the coffee table as we know it became ubiquitous in living spaces.
Yet as relatively new as it is, the cocktail table is hugely important – how you use and live in the room partly depends on its shape.
Choose a square cocktail table when you want to emphasize elongated lines and create distinct, geometric spaces, focused on activity and defined by neat walking paths A round coffee table creates a softer, cozier feel focused on conversation, tending to guide people to find a spot and settle rather than move through the space. Oval tables are the compromise between the two.
A leggy table feels lighter and emphasizes space, because more of the floor is visible (transparent coffee tables have a similar effect). A blockier table (or an ottoman) provides more of a grounding point to make the room feel stable and solid.
Using multiple smaller tables or ottomans gives the whole room a relaxed, easy feel that invites customizing the space to your needs. In contrast to this eclectic, welcoming tone, if you want a highly traditional space, you may choose to skip the cocktail table altogether and use a sofa table or end tables to provide the needed surface space along with a deliciously archaic feel.
However you choose, guests and family members need enough space to walk comfortably around the coffee table on all sides – so make sure to check your measurements before making your final selection.
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