Cocktail Tables vs. Coffee Tables
What is the Difference Between a Coffee Table vs. a Cocktail Table?
People often use the terms coffee table and cocktail table interchangeably. While these two pieces of furniture have many similarities, their slight differences can greatly impact your interior design. Factors like their shapes, sizes and designs, as well as how and where you plan to use them, all play a role when choosing between cocktail tables vs. coffee tables.
Wondering whether to add a cocktail table or coffee table to your layout? In this post, you’ll find valuable info to help you:
- Learn the definitions of coffee and cocktail tables
- Understand the differences between cocktail and coffee tables
- Find the common sizes of both table types
- Search for tables with unique and practical features
- Consider various coffee and cocktail table designs to suit your space
- Discover interesting alternatives to coffee tables and cocktail tables
What is a Coffee Table?
Coffee tables are a common home decor staple. Traditionally, these low-profile tables act as centerpieces to living room seating sets and hold coffee, tea and other refreshments for guests. Today, coffee tables usually serve as a landing spot for TV remotes and magazines or as a means to display decor and flower arrangements.
What is a Cocktail Table?
Cocktail tables also sit in front of your living room sofa or sectional, holding various practical and decorative knick-knacks until you need the space. However, these tables came into fashion during the 1920s when ritzy cocktail parties were all the rage. As such, many people use cocktail tables to hold mixed drinks and hors d’oeuvres during casual gatherings or elegant get-togethers.
What is the Difference Between a Cocktail Table and a Coffee Table?
The only noticeable difference between a coffee table and a cocktail table is the shape of the tabletop. Coffee tables are generally circular or oval, while cocktail tables often have a square or rectangular top. Some designers also believe that cocktail tables have sleeker, more refined silhouettes than coffee tables, which can range from simple to ornate.
While this may be true in some cases, today’s furniture and decor markets are full of exceptions to the rule. Shoppers can find round cocktail tables with clean lines and low-profile frames. You may also discover coffee tables with graceful detailing and stunning gold or mirrored accents. So, calling these pieces coffee or cocktail tables is mostly a matter of preference.
How to Choose Between Coffee and Cocktail Tables
Since cocktail and coffee tables are similar in so many ways, deciding between the two can be tough. Whatever you choose to call them, the table you select should be the right size for your space, suit your interior design and come with all the features you need to give your layout a functional boost. Keep the following info in mind as you search for the perfect coffee or cocktail table.
Typical Coffee and Cocktail Table Shapes and Sizes
When choosing a cocktail or coffee table for your home, finding the right fit for your setup is essential. Cocktail and coffee table dimensions differ across design styles, so there is no definitive difference between coffee and cocktail table sizes. You’ll need to compare the measurements of your layout and your table to determine whether it works for your space.
A general rule of thumb is to select a table that is shorter than your end tables, a few inches taller or shorter than your sofa seat and within less than an inch of your couch’s width. To avoid bumping into other furniture as you navigate your living room, you should also leave about one foot of space around your coffee or cocktail table.
Certain tables might be a better fit for your room, especially if you’re considering round vs. rectangle options. A rectangular coffee table or cocktail table works best in a roomy layout like a finished basement or large family room. On the other hand, you could put a round coffee table in a small living room or studio apartment.
Practical Coffee and Cocktail Table Features
While most cocktail and coffee tables involve serving drinks in your living room or lounge, these pieces can also come with various components that help them serve other purposes. Along with their spacious surfaces, coffee and cocktail tables may have features like:
- Built-in Storage: Some coffee and cocktail tables have storage compartments like drawers, shelves and cubbies that help you organize items like remotes and throw pillows.
- Lifting Tops: An adjustable lift-top table lets you raise or lower the tabletop to suit your needs. Use one as a desk for an impromptu office space while storing different living room essentials in the compartment below.
- Tiers: Create a layered look in your den using a tiered coffee or cocktail table in the living room. Despite their small size, these tables feature two or three surfaces on a single base for ample table space.
- Nesting Frames: If you’re decorating a small layout, a set of nesting tables can be an excellent space saver. Available in sets of two and three, these tables stack together to serve as a single table and separate into individual accent tables for use throughout the room.
Cocktail and Coffee Table Designs
Whether you’re going for an updated look or a touch of Old World charm, there are plenty of cocktail and coffee table styles to choose from. A modern or contemporary option with a chrome metal base is perfect for those who want to evoke the glamorous vibe of a roaring 20s cocktail party. You could also set up a square glass coffee table for a subtler touch of stunning style.
To create a relaxing yet sophisticated aesthetic, consider traditional or mid-century modern coffee tables with glossy wood finishes and angled legs. Prefer a more laidback look? Try setting up a table with a distressed finish to inspire the feel of a rustic cabin, a charming countryside cottage or a breezy coastal beach house.
Alternatives to Coffee and Cocktail Tables
While cocktail and coffee tables are a quintessential part of most living room layouts, some people like to have other options. Since they can hold drink trays and magazines in your living room, a cocktail ottoman is an excellent alternative to a table. Unlike a coffee table, ottomans and poufs can also serve as comfy footstools and seating.
To maximize floor space in a tiny room, you might skip the coffee or cocktail table and try a console table instead. A taller, narrower frame is the main difference between a coffee table and a sofa table. Also, most people tuck their console tables behind the couch rather than in front of it, so they’re perfect for keeping your layout open while embracing an eclectic look.
Coffee Table or Cocktail Table?
Whether you’re entertaining guests or enjoying a cozy night in by yourself, a coffee or cocktail table makes an excellent landing spot for drinks, snacks, books and more. Since designs range from simple to stunning, they are also a chic finishing touch for any setup. Consider your personal style and storage needs to help you choose between cocktail tables vs. coffee tables.