AMY NEUNSINGER

That “sofa plus chair plus coffee table” setup has been the default formula for living rooms for so long, but what if the best coffee table for your space wasn’t actually even a coffee table at all? Perhaps your living room doesn’t have the right layout or size to accommodate a traditional coffee table and would be flattered by something a little less expected, or maybe a large table isn’t in the budget right now. Whether you’re looking for alternative surface ideas for a sitting room, family room, or living room, these creative coffee table ideas from designer spaces will inspire you to think outside of the box. In fact, they’ll make you forget you ever even wanted to stick to tradition.

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1

Cluster of Stools

Cluster a few stools of a variety of sizes together for some interesting dimension and character. They also provide you with some flexibility if you need extra seating when not being used as tables, or to be brought into another room. The high gloss glow and layers of fabrics in this living room designed by Kristin Hein and Philip Cozzi draw us in immediately.

2

Bar Cart and Bench

This lounge situation designed by Beata Heuman offers up two alternative coffee table ideas: a bench and a bar cart. A low and long bench with an upholstered seat can be perfect for lower seating while a bar cart can function as a side table (and is obviously an ideal place to rest your beverage).

3

Book Stacks

This trick is about to be a serious game-changer for anyone with a huge collection of coffee table books and magazines but a limited amount of storage space and no budget for a new table: Simply stack your books high enough to become a makeshift surface to hold living room decor and drinks. Just be sure to use coasters so as to not ruin your treasures.

4

Skirted Table

If you don’t like your coffee table but also haven’t decided what to replace it with yet, cover it in a tablecloth and then hem the edges so it looks polished and deliberate. This floral one in a living room by Reath Designs softens up some of the other elements, like the exposed brick.

5

Two Smaller Tables

Place two smaller tables side by side instead of using a singular long and narrow coffee table if you want to be able to play around with different configurations. The glass surfaces on the tables in this living room designed by Balsamo Antiques and Interior Design make a minimal visual impact so the moody colors and decor can stand out.

6

Vintage Trunk

The carefully collected yet laidback vibe in Elizabeth Georgantas‘ Nantucket living room is perfect for an alternative coffee table. In this case, it’s an upcycled trunk, a motif enhanced by another trunk peaking out in the corner. It’s a good alternative to baskets if you’d prefer something with a lid.

7

Side Table

In this case, the empty space between the armchairs is too narrow for a coffee table. Not to mention, it’d block the warmth of the fire. Instead, designer Shon Parker put a small side table next to the chair to hold any drinks, snacks, or florals.

8

Low Dining Table

If you’re turning a stair landing, small spare room, or an empty corner within a larger open floor plan space into a sitting area, it might not make sense to add a central coffee table. Whether it blocks traffic or visual flow, a small tulip table on the side is a great alternative. It can double as a breakfast nook this way, too. Design firm ETC.etera repeated the circle motif with the spotted round rug and silver sconce to make the table placement feel anything but random.

9

Ottoman

A reupholstered ottoman will play the role of a coffee table and footrest depending on what you need it for. It’s also a great option for anyone with small children or pets since the edges are soft, and it allows for an extra pattern play opportunity if you choose a fun fabric. The bold triangle print adds a little edge to the floral motif springing up throughout this sitting room by Les Ensembliers.

10

Geometric Cubes

These geometric stools in a family room designed by Ray Booth can be arranged in many different ways. They also add some style and aesthetic intrigue within the otherwise neutral space.

11

Slim Console Table

In a large living room with two different sitting sections, a slim console table situated between sofas of the same length will help create both separation and flow. Looks aside, it also provides an extra surface for candlestick holders and florals, as exemplified by this living room designed by Darryl Carter.

12

Lidded Storage Basket

A wicker storage basket is a good way to corral throw blankets and board games or other extras you may keep in your hang out spaces. Designer Liliane Hart added a tray on top of this one for a more stable and solid surface for things like vases and drinks.

13

Chess Board

Make a game room double as a sitting room with a central ottoman and then put a tray or chessboard on it depending on the activity. We love the contrast between the round ottoman and square chessboard in this space designed by Veronica Soloman.

14

Crate and Tables

In a bohemian space, pretty much anything can be repurposed into a coffee table and look both intentional and elevated—a crate, an old drum, what have you. In this case, Commune Design added an eclectic array of side tables for ample surface space for glasses and books, etc., near the seating and then kept floor space clear for cushions and rugs.

15

Nothing

This living room designed by Danielle Fennoy skipped the coffee table altogether. Because the large modular takes up the majority of the space, there’s simply no need. Keep a tray handy to use as a surface if needed.

16

Tiny Pedestal

If a traditional coffee table seems too bulky for your space, opt for a sculptural side table with a low profile. Raji RM added one to complete this reading nook so there’s a home for books and tea. It’s like a living room, but with fewer, smaller pieces. If your furniture is taller, opt for a pedestal.

17

Tree Stumps

Treestumps can make for great coffee tables, especially in eclectic and organic spaces like this one designed by Leanne Ford Interiors. They’re painted white for a softer, cohesive, and personalized look here.

18

Repurposed Item

Dramatic proportions call for dramatic decor. Kingston Lafferty Design exaggerated the proportions of the high ceilings even further by playing with scale. The super low-to-the-ground table is both cheeky and elegant. You could get recreate a similar aesthetic by repurposing a found object.

19

Industrial Work Cart

Repurpose a work table for an industrial look that also happens to be mobile. These are particularly great on outdoor patios since they can withstand the elements and age only adds to their personality. The green patina in this media room by Brett and Kara Philips proves our point.

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