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When picking out furniture, it’s important to not only ensure that the styles match, but also that everything goes well together height-wise. Although coffee tables are nearly always lower than the couch, if you have a short sofa, you may be wondering “can a coffee table be higher than a couch?”
Sometimes, a coffee table can be higher than a couch. We’ve unpacked this concept to show you some situations in which you can use a taller coffee table. We’re also going to take a look at the height difference that you should consider when choosing a coffee table.
There are plenty of visual examples to help you understand what will work best in your home so keep reading to find out more!
Why Coffee Tables are Lower than Sofas
Before we jump into the rest of the article, let’s take a quick look at the history of coffee tables to discuss why they’re lower than sofas.
As their name implies, coffee tables were originally designed to be used for coffee. Their use emerged during the Victorian Era when sofas became popular. The first coffee tables were actually placed behind couches and much higher so they could be accessed by the people sitting on them.
When styles changed and the tables were placed in the center of the room, they became shorter. This style change may have been influenced by Japanese tables that were extremely short because they sat on the floor to eat.
Here is a modern example of a Japanese coffee table that shows exactly how these would have been used:
One of the other reasons coffee tables are kept short is so that you can see over them. This is particularly important if you have a group of people gathered around them. A tall coffee table that then has decorations on top will make it difficult to see everyone.
Finally, designers have used lower coffee tables because the other furniture in the room is generally the focus. They want your eyes to be drawn to the couch, chairs, and other design elements. The coffee table should simply compliment the room rather than drawing all the focus.
When You Should Choose a Taller Coffee Table
Although it’s generally recommended to use a coffee table that’s the same height or slightly shorter than your couch, there are situations in which a taller coffee table may be preferred.
If You Have a Shorter Couch
The first situation in which you may need to use a coffee table that’s taller than your couch is if you have a low sofa. It may then be impossible to find a coffee table that’s short enough for it, so you’ll have to go with one that’s taller.
If You Entertain Often
Another time to consider a coffee table that’s higher than your couch is if you have people over often. A taller coffee table is easier to reach, so if people are using it to place food and drinks, it’s better to have those closer with a higher coffee table.
This also applies if you use your coffee table to eat off of since you want to have your food easily accessible. You don’t want to have to keep stretching and bending down for every bite.
If You Have Small Pets
With well-behaved pets, you won’t need to worry about the height of your coffee table. However, if you have an opportunistic dog or cat, you may want to use a taller coffee table that’s above their eye – and nose – level. That way, they won’t be able to snatch your snack when you’re not looking.
How Tall Should a Coffee Table be in Relation to the Couch?
Now, let’s take a look at how tall a coffee table should be compared to your sofa. This will help you decide how tall your coffee table is. After all, if it’s too tall, it will look just as awkward as it would if it were too short.
Interior designers generally recommend having a coffee table that’s the same height as your couch cushions, or else within four inches of that level.
Here’s an example of a coffee table that’s exactly in line with the height of the couch. It’s easy to see why this height is often used as it’s visually appealing.
So, when choosing a coffee table that’s taller than your couch, you want to try to keep it within four inches of the height of your seat cushions. If it’s too tall, it will start to look like you have a dining room table in the middle of your living room which is not a good look.
Here’s an example of a coffee table that’s simply too tall. It looks a bit awkward, and we can’t imagine trying to talk to anyone else in the room when the table is nearly at eye level while seated.
Here’s another example of a coffee table that’s just a bit too tall for the furniture around it. It would work much better as a side table in this setup since it’s blocking the views of everyone seated.
Now, let’s look at this living room. As you can see, the coffee table is just a few inches higher than the couches. It looks natural, and everybody can easily see over the table to talk to each other. This is a great example of how well a tall coffee table can bring a room together!
Average Height of Coffee Tables Verses Sofas
To get a better understanding of how you can choose a sofa and coffee table that work well together, let’s look at some of the average heights of these along with some examples of each.
Average Height of Coffee Tables
The average coffee table is between 16 and 18 inches (40 and 47 centimeters).
Here are a few examples of coffee tables that measure between 16 and 18 inches in height:
However, if you are looking for a taller coffee table, you can also find ones that are between 19 and 21 inches (48 and 53 centimeters) in height.
Here are some taller coffee tables to choose from:
There are also some coffee tables that are even shorter than this, but we doubt any of those would be taller than your sofa!
Average Height of Sofas
When talking about the height of a sofa, we’re focusing on the height of the seat. When measuring this, you want to start at the floor and end at the top of the cushion.
The average sofa is between 17 and 18 inches (43 and 47 centimeters).
You may also find sofas anywhere between 15 and 20 inches (38 and 51 centimeters).
Here are some couches that have a seat height of 17 to 18 inches:
Now, let’s take a look at a few sofas that have seats that are below 17 inches:
If you have one of these couches or one of a similar height, you may find yourself needing a taller coffee table. Just keep in mind that it shouldn’t be more than a couple inches higher than the level of the seat.
How to Choose a Coffee Table
In addition to height, there are a number of other things to consider when picking out a coffee table. Once you know how tall you want your coffee table in relation to your couch, you can use these other factors to choose the best coffee table for your living space.
This is the first thing you want to think about because of how color affects the whole mood of a room. There’s a big difference in how a room feels when you use light versus dark furniture, for example.
Here’s a picture of a light living room where the coffee table matches the furniture:
Depending on the look you’re going for, you may want to contrast your coffee table and couch. Here, there’s a dark-colored coffee table that brings the room together because it’s contrasted against the white couches:
The next thing to consider is the shape of your coffee table. You can find them in nearly any shape, so consider how you want them to go with your furniture.
A round coffee table, for example, may go better with over-stuffed or rounded furniture, like in this example:
It can also help to soften and warm the look of a living room be being paired with angled couches. Here’s an example of how that works:
Square or rectangular coffee tables work the opposite way. They help maintain a style if sharp lines are the goal or can help to change up the lines in a room when there’s too much roundness already.
Here are a couple of examples of how to use square or rectangular coffee tables in a space:
The overall size of a coffee table also needs to be taken into account. A coffee table that’s too big can overpower a space and may interfere with movement. However, if it’s too small, it may look awkward in an area.
Here’s an example of a coffee table that looks just a bit too big for this area. It looks even bigger because of how small the other pieces of furniture are and how thin the couch cushions are.
Now let’s look at a coffee table that’s a bit too small for its location. Situated in the center of the furniture, nobody can even reach it to set their coffee down on this table.
The ideal length of a coffee table is about 2/3 of the length of your couch, so be sure to keep that in mind while shopping for a coffee table of any height.
You’ll also need to consider the style you’re going for when picking out a coffee table. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of style options when it comes to coffee tables.
Here’s a great example of a modern coffee table that goes perfectly with the style of the room:
The final thing you’ll want to consider is the cost. Keep in mind that when well cared for, coffee tables can last for many years. For that reason, it’s better to focus on getting the perfect style rather than a great bargain.
Even so, you don’t want to spend more than necessary on a coffee table. Here are a few coffee tables of various heights that are under $100. If you’re trying to decorate on a budget, these are a great place to start:
Want More Design Tips?
Hopefully, we have answered your question of “can a coffee table be higher than a couch?” As you now know, it can be, but you need to be careful to keep it within a few inches of your sofa’s seat. Having it too much taller prevents people from seeing each other and can look awkward.
By choosing the right coffee table, you can really pull a space together, so be sure to use all of these tips when shopping for coffee tables.
If you want more design tips, be sure to check out the rest of our blog. We have tons of information that will help you perfect the look of every room in your home. Check out this post on how to make your living room warmer.