Console Table Vs Coffee Table: Which Do You Need?

Deciding between a coffee or console table can be tricky. These two styles of table differ dramatically and serve very different purposes. You have to assess the size, style, and functionality when it comes to your room's tables. Do you need something to act as a decorative item or more of a functional and essential one? We've researched the styles and uses of console tables and coffee tables to help you decide which is best for your space. 

Coffee tables play a functional role in your living space, while console tables are more decorative. A stylish coffee table can make a statement but is typically utilized for holding essential items. Coffee tables are positioned centrally, easily within reach of the sofa. Whereas console tables primarily display decor and are positioned in an entryway/hallway, against a wall, or behind a sofa. 

As we dive further into this topic, we'll suggest tables for your space and elaborate on how you can utilize and decorate each table type. Please keep reading for inspiration on whether you need a coffee table or console table.

A console table and coffee table collaged photo, Console Table Vs Coffee Table: Which Do You Need?

Console Table Vs Coffee Table 

A console table is higher and thinner in width than a coffee table. It is intended to showcase art or decor. Typically, console tables are positioned on the outskirts of the living room, such as against a wall or behind the sofa. This is a good table choice if you want an eye-catching display. Some console tables offer a lower shelf, but the bare space beneath can also be decorated. 

Follow this link to see this console table on Amazon.

By design, coffee tables invite you and your guests to set down food, drink, and other items on the tabletop. Coffee tables are prominently positioned in the center of the room within easy reach of the sofa's seating. Some offer storage space beneath. Coffee tables can also be used as a resting place to put your feet up, depending on the tabletop style and your preferred use of the table.

Follow this link to see this coffee table on Amazon.

How long should a coffee table be in relation to the couch? How tall?

Your coffee table does need to fit into the space to be aesthetically pleasing. The length of a traditional coffee table usually measures shorter than the couch in front of it.

A contemporary living room with a white sectional sofa, white coffee table, white dividers, and a huge frameless window on the side

This example above is a modern example, with a great visual of coffee table versus sofa lengths. You can see how this coffee table is shorter than the sofa while maintaining functionality for ease of maneuverability around it to and from the sofa.

A yellow loveseat with a white coffee table on the front

This smaller room is another great example of proper coffee table sizing. You can see that the loveseat fits perfectly behind the coffee table. The cool thing about a coffee style table is that they come in many heights and widths to pair with a variety of sofa sizes.

Coffee Table Styles

Standard Design 

This coffee table shown above is a traditional style that also has shelving. We have found this amazing example on Amazon. Follow this link to view it on Amazon. 


A multi-tiered coffee table allows for decoration or even more livability while having an artsy touch. The design of your coffee table does not have to be boring for it to be usable. Follow this link to view this table on Amazon. 


This glass table effortlessly blends into any location while providing that essential usability. A glass table will give off a more modern and elegant final look to your living space. Follow this link to view this glass coffee table on Amazon. 


Nesting tables allow for freer movement within the space and additional, functional space. If you have people over and need some extra table space, this is probably the set for you. Follow this link to see this coffee table nesting set on Amazon. 

Can I use a side table as a coffee table?

A side table is smaller yet taller than a coffee table. It is intended to be located near a sofa or armchair as a location to set down items (book, teacup, etc.) or position a table lamp. Side tables are more comparable to console tables in design and purpose.  A coffee table is low to the ground but allows ample tabletop space for placing foods, beverages, the TV remote, and anything else you wish to set on it. Some coffee table styles provide additional storage beneath the tabletop, as an enclosed space or visible shelf.

It is possible to substitute a side table as a coffee table, but not generally recommended due to the height and size difference. You might, instead, provide additional side tables without using a coffee table. It all really depends on your style preference for the room's layout and intended use of the table. 

What do you put on a console table?

Console tables are designed to showcase art and home decor within your space. The higher and thinner dimensions of this table style allow for an elegant feel. A great item to put on your console table would be a vase with flowers or even a sculpture. Many console tables serve as multipurpose to showcase decor as well as store books or even your keys. We found some great examples of how to style your console table at home and have shown them below.

A wooden craftsman made console table with vase and a mock up picture frame on the wooden paneled wall

This first example comes as our favorite when styling a console table at home. You can really see the detail and time this designer spent creating this console table's aesthetic. The large glass vase paired with the beautiful plant opens up this area and draws the eye. The use of neutral and complimenting colors also made this space feel very high end and visually stunning. 

Retro inspired living room with a comfortable sofa, wooden console table, and a ladder with blankets

This next console table is more essential in useability. You can see this table is holding books and supplies for your home office. This is a great way to keep things organized while maintaining a visually pleasing final aesthetic. 

We just had to throw this table into the mix due to its usability and beauty. This glass table is a stunning, handy piece for any room. Follow this link to view it on Amazon. 

To Wrap Up

To decide whether to use a coffee table or console table, ask yourself how the table will be used as either necessity or simply decorative. Consider your room's layout and available space. With the inspirational pieces above, you'll be on the right start toward choosing your table!


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