Coffee table ideas for small living rooms – 6 ways to incorporate one without overwhelming a tiny living space

6 coffee table styles and ideas that are ideal for small living spaces, according to interior experts

A small living room with a grey velvet sofa and glass nesting coffee tables with black metal frames
(Image credit: Future PLC/Anna Stathaki)

There are several reasons why a coffee table is a must even for the smallest of living rooms - it anchors and balances the room, and provides an extra surface for decorative items while serving a practical purpose for popping teas, coffees and snacks on. But if space is tight, it can be challenging to squeeze one in – which is where our coffee table ideas for small living rooms come in.

From choosing the right finish and shape to alternatives to the box standard coffee table, our interiors experts are here to inspire you with 6 different coffee table solutions for your small living room ideas. So don’t worry, by the end of this you’ll know exactly how to incorporate one into your tiny living space.

6 coffee table ideas for small living rooms

‘A coffee table in a living room is essential, and there are so many designs and options that it’s easy to find a design that suits your room size, layout and needs,’ says Lucy Mather, interiors expert from Arighi Bianchi, about coffee table decor. ‘The main reason to add a coffee table is as a practical place to set drinks, snacks, books, and decorative items. But it can also help to define a seating area and make a room feel balanced.’

Ali Edwards, head of design at MADE, agrees when it comes to the necessity of a coffee table, pointing out it can also be an excellent living room storage idea. ‘Coffee tables can turn the seating area into a more sociable space along with adding functionality and ideally storage.’

1. Keep proportion in mind

Barker and Stonehouse Cresta Coffee Table in a living room with a corner leather sofa

(Image credit: Barker and Stonehouse)

One of the biggest mistakes you could make when choosing a coffee table for your living room is to get one that’s not proportionate to the space and the sofa, in other words to buy one that’s too large and imposing. To get this right, look to the golden ratio interior design rule, also known as 2:3 rule.

‘Crucially, avoid going for a coffee table too big for the space. It should be small enough to line up in front of the sofa and any armchairs, whilst allowing a clear path to travel around it,’ says Victoria Foster, interior stylist at ScS.

2. Choose a curved design

Barker and Stonehouse Terza Coffee Table in a living room with a corner leather sofa

(Image credit: Barker and Stonehouse)

Curved furniture is not only one of the biggest home decor trends of the moment, stemming from fascination with organic, nature-inspired forms, but it’s also a great way to optically enlarge a room and create a fluid space.

‘Choosing a coffee table with rounded edges gives the illusion of a larger room and a more open space. Typically straight angles and boxy furniture appear larger and can make a small room feel more closed in, whilst curves and soft lines open things up,’ Victoria explains.

3. Replace a classic coffee table with a side table

A living room with a green sofa and a botanical-print ottoman for a coffee table and side table with a green glass table lamp

(Image credit: Future PLC/Chris Everard)

If your living room is long and narrow, it’s likely that you’ll have more space next to your sofa rather than in front of it. So if you’re really struggling to find a design to fit the space, you can opt for side tables instead.

‘If you can’t fit a coffee table in your room, then an alternative is to place slimline side tables next to furniture to hold items you might typically place on a coffee table,’ Lucy at Arighi Bianchi says.

Victoria adds, ‘If there simply isn't enough room for a coffee table, opt for side tables instead. Designs where the base of the table slots under the sofa, with the tabletop resting over the arm of the sofa are perfect for maximising space, or opt for a style with a narrow shape that can fit snug against the edge of the sofa.’

4. Turn an ottoman into a coffee table

A living room with a pink sofa and a matching ottoman for a coffee table with the fireplace lit in the background

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

Adding an elegant storage ottoman, ideally one with classic stripes, into a space is one of the experts’ favourite ways to make a small living room look expensive. But it’s also a great way to replace a traditional coffee table and add extra seating and storage.

‘An alternative to a coffee table in small living rooms is to use an ottoman that can be used to store items like throws, books or board games. By placing a tray on top of the ottoman you can still use it for placing drinks and snacks but then use it for seating and storage as well,’ Lucy recommends.

5. Opt for nesting tables

A living room with a grey sofa with contrasting cushions and a white and grey set of nesting coffee tables in front

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore)

‘Incorporating a nest of two or three tables in a small living room is a good alternative solution, they provide convenient table space that can be tucked away when not in use to maximise floor space,’ advises Lena Gierasinska, head of product and displays at Barker and Stonehouse.

There are several nesting table designs available, one that can be positioned in front of the sofa as coffee tables, but also others that would be ideal as side tables but can be made into more when the occasion calls for it.

‘Nesting tables are making a comeback as an alternative to a large coffee table. As these can be stacked together they don’t take as much floor space when not in use, but can give the table capacity when needed,’ Lucy adds.

6. Go for a reflective finish

A peach-painted living room with a matching sofa and a round glass coffee table in front

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dominic Blackmore)

If you’re looking to make your small living room look bigger than it is, then going for a coffee table with a glass or a glossy reflective surface is ideal as it will optically expand the living space.

‘The finish helps to make the space larger – think gloss finishes or glass to keep things light and airy,’ Ali at MADE says.

Lucy agrees, ‘consider glass or a minimalist sleek design to maintain an illusion of space. A dark wood, heavy coffee table in the centre of a small room can overwhelm the space. If you choose a darker colour select a design that offers storage and is open to allow light to flow through.’

Our top picks


Do coffee tables make a room look bigger?

A coffee table can make a living room look bigger, as long as you choose one of the right shape, size and proportion to the space as a whole.

‘Coffee tables that are the right shape and size for the space do make a room look bigger,’ says Victoria Foster, interior stylist at ScS. ‘They make the space feel complete and cohesive, with the sofa positioned in relation to something as opposed to simply filling the room. Which helps the room feel functional and like everything has been styled to specifically be there.’

A small living room with a grey velvet sofa and glass nesting coffee tables with black metal frames

(Image credit: Future PLC/Chris Snook)

What shape of coffee table is best for a small space?

There is no definitive answer to what shape of coffee table is best for a small living room as it largely depends on the specific space and the sofa you have. But curved shapes make a space appear more fluid and can therefore make a living room appear larger than it is.

Lucy Mather, interiors expert from Arighi Bianchi, chimes in, ‘The general trend – especially for small living is to place large pieces of furniture like sofas and chairs against the walls of the room – so a square, round or rectangular coffee table can fill the centre of a room and help to define the seating area. When adding a coffee table into the centre of a room, it’s important to not hinder the traffic flow – especially if the room is already tight on space.

The bottom line is that no matter how small your living space is, you can always make it work with a little ingenuity and the right pieces.

Content Editor

Sara Hesikova has been a Content Editor at Ideal Home since June 2024, starting at the title as a News Writer in July 2023. Sara brings the Ideal Home’s readership features and news stories from the world of homes and interiors, as well as trend-led pieces, shopping round-ups and more, focusing on all things room decor, specialising in living rooms, bedrooms, hallways, home offices and dining rooms. Graduating from London College of Fashion with a bachelor’s degree in fashion journalism in 2016, she got her start in niche fashion and lifestyle magazines like Glass and Alvar as a writer and editor before making the leap into interiors, working with the likes of 91 Magazine and copywriting for luxury bed linen brand Yves Delorme among others. She feels that fashion and interiors are intrinsically connected – if someone puts an effort into what they wear, they most likely also care about what they surround themselves with.