You finally made a decision on your brand new sofa, which took months, and now that you stand back to admire, you're coffee table is just not cutting the mustard. It's too small, too short and totally the wrong vibe. What do you do!? Where do you go?! JAC is here to help! Let's break this down into a two part series: function and purpose, size and proportion
Function is key. Ask yourself, how much do you use this room and who spends the most time here? Is it a "look don't touch room" or is this your main living space? For professional loungers and families of multiple children or small children we like the idea of an upholstered ottoman as a coffee table. This can be used as extra seating or foot rest as well as a place to stack pretty books and candles. These are sturdy, so no fear of things toppling in a wrestling match, but keep in mind if you want to rest a drink or anything fragile, provide a tray that you can take on and off as needed. If you're afraid of stains with upholstery in this scenario don't forget leather!
Oversized ottomans are of course not your only option. Anything with a sturdy base or of substantial weight with rounded edges are great for families. However, If you live alone or just sans kids and want something a little lighter, the world is your oyster and refer to part two of this series.
Let's talk size and proportions. Your coffee table should align as best as it can with your sofa's seat height. For a tangible reference, it should be no more than 4" lower than the sofa seat height. As far as proportions go, it should be at least half the total width of your sofa. A massive sofa with a tiny coffee table is not only utterly useless but frankly, just really sad in a room. If you find a coffee table style and finish you adore but it's a bit too twee, you may have the option to double or triple it up, if it's the right style to do so.
Now, if you have a sectional it can get a bit tricky. You want something that fits in that niche nicely and that keeps the proportions aligned but doesn't get swallowed in the mix. In this instance you can go with a rounded piece that rolls nicely into the inlet or even an asymmetrical organic shape will fit nicely too. The same rules apply as above as far as height and length. Don't count out the traditional squares and rectangles, just make sure you give yourself enough clearance to walk in the nook without bruising your shins.
Now of course, there are exceptions to all design rules, and not everyone is as obsessive about proportions and style as we are. However, these rules will help guide you towards looking a little more like you know what you're doing when curating your home.