Unexpected Coffee Table Ideas and Links To Great Options!

Source: Ballard Designs

One of the best parts of being a Real Estate Stylist is helping people to see the potential in their “things”.  Sometimes we are so attached to something serving one purpose that we don’t see that it could also be something else.  And one spot that we routinely have to get creative with is coffee tables.

I find it odd that so many people lack a coffee table because, to me, it is physically unsettling to me.  Am I the only one?  I’m sure a bit of therapy could help me understand why I literally feel like I am falling off the side of cliff when a room is missing the anchoring element of a coffee table.

So clearly, to save myself from that sensation of plunging down an embankment, I always want to find a substitute…fast!  But, is it really that important to have a coffee table you may ask?

Yes and no.

Styling: Rethink Home Interiors
Photo Credit: Ashlee Hall


When I googled the question, “do you need a coffee table”, (I know, I am a total weirdo for googling that–but wait until I tell you about my dream about grout sometime!)  I found so many articles saying that the coffee table was not needed or it is dead and I was honestly shocked…BUT…in every article, they showed other things being used as a coffee table stunt double!  Ha! Validation!

Honestly, though, in styling a room to sell, creating a strong focal point for a photographer to shoot around is incredibly important for your online listing photos.  A coffee table helps provide that focal point and is an opportunity for adding a layered look to your room when you accessorize it.

In my new book, “Sell Your House in 72 Hours”  (pinch me!)  I share lots of images of simple, beautiful ways to style a coffee table.  And in my new online course Stage Your House To Sell Mini-Course we go into even more depth about how to style every space in your house.

Styling: Rethink Home Interiors
Photo Credit: Ashlee Hall

But, I digress….back to the topic of what to use as a coffee table!  Oh wait, before I do that though…a couple of basic rules about coffee table size might be helpful.

What about the length…

Should be close to two-thirds the length of the sofa.

So, if you have an 84″ sofa, you are looking at filling a space that is approximately 54″ in length.  That’s a pretty big coffee table so that is the max that I would go.  Plus, most things that you would substitute for a coffee table aren’t going to be that long anyway, so you’re good!

What about height…

The coffee table should be the same height as the top of your sofa cushions or up to 2″ shorter.  That means that typically, you would be looking at 15″-18″ high.

I wouldn’t go any taller than that but if we are looking for a substitute sometimes you gotta work with what you have and that may mean it’s a little taller than you need.

Ok, now we really, really are getting back to the topic at hand…

Here are some items that you probably already have that could be used as a coffee table in a pinch.  And if you don’t have them around, this can give you some inspiration for reasonably priced alternatives.  (ps–if you stay with this post until the end, I have lots of great links to sources for your coffee table alternatives!)

Upholstered Bench



Two Lack End Tables From Ikea

Source: Little Green Notebook

Garden Stools

Round Coffee Table Stools Square



View Full Size


Steamer Trunk

16 Old Trunks Turned Coffee Tables That Bring Extra Storage and Character

Source: Decoist

In case you can’t find any of these things in the attic, garage or basement, here are some nice options online.  Click the number below the image to take you to the product page.  Happy Shopping!

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