The Ultimate Vintage Coffee Table Buying Guide
Whether you consider yourself a caffeine fiend or not, the coffee table has become a non-negotiable in the modern home. So much more than a simple sofa anchor, it has evolved into the heart of a living room’s conversation pit. It’s a place for drinks to rest post-clinks, and cheese boards and game boards to temporarily call home. Give it fitting acclaim by opting for a vintage coffee table that pairs famously with your other furniture. Not exactly sure what that consists of? Read on for our no-fail coffee table guide.
Your Style is…
For those that shun the notion that metallic be reserved for New Year’s Eve, there’s no better choice than a Regency coffee table. Clad in sparkling Lucite, brass, or chrome, these regal vintage coffee tables (or should we say cocktail tables) are an ode to an era of by-gone glamour. Among the most classic Hollywood Regency motifs are the wheat sheaf, the swan, and the ram (or ibex). Look for these motifs to be integrated into brass table bases and play up their shimmer by pairing with glass tops, demure rugs, and low-slung furniture (preferably upholstered in some kind of eye-popping velvet like chartreuse or cheetah).
If the amoebic nature of L.A. swimming pools speaks to you, consider something retro. From the cool-looking kidney bean shape to the biomorphic blob, vintage Mid-Century Modern coffee tables offer up a clean, unfussy look that perfectly complements straight-lined furniture. For something a little less daring, look for Danish Modern designs (which are typically rectangular in shape), or used coffee tables from Scandinavian makers. A favored Scandinavian design showcases an oblong top raised on splayed pencil legs—it’s simplistic perfection.
Rustic and Worldly
Does a pouf and pillow-filled, floor-level dining experience fill your heart with a sense of unbridled glee? If so, we deem you a contender for used coffee table of the rustic and worldly variety. These are the tables crafted of reclaimed woods, knotty pines, and paint-washed boards. Surface area is expansive, inviting guests to sink down to table level and divulge in game playing and eat-with-your-hands-style dining. Nothing too precious here, which is exactly what a laid-back household with bohemian, farmhouse, or coastal vibes requires.
After you’ve cued up your style, it’s time to ask yourself what you require of a vintage coffee table. Simplifying your process; however, is the reality that your chosen style probably dictates a good amount of what’s worth searching for. For instance, a glam vintage cocktail table is unlikely to offer any storage. Still, if you’re not married to a style just yet, or your chosen style offers a little wiggle room (and trust us, most do), go on and make a list. Read on for some options to consider and the styles that satisfy.
A feature that most lends itself to rustic and global coffee tables, we love a table that can help keep little messy secrets, just that—secret. Some coffee tables offer hidden lift-up compartments, but more common among vintage pieces are time-worn trunks that can double as tables or repurposed drums and barrels. Farm-style coffee table also frequently offer floor-level shelving, which is perfect for lining up baskets.
Those who consider cocktails for twelve just another Wednesday night might do well to consider a coffee table that can double as seating. To fit the bill, look for for block-style coffee tables, or Parsons tables with panel-like legs. Materials like stone and burl wood hold up well to unconventional uses, but we recommend staying away from materials like lacquer or acrylic which may scratch easily.
Need a table that can take a hint and hightail it out of sight when needed? Go for compact pieces that might typically be dismissed as side tables—think garden stools and ottomans topped with trays. Group these petite kicks in a vignette of two or three, and you have a one-of-a-kind table that’s nomadic, yet no less stylish-looking for it.
Once you have a coffee table in mind (or, okay, several!), it’s time to break out that tape measure. Scale is imperative with any piece of furniture, but it’s especially important when it comes to coffee tables (because, to be honest, they’re startlingly easy to get wrong). To start, remember that your coffee table isn’t going at it acapella. Measure your sofa to ensure that your coffee table won’t overhang it. Ideally, a coffee table should stop 2” short of your sofa on either end.
Height is also important to take into account. Having your table top line up with your sofa seat height is ideal, but feel free to take liberalities here, as a room with a bohemian vibe might opt for a table much lower than the sofa.