3 Reasons to Ditch Your Coffee Table & 10 Coffee Table Alternatives

BY: Aimee Algas Alker |Apr 2, 2018

At my house, our coffee table is just a surface to collect things: books, toys, my laptop, our daughter's crayons. Sometimes we eat dinner on it, but it's too low to be comfortable. Sometimes we use it as a footrest, but it's just a bit too hard. Sometimes we put actual coffee cups on it, but they're likely to get knocked over by our daughter when she's playing.

Mostly it's just a clunky piece of furniture that we walk around more than use. I'm ready to ditch it; my husband's not. For ideas for coffee table alternatives, I talked with Robin Flaherty of Chicagoland interior design shop North and Madison about reasons to put away the coffee table, and turned to Instagram—and our own site—for inspiration.

Reasons to Ditch the Coffee Table

1. Achieve a carefully curated look

Robin, a self-proclaimed "fan of mixing and matching furniture," feels that going without a coffee table is good way of breaking free of the ultra-uniform look of a furniture set. "[If] you want your space to look like every piece has been carefully hand-selected, replacing your traditional coffee table is a great way to achieve it."

2. Create a comfortable, informal—and functional—space

Traditionally, living rooms were meant to be the place where families would receive guests, much like the parlors of yore. Today, though, as Robin observes, people typically use that room for "family time and TV watching, [so] adding more comfortable, casual pieces of furniture is much more practical!"

3. Give the kids room to play

A coffee table just takes up so much real estate, and that space can be used for sprawling out with a board game or giving the kids room to frolic. A kid-friendly coffee table is a rarity. According to Robin, "When I am designing a living space for families, I always design it with coffee table alternatives. . . [My] kids love to climb, jump, sit, stand, and draw on our coffee table, so you [can] eliminate another thing that can be used as a diving board, or that the kiddos may hit their heads on as they speed on by."

What to Use Instead

After browsing Instagram, and even our own photos, I've pulled together a few things that can be used as coffee table alternatives—each of these depicts a living room without coffee table. 

1. Bench


A post shared by Amy Chalmers (@amymaisondecor) on


A great coffee table substitute, this can also double as additional seating if you're entertaining a crowd. Shop similar.

2. Lightweight Side Tables


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Modular tables can be called into duty whenever—and wherever—they're needed. They're also great to mix and match. Shop similar.

3. Ottoman

"If you replace your coffee table with an ottoman, you have a place to put your feet up and relax, suggests Robin. "Then, if you're having guests, put a big tray on top for the perfect place to rest your drinks." Shop similar.

4. Ottoman with Storage

Per Robin: "If you replace your traditional coffee table with something with storage, you have another place to tuck things away out of eyesight." Shop similar

5. Modular Cubes

"Cubes are great because they can be pushed together to create a coffee table, or moved apart to function as foot rests or even side tables," says Robin. Often you can find ones whose tops flip to reveal a tray—and precious storage space. Get the foldable storage ottoman set ($34.99).

6. Console Table

Tuck a console table behind the couch, and it's a much more convenient spot for drinks—well away from the flailing limbs of cavorting kids.Get the foldable storage set ($349.99).

7. Stools

Easy to configure and convenient, they can also serve as extra seating when needed. Get the metal and wood stools ($54.99).

8. Sofa Arm Tray Table

These bring your snacks closer to your face than a traditional tray table and can be tucked away easily when not in use. Get the sofa arm tray table ($28.99).

9. Old-Fashioned Tray Tables

These are portable and much more aesthetically pleasing than the chrome-and-particle-board iterations at your grandmother's house. Get the 5-piece faux marble tray table set ($66.99).

13. C-Shaped Snack Tables

These tuck under the couch and over the cushion, preventing you from leaning so far forward to sip your coffee that you kiss your knees. Get the sofa snack table ($54.99).