Why is it even called a coffee table?
Depending on who you are and what your lifestyle entails, your coffee table can at any given time hold various objects from books and remote controls to coasters and candles, so why have we exclusively and collectively deemed it ‘the coffee table’?
Arguably with so many surfaces in one household, it was named to differentiate itself from the dining room table, kitchen table and any side tables or sideboards your living room may already have. The ‘coffee’ part was likely added because the living room is seen as a place to socialise with friends and family between meal times.
Historically, the first coffee house in the UK opened in Oxford around 1650. The hype and popularity of the establishment was due to its exclusivity. Like a modern day pop-up shop, the concept of just chatting and drinking coffee at midday was new, exciting and very European. The second UK coffee shop, Penny Universities, opened two years later in London. The entry fee guaranteed you a coffee for just one penny! It was named so because a visit there was said to be an education in itself, with customers coming from all backgrounds and means.
However, these coffee shops are not quite the birth of the coffee table. These first establishments resembled modern bars and taverns. The popularity of coffee drinking is said to have spread to the rest of Europe from the late 1800s due to Ottoman Empire and their taste for tea and tea tables. The blueprint for the modern day coffee table can also be linked to the Anglo Japanese movement in the UK in which we embraced the low, Japanese style of table.
Modern coffee tables have since adapted to family life and new technologies. They’re made for convenience and are now produced to be able to hold cups and mugs without blocking the television, mantlepiece or focal point of your room.
What should I look for in a coffee table?
A good coffee table should be sturdy and suitable for your home. Whether that means clumsy kids, teething puppies or the the odd coffee ring. A designer coffee table for example might not be suitable if you have any of the latter but this shouldn’t mean you have to sacrifice style. The best thing about vintage and antique coffee tables is that they often bare preloved marks from past families and many look better with age.
Italian coffee tables are more commonly made from materials like marble and walnut wood with glass or mirrored elements and slick, curved edges while Mid Century coffee tables are almost always exclusively teak wood with sharper, rectangular bodies.
Whatever your preference in terms of storage, style and size invest in a coffee table that meets your needs and will stand the test of time. If you do need a little help picking a new coffee table, then use our filters above to narrow down your choice. You can filter by style, price and condition to find one perfect for you.