I’ve experienced the tricky dilemma of deciding between a coffee table or ottoman for upgrading my living room. Like me, you may find coffee tables take up valuable space in a small room, while an ottoman seems too small to serve as extra seating.
Since starting this website in 2014, I’ve tried different coffee tables and ottomans, letting me compare their features, downsides, and benefits. If you’re deciding between a coffee table vs ottoman, this guide will help you pick based on your style and living room needs.
Unveiling the Perfect Centerpiece: Coffee Table vs Ottoman
It’s hard to decide between an ottoman or coffee table, especially if you only have enough budget for one. That’s why I laid out the different ways a coffee table or an ottoman can be useful in homes, along with their downsides.
|Use with Furniture
|Meant to be used with couch and chairs
|Can be used as an extra seat or footstool to prop the feet
|Many styles available like modern, rustic, industrial, Western
|Styles tend to be more traditional, classic, or Victorian
|Minimal to none
|Not portable, hard to move
|Lightweight and easy to move around
|Flat top provides good serving space
|Round or tufted top not ideal for serving
|Limited custom options
|Custom fabrics and sectional storage available
A coffee table in a living room is an incredibly versatile piece of furniture. Coffee tables offer plenty of compartments and surface areas for books, magazines, remotes, and food.
They are ideal in homes where there is enough space for additional furniture. While there are various styles and size options, they are fairly large. You could even eat at this table if you’re okay with sitting on the floor. It’s still possible to find smaller coffee tables, though.
Coffee tables with thinner legs will appear much more open and airy, adding less visual weight to the room. This is ideal if your living room doesn’t have a lot of natural light or the other furniture is dark and heavy.
- Easy to clean: Wipe food spills quickly without worrying about damaging the surface
- Sturdy: Don’t need to worry about food or drinks being knocked over
- More formal than ottomans: Coffee tables make your space more formal and put together
- Limited storage: While some have lift-tops or storage underneath, it’s often limited
- Can scratch floors: They are usually heavy and can damage floors when moving
- No footrests: While some people prop their feet up on coffee tables, this is not only unsanitary but can lead to items being spilled by accident.
An ottoman is a type of furniture that is low to the ground, upholstered, and often comes as part of a set with a matching chair. There are no arms or a back, although they can be used as extra seating in a pinch.
You can buy ottomans by themselves if you aren’t interested in having a matching set with a chair. Still, there would be enough space for people who want an extra place to put all their blankets, books, or toys while being easily accessible.
They can be used in many different ways, replacing other furniture and home decor. This makes them a great style option for smaller homes or if you are on a tighter budget and can’t afford to buy a few pieces. Choose an ottoman to complete your room when you want a multi-purpose furniture piece.
- Extra storage: Some come with built-in storage, allowing you to hide clutter or bulky items
- Doubles as a table: If you place a tray on top, this acts as a table without committing to buying another piece of furniture
- Adds seating: If seating is limited, ottomans provide additional seating
- Can look worn: If used a lot, it can begin to show wear and tear
- Harder to clean: Drinks and snacks spilled on an ottoman are much harder to clean up and can quickly stain the upholstery
- Bulky appearance: Ottomans are squat and low to the ground, adding a lot of visual weight to a room
Comparing an Ottoman and a Traditional Coffee Table
To help you decide between a coffee table or an ottoman, consider their similarities and differences.
While coffee tables and ottomans are pretty different, they share a couple of similarities, including:
- Typically both smaller pieces of furniture
- Can both act as tables, organizers, and accent pieces
These similarities make them attractive for homeowners looking for furniture that is efficient for a small living room.
Ottomans and coffee tables are both functional pieces of furniture. However, weighing the differences can help you decide whether to pick an ottoman or coffee table.
Design and Style
Whether you want something traditional or modern, you can find ottomans and coffee tables in various shapes and styles that suit your style preferences.
- Coffee table: This furniture looks much more formal than ottomans. Wood coffee tables can be stained or painted in different colors to complement the rest of the existing furniture in the room, especially the sofa. DIY coffee tables are also typically made from wood.
- Ottoman: It’s easy to find ottomans in a number of styles that will fit with the overall feel of your living room home decor. However, finding a separate ottoman that will fit a living room’s theme and appearance can be difficult.
When choosing an ottoman or coffee table, consider the furniture’s purpose. Check if it aligns with your needs, particularly in terms of functionality.
- Coffee table: It is a lower table generally placed right in front of the sofa or chairs in a living room. They can’t be used as a regular table for eating unless you sit directly on the floor or have small cushions due to their low height.
- Ottoman: You’ll want to opt for an ottoman if you need something that can work in a number of ways. Ottomans double as a footrest, they provide storage, and they can be an additional seat.
The material is one of the most notable differences that can help you decide whether to invest in an ottoman or coffee table. It affects the overlook look and feel of furniture.
- Coffee table: Most coffee tables are made of wood. Some can have optional glass tops. These components make them much harder and cause bruising if you accidentally run or walk into them.
- Ottoman: Ottomans often use leather, faux leather, or vinyl. They are also filled with foam padding or polystyrene beads.
Final Verdict: Ottoman or Coffee Table
For most homes, an ottoman is a better choice than a traditional coffee table. Ottomans provide versatile extra seating and storage while being lightweight and easy to move. Meanwhile, coffee tables are less practical for small spaces.
You can decide which suits your interests based on the right size, shape, and style. There are good reasons to select either option depending on your priorities and room setup.
Coffee tables are the better choice if you:
- Have a larger living room space
- Prefer the look and functionality of a traditional coffee table
- Plan to frequently use the surface for serving food and drinks
Meanwhile, ottomans are preferable if you:
- Have smaller living rooms or tight spaces
- Need help in organizing board games, blankets, books, toys, etc
- Want a multi-functional piece that can also be used for seating
Frequently Asked Questions
Is It Better to Have a Coffee Table or an Ottoman in a Living Room?
Overall, an ottoman is the better choice for most living rooms because it provides versatile storage with a smaller footprint than bulky coffee tables. The styling and customization options for ottomans also make them easier to incorporate into various living room decors.
Why Use an Ottoman Instead of a Coffee Table in Small Spaces?
Ottomans are preferable to coffee tables for small spaces because their compact size and light weight allow them to fit into tight living rooms and be easily moved around. They also provide the added benefits of extra seats and storage.
Can You Have a Coffee Table With an Ottoman for Extra Seating?
Yes, you can use a coffee table alongside an ottoman in the same living room. Having both pieces creates additional surfaces for decor and serving needs while still providing the seating and storing benefits of an ottoman.
Those looking for classic decor with a solid serving surface may want to go with a coffee table. However, ottomans are a great functional choice for smaller spaces needing sectional compartments and seating flexibility. Consider your needs to decide which option checks the most boxes on your living room wish list.