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Coffee Table vs Ottoman: Which One Is Better?

A collage of coffee table and ottoman.

On the outset, a coffee table and an ottoman are two different types of furniture. But they also have their shared similarities of being on the small side and serving the same functions as tables, storage-savers and accent pieces. These similarities make them both attractive for homeowners looking for small pieces of furniture which will be efficient for their small living room.

But not everyone have the luxury of having both. That’s why we laid out the different ways a coffee table or an ottoman can be useful in our homes as well as their drawbacks.

Related: Palle Coffee Table Ideas | Practical Coffee Table Alternatives | Terrific Etsy Coffee Tables | Parts of a Table

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Coffee Table

Gold coffee table with steel frame.

Source: Hayneedle

A coffee table in a living room is an incredibly versatile piece of furniture that offers plenty of storage space for books, magazines, remotes, and even drinks and snacks. They are lower tables and are generally placed right in front of the sofa or chairs in a living room and can’t be used as a regular table for eating unless the users sit directly on the floor or on small cushions due to the low height of the piece of furniture.

Coffee tables are generally wood but come in a number of different styles and designs, making it fairly easy to find one that will work in your home. It’s important that any time you use a coffee table for drinks, you protect the surface with coasters unless the surface is glass as water rings will ruin the surface of the table.

Coffee tables are ideal in homes where there is enough space for an additional piece of furniture. While you can buy them in multiple sizes, they are generally fairly large or you wouldn’t be able to place a large number of items on them. If you need extra storage in your home and want to be able to place your drink or a book on the furniture when you aren’t using them, then coffee tables are ideal and will fill your need.


  • Coffee tables are generally very easy to clean since they are made of hard materials. This means that any spills can be quickly wiped up without worrying about damaging the surface of the table.
  • Because they come in many sizes, they work well in most living rooms and you can choose a size that will complement instead of overwhelming the space.
  • Coffee tables are incredibly sturdy and remove the fear of drinks or snacks being knocked over. This makes coffee tables ideal if you like to have people over to watch movies as they can easily reach their food and drinks without worry about spills.
  • This furniture tends to look a lot more formal than ottomans. If you want to make your space more formal, then a coffee table will help with that.
  • Various kinds of coffee tables will offer different amounts of storage space so you can quickly and easily stash items out of the way.
  • Wood coffee tables can be stained or painted different colors to better match and complement the rest of the furniture in the room.
  • High-quality coffee tables can be made from many different materials and will all last for a very long time.
  • Oval and round coffee tables are great for breaking up an angular space and making all of the edges seem much softer. Many people like this look.
  • Coffee tables with thinner legs will appear much more open and airy and will add less visual weight to the room. This is ideal if the room doesn’t have a lot of natural light or the other furniture is dark and heavy.


  • Generally made of wood or metal with optional glass tops, coffee tables are much harder and will cause bruising if you accidentally run or walk into them.
  • While you can buy coffee tables that are round or oval, it is much harder to find these pieces of furniture and you will generally have to go online to buy them from a specialty store.
  • Since they can be very heavy, if you pull a coffee table across the floor, you will likely leave scratches.
  • Most coffee tables don’t have hidden storage, which means that anything you place on them will be in clear sight.
  • While wood coffee tables can easily be wiped clean, glasses will cause water rings on the surface and this will detract from their beauty. In addition, if this occurs, you will have to sand down the surface of the coffee table and refinish it to restore it to its prior beauty.
  • If you like an uncluttered home, then you may find that it is difficult to keep items off of the coffee table. Stacking piles on this piece of furniture will add to the clutter and chaos of your home and won’t look very nice and clean.
  • Even if you buy a coffee table with drawers, they are not likely to be very big and won’t be able to hold large or bulky items.
  • While some people do prop their feet up on coffee tables, this is not only unsanitary but can lead to items being spilled by accident.


Ottoman table with wooden block feet and walnut finish.

Source: Hayneedle

This type of furniture 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 on an ottoman, although they can be used as extra seating in a pinch. Other common uses of an ottoman are as a footrest or makeshift coffee table if you place a sturdy tray on the top to hold all items steady and to prevent spills.

You can buy ottomans by themselves if you are not interested in having a matching set with a chair and some come with storage inside once you lift the lid. This is great for people who want to have an extra place to put blankets, books, or toys that’s easily accessible but still out of view of guests.

You’ll want to opt for an ottoman if you need a piece of furniture that can work in a number of ways and if you want to be sure that your favorite chair has a matching footstool. They can be used in so many different ways and can easily take the place of a few kinds of furniture, making them great 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 to make sure that you have a cohesive look and that your furniture is all multi-purpose.


  • It’s easy to find ottomans in a number of styles that will fit with the overall feel of your living room. In addition, the upholstery can be used to complement the rest of your space and can easily be recovered if you decide that the color or fabric choice isn’t one that you like.
  • Hidden storage inside ottomans makes it very easy to clean up your living room in a hurry if you are concerned about people stopping by and judging your space. It also makes it very easy to keep extra pillows and blankets on hand without having them out in the open for everyone to see.
  • While coffee tables are hard and can cause injury and bruising when people walk or run into them, ottomans are soft and much more difficult to injure yourself on. While you can kick their wooden legs and hurt your toe, you won’t have to worry about children being injured if they run into them.
  • Because they provide extra seating in your home, you won’t have to worry about finding more chairs when you have guests over.
  • A large tray balanced on top of the ottoman will let you use this piece of furniture as a table without committing to buying another piece of furniture.
  • Depending on what kind of ottoman you buy, you can change the appearance of your room. Leather ottomans look a lot classier and will instantly improve your room.


  • In order for an ottoman to be truly useful, it generally has to be fairly large. This can make it difficult to navigate around your seating if you have a smaller living room.
  • If you use the ottoman a lot, then the upholstery will quickly show signs of wear and tear. While having your ottoman reupholstered is not difficult or time-consuming, it is still an expense that you will have to pay for.
  • Drinks and snacks spilled on an ottoman are much harder to clean up and can quickly stain the upholstery, leaving spots and strange smells.
  • The matching look that comes with a chair and ottoman set doesn’t appeal to everyone but finding a separate ottoman that will fit with the theme and appearance of the room can be difficult.
  • Ottomans are squat and low to the ground with thick legs that can hold a lot of weight. While this is useful, it will add a lot of visual weight to your room and not everyone finds their appearance very appealing.
  • While a tray on top of the ottoman will allow you to use it as a table, this is can be perilous as anything knocking into the tray can knock it and all of the contents onto the floor.
  • Plush sofas, chairs, and an ottoman can create a soft look in the home. Breaking up that look with an angular coffee table adds visual interest to the space.
  • The built-in storage in an ottoman makes this piece of furniture very bulky and heavy to move. This often means that people have to have help to move the furniture around in their living room.