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Does Your Living Room Need to Have a Coffee Table? Alternatives?

A living room with wooden coffee table.

Your living room absolutely does not need a coffee table, although you might feel that having one is necessary. If you’re asking about it though, you might be ready to try, or even prefer, some alternatives and that can be the perfect opportunity to get your creative juices flowing.

Whether or not you need a coffee table in your living room really depends on the type of space you want to live in and how you plan to use it. Ask yourself some questions first, like:

  • Do friends visit often?
  • Do I prefer traditional decor?
  • How out of the box do I want my space to feel?
  • How creative do I feel like getting?
  • What will feel the most like home?

Your answers to the questions above are highly individual and there aren’t any wrong responses. Naturally, you want to feel comfortable in your home and what that looks like to you will be unique.

What Do You Do if You Don’t Have a Coffee Table?

A living room with rug area.

When you don’t have a coffee table, you’re forced to think of alternatives if you want something to fill that space. Don’t worry though if creativity isn’t your thing. That’s okay.

The good news is that living rooms are versatile and there are plenty of non-coffee table options out there if you’re planning to try something different. Here’s a little jump start to help you generate a few ideas. The following suggestions range from conservative coffee table alternatives to non-traditional options that you might feel like trying on for fun.

Storage Ottoman

An ottoman chair with storage area.

Storage ottomans make a space look simultaneously classy and comfortable. There are so many varieties and price ranges to choose from with this option that it’s difficult to go wrong.

A storage ottoman, like the name suggests, is a traditional ottoman that doubles as a cube where you can store stuff. Typically, ottomans are shorter than the average chair height and can often be used as a place to rest your feet.

Ottomans can also be rectangular with short legs. You can use ottomans as extra seating space. Additionally, a storage ottoman is a nice center piece in your living room to replace the traditional coffee table.

Small End Tables

A small end table with lampshade in an empty room.

A functional living room will look different depending on how you spend most of your time in it. Usually, a coffee table is where you set your coffee when you relax on the couch. So if this is important to you, you’ll want something to have a flat, sturdy surface.

A living room table doesn’t have to be a traditional coffee table. Rather, you can use one to three end tables to fill the space and fulfill the function. Because end tables don’t take up much space, this option is ideal for smaller spaces like apartments or small condos.

Tree Stump Table

A living room with customized wooden coffee table.

A tree stump is exactly what it sounds like, right in the middle of your living room. It’s a design alternative that is practical and functions much like a coffee table, but it gives your space a certain vibe.

When you opt for something like that, it’s a good idea to know that this is the type of ambience you want because, for a nice piece, you’ll likely spend no less than $500. So, depending on your budget, a tree stump coffee table can be a nice, rustic alternative.

Besides cost, design elements like this give a specific feel to your space. If you’re looking to give your living room an outdoorsy feel, a tree stump is about as raw as you can get. It’s a good idea to consider whether you’ll want a particular theme every day or not.

Repurposed Item

Maybe you don’t want to veer too far from the traditional, you simply want something a bit different. I wanted to create a new look in my home several years ago and I had my heart set on a very specific living room table–wooden, round, low to the ground, and wide.

To avoid spending a fortune, I unscrewed the top of my dining table and used it to replace the top of my short glass coffee table. I achieved almost exactly what I wanted by doing it myself and it’s a great alternative to buying a new coffee table, especially when you’re on a budget. Alternatively, you can purchase a table top separately from the base to customize and achieve the type of look you desire.

Area Rug

A living room with sofa and area rug.

An area rug is one alternative to a living room coffee table if you’re going for a down-to-earth, open feel. If you think that you can do without a living room table altogether, then this may be a good alternative. It’s an ideal space for kids who like to get comfy on the floor to watch movies. In addition to a nice area rug, you can mix it up with large pillows or poufs for more seating options.

Area rugs are a fun way to mix things up without committing too hard to an alternative design idea. You can easily fold rugs away if you grow tired of the look. 

Sometimes it’s difficult to know if you’ve successfully created the look you want out of your space. According to experiential design expert Stephanie Purzycki, “If the room doesn’t make you happy, it isn’t done.” A simple rule of thumb, perhaps with a bit of trial and error.