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Square vs. Rectangle Coffee Table

A collage of different types of coffee tables.

After your sofa, your coffee table is one of the most important features in your living room. But it’s not easy picking the right coffee table.

Whether you have a standard sofa or one with a chaise or sectional, picking out the right shape to match your decor is far easier said than done. So, which should you get, a square or a rectangular coffee table?

Your coffee table should be fulfilling its function for the living area and blend well with your other furniture. Rectangular coffee tables are better suited for smaller rooms with two sofas facing one another, while square coffee tables work well with larger rooms with more furniture.

Coffee tables come in all shapes and sizes, not just squares and rectangles, and when deciding on which shape to get, you need to consider how it will tie your seating area together and its practicality.

For instance, are you looking for a place to rest your drink? Are you going to put your feet on it? Do you have a large sofa with a chaise or just a couple of armchairs? What kind of aesthetic are you going for?

But before we get there, let’s look at what square and rectangular coffee tables are and how they’re different. Once you’ve figured that out, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions about what you want.

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What is a Square Coffee Table?

Living room with a white sofa and a square coffee table that matches the wooden shelving unit.

A square coffee table is pretty self-explanatory. It’s simply a coffee table that is equal in length and width, with four sides.

You can buy square coffee tables that vary in form (some may have four legs, some may have two, some may have none at all), size, material, and color. And the great thing about square coffee tables is that they are compatible with almost anything!

Suppose you have a large sofa, an armchair, and a couple of ottomans, or a generally mixed-and-matched living space with several items of furniture.

In that case, square coffee tables are great because a) they are accessible from all sides, and b) they take up very little space in comparison to a larger, rectangular counterpart.

Especially if you have a sectional sofa, a square coffee table will complement the “L shape” very well, and you can make their corners line up, and everything will look orderly.

What is a Rectangular Coffee Table?

Rectangular coffee table in wood finish sitting on a navy blue area rug.

Also fairly self-explanatory, rectangular coffee tables also have four sides, but they are longer than they are wide. They also come in various forms, colors, materials and may have some extra design features that are less common in square coffee tables, such as drawers for extra storage space.

Rectangular coffee tables work best with standard sofas or sofas with a chaise for extra length. They’re also great space savers and provide you with some clearance that allows you to walk around the room with ease.

They also have larger surface areas than square coffee tables, which is important if your living space doesn’t have much room for a flower arrangement or to place your drinks.

How Are Square & Rectangular Coffee Tables Different?

Black and white photo of a square coffee table over wide plank flooring.

The only thing to truly distinguish a square coffee table from a rectangular one is its shape. They’re both still coffee tables. Styles, colors, materials, and design features aren’t limited to a single shape.

Their costs will only differ in how much material is used to make the coffee table (i.e., the smaller, square coffee table might be cheaper). Still, the price is more dependent on the materials used and design features that vary across both square and rectangular coffee tables.

Rather, the main distinguishing features between square and rectangular coffee tables are what they make the furniture surrounding them look like; how they fit in your living area and affect the room’s “flow”.

So, if you understand the basics of choosing the right coffee table for your home, you’ll figure out which coffee table will be the best fit for you.

Choosing the right coffee table

Living room with a modern coffee table and gray sectional accentuated with blue and green pillows.

The basics

There are a few general rules to consider before buying a coffee table that you need to consider long before deciding on which shape to get.

It would be devastating to find the right coffee table only to take it home and see that it doesn’t fit. So before you get started, it’s time to bring out the measuring tape and evaluate exactly what size you need.

In terms of the height of your coffee table, it should never stand anything more than two or three inches above or below the seat of your sofa. In terms of practicality, a coffee table that’s too short or too tall is far from ideal, and it just doesn’t look good.

When deciding on length, you need to consider how much space you need to walk around in your room. You need to have enough space to move around the room comfortably when the coffee table is placed in the center of the room.

The best rule of thumb is to leave at least 17 inches between your coffee table, the sofa, and other furniture.

Square vs. Rectangle Coffee Table for Standard Sofas

Suppose your living room has a floor plan with two identical sofas facing each other. In that case, your best bet is to go for a rectangular coffee table or, better yet, two square tables placed alongside one another for a larger surface area and visual effect.

Bear in mind that, with standard sofas, you want your coffee table’s length to be roughly between ⅓ to ⅔ the length of the sofa.

This is because you have full access to the coffee table from either sofa, and you can also place armchairs or something else to sit on at the short ends of the coffee table.

Square coffee tables are just too small for the standard living room setup, and you should favor rectangular coffee tables based on practicality alone.

Square vs. Rectangle Coffee Table for Chaises & Sectionals

Thanks to how dynamic the sofa can be, you can opt for either a square or a rectangular coffee table when it comes to sofas with a chaise.

As long as the coffee table is no more than ⅔ and no less than ⅓ of the length of the sofa’s horizontal seat, it’s not going to fit. Fortunately, both square and rectangular coffee tables can line up with the edges of the sofa and its chaise.

As for L-shaped sectionals, your best bet is unquestionably a square coffee table that’s between ⅓ and ⅔ the length of the seat. You want the outside edges of your square coffee table to line up with those of the coffee table.

These principles apply in a room with several sofas and armchairs, where a square-shaped coffee table will take up the least amount of space and be accessible from all sides.

The downside to square coffee tables, especially in a “busy” living room is that the smaller surface area offers far less by way of practicality. But if you can’t walk past your coffee table, it’s not very practical either, is it?

Other Coffee Table Shapes to Consider

Living room with wainscoted walls, a gray loveseat, and a round nesting coffee table over a patterned area rug.

While square and rectangular coffee tables have a lot to offer in terms of creating a flow for your living space, there are plenty of other options out there that can offer you something different, something that fits differently with the counters that pull your furniture together in a cohesive unit.

Other shapes for you to consider are round, oval, hexagonal, kidney-shaped, wedged, triangular, and octagonal. 

Each shape has its own variations in design features, materials, colors, and cost, but their unique shapes can really stand out and offer large surface areas, making them very practical.

However, you can never square and rectangular coffee tables because they’re timeless and will never go out of fashion.