If I had to choose between a coffee table or end tables in my living room, I’d go with end tables.
In fact, that’s what my wife and I did; we don’t have a coffee table and instead have 2 end tables (along with 2 ottomans, both large enough for trays).
I much prefer end tables over coffee tables because they’re so much more convenient. Who wants to bend over and reach for food and drinks on a coffee table when you can comfortably swing your arm to the left or right without really moving any other part of your body.
Moreover, if you’re in a recliner or have your feet up on an ottoman, the last thing you want to do is get up for a sip of coffee or a bite.
And that’s what makes this article and photo gallery so great; end tables are a must-have furniture item in any living room or family room.
The question is, how do you go about choosing the best end table for you.
That’s where this article comes in. Admittedly we don’t tell you what are the best end tables. That’s an impossible task because it really is a personal choice and of course depends on your interior design and furniture.
What we can do is give you an idea of the different types of end tables available to help you categorize them in your mind for your end table purchase.
Table of Contents
- End Table Cost
- How many end tables should you buy for your space?
- A. Design Types
- B. Shape
- C. Material
- D. Legs
- E. End Table Features
- F. Mix or Match?
- G. Where to Buy End Tables Online
- H. Photos of My Favorite End Tables
End Table Cost
Fortunately, you can get away without spending too much money on end tables and still up with something quite nice.
$100 to $300 offers a huge selection. Of course, as with anything in life, you can spend a fortune, but it’s not even close to necessary.
There isn’t one universal end table height. They vary because the ideal height for your space varies.
The right height matches the height of the top of the arm rest to which furniture item it’s adjacent to. Sometimes if in between 2 furniture items it won’t be perfect, but that’s a good rule of thumb. As you shop for end tables you’ll notice that they range from 20 inches to 30 inches in height; the bulk being somewhere in the middle.
How many end tables should you buy for your space?
Our living room has 2 wingback chairs flanking the fire place, one long sofa and one club chair. We have end tables between the club chair and sofa and then again between the sofa and one of the wingback chairs.
A good rule of thumb is you definitely want to provide end table access for each seat in the room. The one exception may be the middle seats on a sofa. So, if you have one sofa and one love seat, you’ll want at least 2 end tables, but 3 is better.
If you’re like us, we could definitely use one more, but the 2 serves us fine.
A. Design Types
The main types pertain to design. Your options are:
2. Nesting Tables
Nesting tables was a design fad started in the 1980’s. It’s actually still good today, but the problem is while it looks like you get more functionality, you actually don’t. How often do you actually un-nest? Probably not often. The cost is no shelves/drawers or compartments below… so while it looks highly functional, I don’t think it is.
The C-table design is such so it offers tray space over the sofa/arm chair. The bottom slides underneath and so you get an eating tray. It’s great for family/rec rooms but not the living room. It’s a very utilitarian design.
I like the trunk look but there’s one problem. If you have piles of stuff on top of the table, accessing the trunk means moving all that stuff. Our end tables are trunk style and whenever we need to get inside, it’s a hassle. The big plus side is it offers a lot of great storage space.
The next consideration pertains to what shape of end table do you want. Generally, there are 3 shapes to choose from:
Actually the half-circle is a great end table shape if you like curves because it sits against the adjacent furniture flush. It’s efficient and looks great. Check it out.
What’s the best end table shape?
Overall all, rectangle is the most popular. Clean lines with furniture such as tables is the design style of the day. I too much prefer rectangle tables over round tables. However, if your living room is more ornate, round can add a nice touch.
Like most furniture, you have options with respect to the material(s) it’s made from. Table materials include wood, metal and glass. There’s plastic too, but I wouldn’t consider a plastic table so I won’t discuss it.
Wood/manufactured wood is very popular. It’s probably your best choice for an end table. You can avoid the wood look (if you don’t like that look) by buying a painted version… end tables come in pretty much any color you can imagine.
Here are examples of each material.
Doesn’t that look totally out of place. Every time I look at a marble/granite end table I think it’s a misplaced kitchen island. I’d avoid this material for sure.
I’m not a huge wicker/rattan fan, but funnily enough our two end tables are rattan and even funnier is I like them. They’re trunk-style. They’re light. They look good. But, you do need to place a tray on top if using them for beverages.
One design feature of any table that significantly impacts overall look and feel are the legs. End tables come with several types of leg designs. They include:
1. Four legs
2. Three legs (tripod)
Not the sturdiest design. I prefer 4 legs or solid base myself.
Classic design that is the most ornate in design. This type of end table is great for the formal living room.
4. Flat base
5. Cross Legs
The cross-legged end table is a casual, cottage design that can look great. However, as with most cross-leg designs, they aren’t as sturdy as 4 legs.
E. End Table Features
As if the above weren’t enough to make deciding not so easy, there are several other features you must consider before making your choice. Yes, end tables can and do have features. While some are very, very simple in design and functionality, others offer more functionality.
9 features to consider include:
At the very least, unless a pedestal base, most end tables have at least one shelf.
There are many fabulous end tables with drawer options. I like the drawer/shelf combo look.
3. Tray Top
Functional, but ugly. It looks too much like “we eat here a lot” which is not the look you want.
If you’re going for that glam look, mirror up! I’m not a fan, but in the right room it could definitely look cool.
5. Storage Compartment
I love storage and so a cupboard storage compartment with your end table is a smart choice.
I wouldn’t buy an end table with casters but you may have the need. There aren’t too many but they’re out there. Here’s an example:
7. Adjustable Height
If you have adjustable height needs for your end tables, they do exist. They aren’t super popular, but you can find them. Overall I think they’re ugly, but you can find a gem here and there. The following is an example of quite a nice adjustable height option:
I’m a big fan of table leaves but not so much for end tables. It makes sense to be able to expand a dining table, but an end table? Not so much. Nevertheless, here’s an example:
Interestingly end tables come with built-in lamps. That’s kind of convenient assuming you like both the end table and the accompanying lamp. Here’s an example.
F. Mix or Match?
If you buy more than one, should you buy all the same or mix n’ match designs? This is a tough question. Personally, I like symmetry so I think matching end tables look best. However, if you like a more eclectic design or your room is a more eclectic design, it can be better to buy different end tables for each spot.
IMPORTANT: All end table photos above can be purchased at Wayfair.com (one of my favorite online furniture stores).
G. Where to Buy End Tables Online
Wayfair has amazing selection. They have over 10,000 end tables for sale on their site. You definitely want to check them out.
When shopping for end tables, don’t forget to check out inventory at Amazon. They have a huge selection.
Hayneedle is a higher end furniture store with some real beauties. Don’t worry, they have reasonable prices, but if you’re looking for something a little high end, you must visit Hayneedle.
4. Joss & Main
Joss & Main offers amazing furniture collections. You definitely want to stop by there when shopping for furniture. Click here for Joss & Main.
H. Photos of My Favorite End Tables
Here’s a gallery featuring more of my favorite end table designs. I chose a smattering to reflect different designs and types for variety from a variety of online furniture retailers. Click the images to visit the retailer.