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How to Choose a Side Table

Side tables are the workhorses of our living spaces. Technically speaking, they are any table placed at the side of a room, hence the name, or which isn’t the main feature.

If it isn’t a dining or coffee table, it falls into this category. But just because they aren’t the room’s main feature doesn’t make them any less important.

How to Choose a Side Table

When it comes to finding the perfect side table, you may find yourself completely overwhelmed by options. They fit a wide array of uses adding functional space to entryways and living rooms.

However, you can make selecting your side table a little easier by going through a few requirements to narrow down your search. Consider the following:

  • How do you intend to use the table?
  • Where will you place it in the room?
  • What is your existing furniture and room style?

Understanding those three basic questions will help you figure out the details of what you need in a side table.

1. Height

When it comes to tables, height is really the main factor in whether or not it is comfortable and functional. If the tabletop is too low or you have to bend or reach awkwardly, it increases the chance you will knock objects over. For end tables, select a height that compliments the furniture or space you are placing it into.

For the living room or study space, if you are placing it next to a sofa or chair with an arm, use that as your guide. Keep the end table at around the same height as the top of the arm. Going above that height will be uncomfortable to use, but an inch or two below should work just fine. For most living room sets, you will be looking for an end table 22-24 inches tall.

If your sofa or armchair doesn’t have arms, you can get away with a much shorter end table. Just keep the table a bit above the seat. And if you are looking for an option for the entryway or at the side of a room, you’ll want a table that fits roughly at the standard table height of 28-32 inches tall. This range keeps the tabletop at the perfect height and should hit your wrist when standing.

2. Size and Shape

The functionality and room layout will determine the size of the side table you need. For anything functional while still allowing room for a lamp or vase, your table should be at least 22 inches in diameter. But if you plan on only setting a single lamp or display item on the top and don’t see yourself using it further, a smaller surface area is fine.

The most common placement of side tables is at either end of a sofa or loveseat. As with height, your sofa size will help guide you to the appropriate size. Look for an end table that fits entirely within the sofa’s depth. A square table should nestle in perfectly between both pieces of seated furniture. If it juts out to the front or back, you are likely to bump into corners.

Speaking of corners, if your furniture layout has you placing the table next to an area, you frequently walk and turn a corner, you may want to consider opting for a round design. The lack of a pointed edge will give you more space to turn the corner without accidentally knocking into the point as you go for that morning cup of coffee.

For side tables in hallways or the edge of rooms, you don’t want them to impede walking space, so opt for tables with a depth sitting between 12-18 inches. You will pick up functional tabletop space and storage room in the increased length.

3. Functional Needs

Wood is the most widely used surface for tables for a reason. It is highly durable when finished correctly, and in the event it is damaged, it can be sanded and repaired relatively easily. However, if you often forget to use coasters, ceramic, stone, metal, or tempered glass tabletops are an excellent option for durability. They fit right at home whether your existing space is modern or cottage-inspired.

One final need to consider is if you require additional storage in the space. Side tables can offer discreet storage for the living room that is within reach when sitting.

Look for an end table with a lower shelf if you need storage for books or other large objects. Meanwhile, a small drawer is perfect for all those remotes to hide them away when not in use.

4. Style

Deciding on the style of furniture you want is usually the first thing we discuss, but you are likely incorporating them into an existing room aesthetic when it comes to the side table. The size and material needed for the table to function as you need will determine a significant amount of your choices.

With the number of options available on the market, you can find any finish, simple or ornate, that you might want.

Coordinate with your existing furniture pieces. For side tables going in living rooms, opt for a simpler design, as there are usually many other furniture and decorations in the room already. For entry or other hallway side tables, select something that makes a statement and pull together adjacent rooms.

Where Form Meets Function

Whatever size and style side table you decide on, make sure your final selection is well made, durable, and doesn’t sacrifice form or function. Johnston Casuals has been creating handcrafted contemporary furniture for over 40 years. Our pieces are manufactured to last a lifetime with a welded steel base complemented by other high-quality, durable materials.

Our pieces are made for real customers, not to sit in inventory. If you are interested in one of our end or side table designs, contact one of our trusted sellers located around the country.


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