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Your Seating Area Has a Big Decision To Make: Coffee Table or Ottoman?

Setting up your home seating area can be fairly simple once you figure out the main point of the space. If the space is large enough for recliners, you probably don't need an ottoman. If the space is a bit snug, a central ottoman may be a great choice. However, if you like to dine in your seating area, a soft-top ottoman will require the use of a tray or personal table trays. If you've got the room, a central coffee table paired with footstools or a tilting footrest can be an ideal setup for putting up your feet or eating from a stable, solid top table.

Essentially, choosing between a coffee table and ottomans is the big decision you’ll need to make in any seating area. Your decision will come down to personal preference and the design of the space. There’s valid reasons to choose either option. 

Why Choose a Coffee Table?

A coffee table is an ideal choice if you want a central spot in your seating area for

  • Shared food
  • Beverage containers to pour from
  • Display items
  • Shared reading materials

If you like to show off art objects in the center of your seating area, a solid top table is critical. If you want a shared coffee pot, wine carafe or other container in the middle of your relaxing seating area, you'll have the best luck and fewer spills on a traditional coffee table.

Many coffee tables are pieces of art in and of themselves. For those who love clear glass furniture pieces, a glass top coffee table with display articles on the shelf under the solid surface can add to the visual interest of the piece from all angles. Another option is to include a mirror as a tray on the glass surface, or angled mirrors under the glass top for more visual variety.

Carefully consider the heights and activities of your pets when determining the best use for your coffee table. A wine carafe and a few glasses will work well on your coffee table unless you have a dog that will clear it with one happy wag of their tail.

Finally, many traditional wooden topped coffee tables feature drawers for storage. If you have a television or video game station within view of your seating area, you can easily put away remotes in these drawers to reduce visual clutter in the space.

Why Choose an Ottoman?

Ottomans offer a soft surface for folks to put up their feet. Smaller ottomans can also be used as storage trunks. If your seating area is centered around a television or other entertainment center, carefully consider how you will use the space a majority of the time.

If the majority of your dining in this area will be

  • out of a pizza box
  • from a popcorn bowl
  • from snack plates

then a central ottoman with a durable fabric top may be the best choice for your family.

It's very important to consider the ages of your family members when deciding between a coffee table or an ottoman. Little ones learning to walk are safer around soft surfaces. Older kids who use the space for video gaming may sprawl, hang out or nap in the space, so a soft ottoman may be a better choice. Finally, if you've got guests popping in and out, a soft ottoman can also be a temporary seating space.

New ottoman design options include an open space under the cushion where you can stash reading materials, a basket for remotes, and pet toys. If you want a formal living room look but need the extra cushion of an ottoman, you can find a tufted top central ottoman with storage in the base.