Elana Safronsky, Managing Editor
Friday, March 20, 2009 1:50 PM EDT
Having come into existence – as we know it today – sometime around WWI, the occasional table known as the coffee table certainly doesn’t lack in choice. So much so that I think it's awful brave of me to tackle it as a Top 5 Friday.
The pillars of our Coffee Table Buying guide are; usage, style and proportion. But the truth is, although it’s a great idea to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible before slapping down the credit card, you’ll never really know until you get it home. So for me, the cardinal rule of coffee table shopping is to ask, “Can I take this home and try it out?” In lieu of that, make sure you can return it if a test-drive is not an option.
As far as my picks go, I’m just going to throw it out there and weather your storm. At the very least, you can always expect me to explain myself…
Hollywood Regency/Vintage Glam
Clockwise from the top; 1950s Italian Regency "Wheatsheaf" table via 1st Dibs, room via High Fashion Home blog, Restoration Hardware table
When I think of glass coffee tables I can only see them in the above styles – GLAM! Modern glass coffee tables are not for me. If I’m going to do clean lines I’d rather see them on a more visually engaging material like wood, marble and other stone. What I have in my home is a bad ‘70s version of the Restoration Hardware table, except it’s round, and has hooves feet instead of wheels. What I want however, is that original ‘50s Italian Regency “Wheatsheaf” table that despite it’s apparent ubiquity, is actually hard to find.
Molo "Soft Paper" Collection
Made entirely of craft paper, these irresistible collapsible tables/ottomans/whatever-you-wants’ tap into your childhood love of cut-out paper garlands, ornaments and even Slinkies. The honeycomb paper forms hold up virtually as good as anything else, taking on a silk-velvet-like patina as the edges of the honeycomb paper soften with use. This eye candy comes to you from Molo Design of Vancouver, and if you take a moment to peruse their website, you’ll find collapsible walls, lights and some amazing glassware.
The NO-Table Coffee Table
The Pottery Barn Table via Loving Living Small Blog
Ha! Take that, coffee table! One of your biggest purveyors, Pottery Barn, has betrayed you by doing away with you. Although not current, the photo above indeed comes to you from a past Pottery Barn catalog showing how a nice stack of fair-sized coffee table books can sit pretty as a table! I love it, and in fact, I think I’m going to attempt it as a DIY. Watch for it here (not kidding.)
The New Industrial
From the left; coffee table by Pottery Barn, custom concrete tables by Commute Home
What was the rough planks on big, utilitarian wheels, is now the bronze/steel/iron right angle frame topped by a prized piece of reclaimed wood, sometimes concrete, and even marble – this is the new industrial chic. And I dig it! The name of the game with these tables is juxtaposition; rough materials are offset by slim, elegant proportions; rigid angles and hard metal are softened by the organic patina of reclaimed wood or porous concrete and the striations in a natural stone; industrial utility meets refined materials and elegant lines. Did you buy that? Honestly, I'm not putting you on…
The Zen Den
From the left: coffee table by West Elm, room via Living Pod Blog
Ok, this can be backbreaking, but it just looks so good! Available in a myriad of materials like Ash wood, black – red, as shown above – lacquer, and all kinds of engineered veneers and natural stone, but basically, what you’re looking at is a rectangular box that sits on imperceptible legs or on no legs at all. And I love it. And in case you’re seeing this as something any descent highschool shop student can build, I will humbly offer that the catch is all in the proportions and finishes. If either of those factors are even slightly off, this type of table can look just like…well, a box, and not the alluring coffee table bling that it is. Also, I love how these just scream for indulgent floor pillows -- I also love a floor pillow…
What do you guys think? Anything to add or strike from the list?