6 coffee table alternatives that will allow you to break free from the restraints of traditional design

Switch up your furniture choices and embrace a unique coffee table alternative in your home

Three coffee table alternatives. Two sleek metal side tables. Large fabric square ottoman. Tree stump side table
(Image credit: Anna Stathaki | Jessica Bennett of Alice Lane Interior Design | Paul Massey)

A coffee table is, for many, an essential piece of furniture for the living room, but why not take a different approach when choosing a design for your space and embrace a more modern and unique coffee table alternative?

Practical and beautiful, a coffee table can pull together an entire living room scheme, creating a central design feature in which to position other furniture around, as well as providing a practical surface area to store and display objects.

If you're exploring living room furniture ideas and are in need of some refreshing inspiration, we have curated a collection of coffee table alternatives to inspire you to think beyond choosing a classic coffee table design.

Coffee table alternatives

From beautiful vintage trunks to sleek side tables and oversized ottomans, there are so many fun and creative options to consider for coffee table alternatives for the home, so let us guide you through our top picks.

1. Opt for a versatile ottoman

Large living room with beamed ceilings, large windows, cream sofa, gray sofa, large square ottoman

(Image credit: Jessica Bennett of Alice Lane Interior Design, photography by Nicole Hill Gerulat)

An ottoman can be an incredibly versatile piece of furniture, and it is often the most popular coffee table alternative to embrace in the home. 

Serving as a footrest, additional seating, and providing a perfect platform to rest down books, drinks and decorative accessories and ornaments, there are many ottoman ideas you can consider for a coffee table alternative.

We love this oversized, square ottoman design in this bright living room, designed by Jessica Bennett of Alice Lane Interior Design, and how it has been elegantly styled and enhanced by a cozy throw and decorative tray, a great example of coffee table decor.

Bennett says of this living room design, 'we blended warm and cool tones with cozy textures in this room to create an inviting space for the family to entertain and hang out. It can easily seat a large group comfortably for all the parties they host.'

If you're wanting to bring in an extra element of pattern, color and tactile texture to your space, then embracing an ottoman as a coffee table alternative can be an ideal choice.

Jessica Bennett
Jessica Bennett

Jessica started her creative journey at Utah State University. Her studies there led to her work in an ad agency as an art director but building her home brought back her earliest passion: interior design.

In 2008, Jessica opened the doors to Alice Lane Home Collection, their first retail store, which has gone from strength to strength. 

2. Incorporate a pouf – or two

Modern open plan living and dining room, TV on wall, sideboard, fireplace, blue sofa, two leather poufs

(Image credit: Margaret Ash, photography by Julia Sperling)

Very similar to an ottoman, a petite pouf can be used individually or in a stylish set, and they can be a great option to consider for a small living room

'Poufs and ottomans make for great alternatives to the traditional coffee table, and are often more functional, offering a few different uses. Providing a place to rest books and trinkets, and an extra spot to sit if need be, many come with multifunctional storage options, so they can also be used to tidy away clutter. They are easy to move around and are versatile without compromising on style,' says Patricia Gibbons from the design team at sofa.com

As shown in this living room, designed by Margaret Ash Design, the two brown leather poufs create an elegant contrast with the deep blue sofa and provide an adaptable coffee table alternative that can be picked up and moved around the space with ease.

Margaret Ash Design
Margaret Ash

Margaret Ash Design is a contemporary interior design firm specializing in full-scale residential and commercial projects. Margaret and her team specialize in designs that reflect diverse influences, modern interiors, and tailored color palettes.

3. Choose a cluster of tables

Modern white living room with cream sofa, nest of tables, sculptural ceiling light, kitchen in background

(Image credit: Ginny Macdonald Design, photography by Raquel Langworthy)

Instead of choosing one large coffee table for your space, a cluster of smaller tables can be a more flexible option – and they can look beautiful, too. 

In this living room, designed by Ginny Macdonald Design, an elegant contrast is established between the tall, metal side table and the upholstered pouf that sits beneath. Creating a unique, tiered design made up of different shapes and textures, these coffee table alternatives make for a stylish design feature in the space.

Whether you choose a matching nest of tables, or mix and match through different styles and shapes, a cluster of tables can be a highly adaptable and more unique coffee table alternative – and they can provide the perfect place to embrace coffee table styling ideas.

4. Style with a sleek side table

Modern living room with two sleek side tables, large artwork on wall, blue velvet lounge chair

(Image credit: Anna Stathaki)

If you're looking to keep things simple, or maybe you feel that a coffee table may be too big for your space, then the next best thing has to be a sleek side table.

Ideal for placing next to the arm of a lounge chair or couch, a slim side table can neatly fit into those awkward spaces a coffee table cannot. 

In this modern living room above, we love how each seat has its own table placed nearby. The marble and metal side table is beautifully timeless and elegant, with the smaller end table fitting neatly under the chair, making for a more practical and moveable design.

5. Embrace a tree-stump or a carved piece of wood

Two matching armchairs either side a stump of wood acting as a side table, artwork on wall, exposed brickwork, plant, large window

(Image credit: Paul Massey)

For a more rustic living room and an organic look that celebrates the beauty of the natural world, a tree stump or a beautiful piece of carved wood could be the perfect coffee table alternative for your home – they also make pretty cute stools, too!

These wooden designs can come in all shapes, sizes and wood finishes, and can enhance your space with wonderful natural character and material.

6. A vintage trunk

A green sofa next to a wooden trunk in a living room with a pendant light

(Image credit: Jonathan Gooch/Future PLC)

2023 interior design trends are all about uniting the old with the new, making for a more eclectic style that celebrates designs from all eras.

So, if you're thinking of decorating with vintage or decorating with antiques in your space, why not use a vintage trunk as a coffee table alternative?

A trunk can not only sit beautifully in a room, making for a fun focal and talking point, but it can also be a more practical option to consider, as they are ideal for hiding away out-of-sight throws, books, toys and more – an alternative living room storage idea to try too!


Is it better to have a coffee table or ottoman?

Both a coffee table and an ottoman can work wonderfully in a living room, and which one you choose is completely down to your style and to the needs of your space – or if you have room, why not incorporate both?

As furniture design and furniture trends become more and more adventurous, colorful and bold, there are so many stand-out coffee tables to choose from, made from all manner of materials. From marble to metal, rattan to wood, you will easily be able to find a coffee table that can both complement and enhance your living room scheme.

An ottoman may be more restricted in its design compared to a coffee table, but it can be an incredibly versatile option to consider. As we have explored, they not only provide a surface area to rest books, coasters, ornaments and more, but they can also double up as additional seating and provide a supportive footrest.

With many ottomans upholstered in smooth leather or soft fabric, this use of material can also help to create a more cozy and comforting atmosphere in a room – something to consider when choosing between a coffee table or an ottoman.

Zara Stacey
Managing Editor

Zara is the Managing Editor at Homes & Gardens. She joined the brand in February 2022 as an Interiors Content Editor, specializing in writing content on interior color trends, decorating ideas and design inspiration. After studying English Literature at University, she worked as an Ecommerce Website Editor, Content Writer and Buying Intern at multiple independent businesses within the luxury retail and lifestyle sectors. She enjoys nothing more than discovering new trends, brands and products, whether that be in fashion, interior design or lifestyle.