Let’s talk coffee—or, at least, coffee tables. Outdoor coffee table, to be specific. Yes or no? While most people wouldn’t think of placing a sofa inside their home without adding a coffee table in front of it, many people opt not to include one in the outside patio furniture grouping. It something I find quite interesting since our goal is to create an outdoor room that feels like an indoor room and a coffee table not only helps to anchor the seating group but its functionality is self-evident.
Most outdoor furniture sets offer a companion coffee table but it is not necessary to match the group. Selecting a coffee table that does not match the group offers a way to add another element and to express your unique personality. Think outside the box. You may come up with something not originally intended to be a coffee table, but may be just the thing you need to put your spin on your outdoor room design.
Often, an ottoman will do nicely as a substitute for a coffee table. With a flat surface to put a tray on, an ottoman can do double duty as a table and a place to rest your feet.
Smaller pieces, like small ottomans or tables, grouped together can take the place of one larger coffee table. The advantage here is that each one can be pulled away from the center and used as a side table next to a chair elsewhere. However, if you are the kind of person who likes everything to be in place where you planned it to be, this option may not be the best one for you.
A found piece, such as a chest or small backless bench, is a terrific solution to the coffee table dilemma. Be mindful of the construction material of the piece you are using outside, especially if being used without a roof overhead. Moisture and sun may be harsh and cause rapid deterioration. When using pieces in the outdoor room that are not meant to be used outside, always consider how dear the piece is to you, whether the cost is a factor when it must be replaced, and is there something about the construction of the piece that really should not be exposed to the elements. (For instance, anything with mosaics or mirrors should have you questioning the adhesive that is holding those pieces on the framework or surface.)
Painting an old table (make sure they are wood and not MDF or a fiberboard construction) is a great way to add some color as an accent. The natural weathering will enhance its charm and look like it was planned. Distressed furniture is so popular—you’ll be right in style.
Consider using a coffee table of another material—one that may belong with another set but adds character to your grouping. Pay close attention to the size, scale, and theme of your outdoor room when mixing materials.
Don’t be afraid that the piece you found is too small for a sofa. I often use an end table in front of a sofa or love seat. If it is round, I simply place it off center. If it is rectangular, I call it a tea table which is a little higher than a coffee table.
Remember, when using a love seat, you can get by with two end tables and no coffee table because each person has a place to set a beverage . However, on a sofa, the person in the center (and during a large crowd, you will have someone sitting in the center) needs a place to set their plate or glass. If you choose not to use a coffee table, try to have something available that can be moved into place for the event.
I say go for the coffee table, or, at least, a substitution. If the matching one to your outdoor furniture is too large, try to find a smaller solution but don’t leave the space empty. Be creative and on the lookout for something that may not be intended as a coffee table but is something you like and feel will compliment your furniture.