Whew! The week sure flew by fast. It’s time for another round of Design 101. This is the fifth entry in a series of seven posts, where I dissect a few designer quotes about their “secrets” of design.
Today, we are taking a look at all things table, encompassing coffee, end and occasional.
Let’s dive in!
Ms. Hampton is absolutely on point. If you have the space, 18″ is ideal, but anything in between the two works. Placing it any less than 15″ away makes it difficult to squeeze between the coffee table and sofas or chairs. Go too far beyond 18″ and a couple of things happen: 1) It creates a literal and visual disconnect between the furniture in your arrangement; 2) The table is out of reach for your guests comfort.
The main objective when placing tables in your furniture plan is for there to be a place for each guest to place a drink, without having to get up. For example, if you have a sofa that seats three and place two chairs across from it, think about where your guests can put their glass. Is it on the coffee table; between the chairs; at each end of the sofa? Sit in each available position, check where your reach extends to and you will get a good feel for where your tables should be.
I suggest that you don’t use Michael Phelps as your table placement tester, though. His wing span is greater than his height. Your tables might end up in the dining room!
I have to disagree with Ms. Barber on a couple of points. Her rules may work for clients with houses that have soaring ceilings and are filled with oversized furniture, but that isn’t how the majority of people live. My previous statement about a disconnect applies here as well.
If you go too tall, the lamplight can be really annoying. The arms on my living room sofa are 28″ high and my end tables are between 25″ and 28″ tall. The balance comes in varying the size and height of the lamps. Keep this thought in mind when choosing tables and lamps: Nobody wants to stare into a lightbulb. Spare your guests and yourself that blinding agony.
She is correct in saying that you shouldn’t be afraid of tall tables, but her suggestion for bedside tables may not be right for everyone, since we all experience light and comfort in a different way. Your preferences will change as you age, because your eyes take in less ambient lighting. Just keep in mind that your tables should speak to the scale of your furniture and the use of the lamp, no matter what room they are in.
The general rule of thumb is to keep your coffee table height within a few inches, higher or lower, of your sofa seat height. The typical sofa seat for current styles are between 19-21″, and possibly higher for oversized furniture. If you have period or contemporary furniture, chances are that your seats may be several inches lower than that.
Lower heights are prevalent on period pieces because the average size of houses and their inhabitants was smaller back then. On the flip side, with contemporary furniture, designs are usually driven by aesthetics. Low backs, seats and arms keep the focus on the architecture of the space.
Either way, low seating can be a challenge for some people to get up and down from. Factor in a table that is out of scale, and imagine a pregnant or senior guest having to hoist themselves or reach up every time they want a sip of their beverage. Can you imagine sitting on a 16″ seat with a 26″ table in front of you? Do you have to reach up to put your glass down? Can you see your guests across the room? I didn’t think so. You would feel like a toddler at the grownup table!
If you are like me, you want your guests to be comfortable. My sofa seat is between 19″-20″ high, with my coffee tables at 16″. It works perfectly for my living room, but the proportions may not work for you. Think about how you want your tables to function first, the level of comfort you desire second, and then proceed to style. A room can be drop dead gorgeous, but if it doesn’t function properly you have wasted a ton of money on a space you won’t enjoy.
Tables are another great place to use a three dimensional object–a suitcase; some boxes–to test drive the size and placement you want before you head out to shop. Imagine walking into a furniture store and being able to tell the salesperson exactly what you need. It eliminates wandering around, looking at pieces that won’t fit in with your lifestyle. A little homework will save you time and money, and allow you to head out on your hunt with confidence!
I’ve created a Pinterest board for readers to share their ideas. Let’s fill it up!