Coffee Table vs Cocktail Table (What is The Difference?)

What Is The Difference Between A Coffee Table And Cocktail Table?

Can you imagine life without tables? Regardless of their size and shape, tables belong in our homes and outdoors, especially in our living rooms since they are one of the most used everyday pieces.

That’s why we decided to look into two of the most famous types of tables: cocktail tables and coffee tables…

  • When you hear coffee tables your mind immediately goes to the low tables we use in our living rooms or other areas where they sit in front of sofas and chairs ready to be used for placing drinks, remotes, books, etc.
  • On the other hand, when you hear the word cocktail table the first thing that comes to many people’s minds is the high tables that are found in bars, or at parties; and you won’t be far from the truth, these tables are referred to as cocktail tables.

However, oftentimes you will notice that people are using the word cocktail tables to refer to the low tables we use in the living room areas and both terms cocktail tables and coffee tables are used interchangeably.

Even the hardcore furniture enthusiasts who passionately discuss the difference between sofa and couch can be found guilty of mixing these terms. So what is the difference between these two tables?

So when it comes to low tables the answer is quite simple to remember, the shape of the table, whether it is oval or rectangular/square defines whether the table is considered to be a cocktail table or a coffee table.

What Is The Coffee Table?

A coffee table is a low table specifically designed to be placed in front of a sofa or upholstered chairs; coffee tables have an oval shape and they were originally made in Britain during the late Victorian era.

The purpose of a coffee table is to provide support for beverages, remotes, magazines, books, and other smaller items that you use regularly when you are sitting on the sofa/upholstered chairs.

Coffee tables come in all styles and sizes, so it won’t be hard to find a good coffee table for anybody’s taste.

What Is A Cocktail Table?

A cocktail table is more versatile than a coffee table as it can be lower or higher; the higher types are specifically designed for restaurants and bars.

While the lower version – the one we will be discussing here is specifically designed to be placed in front of sofa or chairs for placing on vases, beverages, remotes, laptops anything you may use daily, or when entertaining guests, just like the coffee tables.

The difference from the coffee table is that low cocktail tables have a rectangular or square shape and not an oval shape like the coffee tables.

What Do You Need To Consider Before Buying A Coffee/Cocktail Table?

Before jumping into your car on your way off to buying your coffee/cocktail table, there are a few things you need to consider and keep in mind:

The overall aesthetics of your place

Your coffee table/cocktail table needs to fit nicely into your living room and be in balance with other furniture elements; therefore if your sofa has visible legs in a certain style, let’s say lean and high, then you can choose a table with shorter chunkier legs or one with no legs at all.

On the other hand, if your sofa has no legs, then choose a table which has higher skinnier legs. Balance is key to well-decorated space.

Where it goes

Consider the place where your coffee-cocktail table will stand and its distance from other elements, this will help you get the idea of how big your coffee/cocktail table needs to be…

Traditionally, your coffee/cocktail table should be 12 to 18 inches away from your sofa or other seating area and at least 24 to 30 inches away from any other furniture piece like a TV unit or a fireplace.

Additionally, there needs to be enough space for walking around it so forget to place it too close to any other piece of furniture or wall.

Consider the height of the coffee/cocktail table

It shouldn’t be too high or low, choose one which is one or two inches lower or the same height as the cushions of your sofa.

Consider the width of your cocktail table

If you choose a cocktail table in a rectangular shape, consider the classical rule of sizes: the table should be 2/3 of the length of your sofa.

Decide whether you want a coffee table or cocktail table

If you lean towards oval shapes when you go to the store ask the employees to show you the coffee tables, and if you prefer rectangular or square shapes, ask for the cocktail tables.

Your own needs & the material of the coffee/cocktail table

When and how will you use your coffee/cocktail table? Do you need one with storage units that will help you store some items, or do you need one solely for putting on drinks and a remote?

Will you use it to put your feet up while watching TV, (in which case you should consider ottomans as well), or perhaps you have children and you need it to have no sharp edges?

If you have a tendency of serving drinks, consider having a top that is heat resistant so you won’t have to worry about putting your hot cup of coffee on the table and leaving a mark.

Simply put, based on how you will use it and what your needs are, choose the shape and material of your coffee/cocktail table.

What Are The Benefits Of Owning A Coffee Table?


Ameriwood Home Parsons Modern Coffee Table, Black


The benefits of owning a coffee table are:


  • You get a place where you can put your beverages;
  • You have a nice spot for beverages when entertaining guests at your home;
  • Your magazines, books, remote have their own place, close to your reach;
  • If the model you choose has drawers, you get extra storage units where you can put some of your stuff;
  • It enhances the overall look of your room;
  • Since it has no sharp angles as it comes in an oval shape, it is considered more child-friendly. Of course, you still need to take into consideration the overall design and the material it is made of;
  • There are plenty of them to choose from and you can choose the one that shows off your style, preferences, and taste for interior (especially if you go with the designer tables which are quite new and popular on the market;).
  • Coffee tables are great for decorating and sorting bigger items that don’t fit on your regular shelves.

What Are The Benefits Of Owning A Cocktail Table?


Flash Furniture 24'' Round Wood Cocktail Table with 30'' and 42'' Columns



Similar to a coffee table, cocktail tables also are beneficial to have as:


  • They are great for entertaining and storing beverages when you have friends over;
  • They help you organize your home as they offer space for storing items that you use regularly, and daily, especially if the model has drawers or storage parts;
  • Since they come in many different styles and designs they can help you express your style, and contribute to the overall aesthetics of the room;
  • They are the focal point of the living room, making your home look complete;
  • They are a great gathering place for the family as the entire family can gather around and play a game, or enjoy snacks while watching movies.
  • If smaller in size (width), they can be used as side tables.
  • They are great for decorating, especially if you are a person who loves holidays, you can easily use the decorations on the cocktail table to express your cheerful, festive mood.

What Are The Different Ways You Can Use A Coffee/Cocktail Table?


Since coffee/cocktail tables are quite similar and differ only in their shape, their usage is pretty much the same. Nevertheless, there are several different ways in which you can use your coffee/cocktail table:


  • Store food, beverages, cocktails, wine, and cheese or your favorite cup of coffee;
  • Hosting an adult game night and storing cards, games alongside snacks;
  • Host a sushi dinner party as your guests sit on a floor or on cushions and enjoy the food placed on your coffee/cocktail table;
  • Display your collection of objects that simply don’t fit your bookshelves;
  • Use it to add high design touch to your overall living room, by adding glossy art, decorative items, and elegant flowers like orchids;
  • Host a kid’s birthday party by adding a few smaller chairs or cushions around the table and you won’t have to worry about kids falling down when they try to reach over the big dining table;
  • Create artsy space for kids: add a tablecloth on the top, lay a drop cloth or craft paper beneath it, and put the pencils, painting, and color supplies on the table, and watch your kids go artsy.
  • Express your holiday mood by decorating your coffee/cocktail table with festive items and bring holiday magic into your living room.
  • If smaller, you can use it as a side table when you need one.

In Which Ways Can A Coffee/Cocktail Table Enhance The Room?


We already said that the coffee or cocktail table is typically the centerpiece of the room. Choosing the right model of coffee/cocktail table can help you enhance the room by:


  • Providing a centerpiece and focal point of your living room;
  • The design of your coffee table (it’s the material, shape, having legs/no legs) can help in balancing out the furniture elements you already have;
  • Their design contributes to the overall aesthetics of the room;
  • They can be used for expressing art and collection items on display, right in the focal point of everyone;
  • Their practicality contributes to the overall functionality and practicality of the room.

Shape aside, cocktail and coffee tables are pretty much the same as they are used in the same way and they are both equally practical and gorgeous.

Choosing the right model won’t be hard as both types come in many different styles and designs. Whatever model you choose to go with, make sure that it meets your needs and is made of high-quality materials, ensuring long-lasting use.

You may also be interested in Coffee Table vs. Ottoman for the Living Room.