End Tables vs Side Tables (What is The Difference)

End Tables vs Side Tables

Let’s look at end tables vs side tables and find out which one is best for your circumstances. We can include side tables, nightstands, and bedside tables for that matter – buying furniture can be pretty confusing! But, it doesn’t have to be…

end table vs side table

The truth is that most of these tables are interchangeable, and some of them are just different names for the same thing.

The Primary Difference Between End Tables And Side Tables is Their Placement!

  • End tables are constructed specifically for placing at the end of a couch or beside a chair
  • Side tables can be used anywhere, but they are meant to be placed on the sides of your living room.
  • Further, a side table is defined as any small table that is not the coffee table and not built to be an end table.

In this article, we focus on the differences between end tables and side tables, then discuss how they are used, and where they are usually placed…

What to Know Before You Buy

Before buying either, you need to determine the table’s purpose.

  • If you need more table space for resting things within easy reach… such as drinks and personal items, an end table is your best bet.
  • If you need more storage or surface area for décor and lighting, you want a side table.

Although it is not a hard and fast rule, your tables should match your furniture, the interior design of the room in which they will be placed, and the overall look of your home.

Unless you are trying to create a Bohemian design aesthetic, the tables’ shape, design, and color should complement or accompany the rest of your furniture.

Light wood tables against dark wood furniture and vice-versa are fine but, when you start mixing and matching styles, shapes, paints, and stains, you should have a distinct goal in mind.

It is never as easy as the professionals on TV make it seem so if you are uncertain, sketch the design with colored pencils or even crayons, or find a site online that lets you virtually layout your room(s) to get an idea of what it will look like.

What Is An End Table?

An end table is a piece of furniture that can fit just about anywhere in your home. There are many different types of end tables out there, each with its own purpose.

End Tables Are Built To Be The Approximate Height of The Average Couch’s Arms. An end table is an awfully specific kind of side table. Almost any surface within reach of a sofa or chair qualifies, whether it’s built-in furniture, caddy ware, or a simple nightstand.

Although they come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and designs, most are around 18 to 22 inches tall. If you need anything outside of that range, you might have to shop around.

Some models have drawers and a few even have bottom shelves, but most do not.


2 Different Types Of End Tables

Ravenna Home Anne Marie Small Curved Leg Shelf Storage Side End Table, 20"W, Dark Espresso
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Ball & Cast End Table - Dark Brown
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What Is A Side Table?

Side tables are among the most versatile pieces of furniture in your home. They have a very specific function, and yet there are infinite permutations on that functionality!

Side tables also come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and styles, as well as heights. Because they are built more for storage, display, and surface area for lighting, they are more likely to have shelves, drawers, and multiple layers than end tables.

These tables are typically small enough to fit nicely beside a sofa or chair and are meant for you to keep beverages, magazines, or other items on. Some models can be used as cocktail tables while others are purely decorative in nature.

Some models have magazine racks on the sides of shelving specially designed to hold or display albums, CDs and DVDs, books, or similar items.

Models of both types of tables are usually 2 to 3 feet wide; anything longer is probably a coffee table. There are some long models of side tables, but they usually include a seating area – such as daybeds.

End tables are almost never wider or longer than three feet, at most. If an end table exceeds that size, it is designed to be used with an oversized couch.


2 Different Types Of Side Tables

VASAGLE Industrial Side Table, Mobile Snack Table for Coffee Laptop Tablet, Slides Next to Sofa Couch, Wood Look Accent Furniture with Metal Frame ULNT50X
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Sauder 420422 Carson Forge Side Table, L: 14.17" x W: 22.44" x H: 24.61", Coffee Oak finish
Click image for details

The Benefits of End Tables

End tables are designed to be functional, but they are also integral to many styles of interior design. Depending on their size and style, some couches look odd without them. But, end tables also have other benefits, such as:

  • They complete the interior design and tie the room together.
  • End tables improve the flow, or feng shui, of a room if placed correctly.
  • They provide more surface area, especially to people sitting on the couch and in any nearby chairs.
  • End tables are easy to reach for those sitting down.

No one likes having to reach for items that are sitting on the coffee table because coffee tables are short, and they are usually a foot or more away from the couch so that people have enough room to sit down.

A lot of homeowners also like to display things on their coffee table, as it is a centerpiece in most family gathering areas, which often leaves little room for anything else.


The Benefits of Side Tables

Side tables are even more versatile than end tables because they do not have height limitations and are not necessarily designed for functionality.

However, many have more than one level, built-in shelves, and drawers, making them great for storage and display.

Other benefits include:

  • More surface area in the room.
  • Side accent tables are a great design element for “tying a room together.”
  • They can be used as accent pieces.
  • Side tables provide storage for items commonly used in the living room, such as video games, remote controls, and more.
  • Side tables are excellent places for lamps, whether they are used as primary lighting or for ambiance.
  • If it is tall enough to easily reach from your bed, then you can use your side table as a nightstand.

A nightstand is also known as a bedside table. Side tables are incredibly useful and almost every room needs at least one. Even if you do not need the storage or lighting options, the extra surface space is great for family members and guests, alike.

Specific Uses For End Tables

Although we touched upon some of the uses of end tables above, here are some more direct ways you can utilize them:

  • Provide a surface for drinks, remote controls, and personal items like keys and wallets.
  • Serve as a place for landline telephones and possibly phone books.
  • Support standing lamps for better lighting.
  • Provide a place on which you can set anything within easy reach, generally without having to get off the couch.

Specific Uses For Side Tables

Side tables can be utilized in a number of ways, too:

  • Use them as nightstands or even end tables.
  • Display magazines, books, 3D objet d’art, and other décor.
  • Store CDs, DVDs, video games, and VHS tapes.
  • Store board games and playing cards.
  • Place ashtrays and drink coasters on them.
  • Set standing lamps on them.
  • Use them as a “catch-all for mail, school books, or important documents.
  • Display a fishbowl and store your food and pet supplies below.
  • Use them to break up a room or disrupt competing for “flows” that distract visitors.
  • Display houseplants and flowers.

Using End Tables to Enhance Your Home

End tables are categorically built to be placed in the living room at the end of a couch or beside a chair. They are also meant to be used as flat surfaces, so placing them anywhere else is likely going to look odd unless they are there for a specific purpose, such as displaying flowers, aquariums, or maybe a statuette.

They are also nice for outside seating areas like decks, porches, and patios.

End tables are best for adding a flat surface area to your family room, giving guests an easily accessible place to set their drinks and personal items.

But, they are also great design pieces that can be used to enhance the shape of a room through clever placement. Both of these depend largely on your floor layout and furniture arrangement.

Also, see our other articles and reviews about end tables:

Using Side Tables to Enhance Your Home

Because side tables are not specifically built to provide surface area to seated users, you have more freedom to choose when it comes to shape, style, and placement.

Side tables can be used solely as design pieces; they do not have to provide any functionality, so they can be any shape, design, or color.

However, you are always better off going with a side table that provides both, especially if you have a large family or frequent guests.

Still, a unique or unusual side table can be used as a conversation piece, to improve or disrupt the flow of your home, or to bring all of the other design elements together.

Side tables can also be used outside. They are great for grills since they are often built with storage in mind, so there is plenty of room for all of your cooking utensils.


Both are intended to be used in living rooms and family rooms: The end table at the end of your couch and side tables along the walls of the room.

Of course, it is your home, so you should never feel constrained by convention; put whichever table you choose wherever you like, if it meets your needs – or if you just like the way it looks.

In fact, some modern interior design techniques feature traditionally styled tables and other pieces of furniture used in unconventional ways.