Side Tables and End Tables: A Guide to Buying and Decorating with Them
In this post: End tables can be the perfect accents in your living room. This shopping guide will help you choose the best side tables for your space.⇒
My home is sorely lacking in side tables.
For a home with multiple seating areas, I have precious few proper end tables to support these conversation spaces.
Perhaps it’s because our sectional is so large in the family room, or that I put more effort into searching for the right coffee tables, but I’ve suddenly realized it’s high time to up my side table game.
Our living room is the one space that has a pair of appropriate tables flanking the sofa, but I don’t really love the attitude of the tables. (They’re a bit uptight.)
In the family room, instead, I have a small table that I love, but it’s not conveniently placed next to the sofa where it would have some functionality.
And in the lower level living space (otherwise known as our finished basement) the free floating sofas have no end tables at all.
That’s a lot of accent tables I could be adding to my home!
The beauty of buying side tables is that you can get a wonderful piece for a great price. Their small size and their supporting-player status helps keep costs low. Let’s look at why you should have side tables and where to get them!
What are Side Tables Used For?
The simplest reason why you should have a side table is to provide a place to put things down, like a drink or a book, while sitting in your living space. Ideally, all seating areas should have some such option and preferably more than one.
At the same time, side tables can function as an anchor to your seating pieces, so you don’t wind up with one-off chairs, floating by themselves. Even the most diminutive table can ground such a piece.
And finally, end tables offer a place to display decor, like family photos, reading lamps and fresh flowers.
Where Should Side Tables Be Placed?
These accent pieces are named after their logical placement, at the side of a chair or at the ends of the sofa. But one should always be careful how many tables you use as the floor plan needs to be harmonious and the tables should be balanced with the weight of the seating.
For this reason, a sectional may only have a table at one end, while a pair of chairs might have an accent table placed between them. A general rule of thumb is that any seating that cannot reach the coffee table should be supplemented with a side table.
What Should You Look for in a Side Table?
When shopping for side tables, the first thing to consider is size and shape. The table should be high enough to reach over the arm of an upholstered chair or sofa and large enough to hold what you might need while sitting there.
So a lone chair by the fireplace might have a tiny round table that holds little more than a cup of tea, whereas a sofa should be bolstered by pieces large enough to hold a lamp, at the very least.
You should also consider whether or not you need drawer storage, and a shelf for books and the like, and next determine the shape that would look best in your space.
Finally pay attention to color and material, selecting according to what works best with your preferred design style. If opting for wood, you’ll next choose between dark, light or painted. Or pick metal and glass or marble, or try one of the organics like rattan.
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How to Decorate Side Tables
Unlike coffee tables, the limited real estate on a side table keeps your styling options narrow. I tend to prefer a less-is-more approach, and even a larger sized end table can look great with just a lamp.
You could also try a few framed photos, or a small stack of books and a simple vase with flowers. The styling will be determined by the size and shape of your table, but be sure to leave room for any items you’ll want to place there temporarily, which is the main purpose of the table to begin with.
If you want to display a small collection, keep it pared back to a few pieces. Nothing looks worse than a cluttered group of trinkets that are fighting for the eye’s attention.
What Can I Use Instead of a Side Table?
Since the purpose of an end table is to provide a place to rest things, it need only be a flat surface that’s high enough off the ground to be comfortable to reach when sitting. For this reason, even a stack of books could work, or a stool, a trunk, or a wine barrel.
If you are cramped for space or storage, you could likewise use another piece of furniture to do double duty, such as a file cabinet, a low shelf unit or a chest of drawers.
Where to Buy Side Tables
The options of where to shop for side tables is endless, but I’ve curated a selection of my current faves below and you can be sure as I upgrade my own home I will be choosing from many of these picks.
They are all available to order online (at the time of this writing) and are among the most affordable options I’m seeing out there, while maintaining a level of design and sophistication.
If, like me, you’re feeling you need to up your side table game, be sure to have a look at the shopping guide below. These lovely little pieces will add both convenience and style to your living spaces at home.
To get the look, click on the items below for direct links to the products. Where actual items were no longer available, I’ve provided similar options. If an item is out of stock but may be restocked, I left it on the list.
(This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.)
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