Maybe the term side table implies something that’s a bit of an afterthought, but we like to think of these useful pieces not only as great places to store stacks of our favorite books and magazines, but also as decorating real estate for all our not-ready-for-prime-time treasures and as a way to balance out and create a polished space. Here are a few tips for choosing the perfect end table.
1. Proportion is key. If you have a large space and large seating, your end tables should be appropriately scaled to avoid the dreaded Alice in Wonderland Syndrome: teensy tables dwarfed by the surrounding furniture and the people who use it. The general rule is to find tables that are within a few inches of the height of your couch’s arms, and no wider than the width of it.
2. Consider shape. This is important—we mean really important. Try complimenting softer, more feminine upholstered furniture with tables that have hard edges and clean lines. Streamlined furniture looks great paired with oval or round tables, or those with curved legs, to offset the harder angles. Or echo the shape of a piece of art in your side tables.
3. Make sure it’s functional. If you have young children or pets, you’ll want a table that can take a beating; think about acrylics, plastics, metals, and hard woods. Save the delicate pieces for homes with teens and adults.
4. Get spacey. Look for tables that provide enough room for lamps, guests’ drinks, a small stack of books or magazines, and a decorative object or three. Tables that have drawers and shelves underneath are also handy as extra storage space for the not-so-pretties, like TV remotes, kids’ toys, and craft kits. That said, side tables should also be narrow enough that people and pets can easily navigate around them.
5. Weigh in. If your other furniture is substantial, choose tables with similar visual weight—thicker legs, heavier tops. Conversely, if your furniture is slim and elegant, go for a lighter, leggier table.
6. Mix, don’t match. One of the best ways to make a space more dynamic and interesting is to choose tables with complementary shapes and in different colors, or the same color in contrasting shapes.
7. Get creative. Not liking what you find in stores? Repurpose outdoor accent tables, garden stools, wooden spools, carved tree trunks, or upholstered ottomans as tables.
Now that you’ve got the basics, here are some ideas for preppy-friendly tables.