Q: I'm looking for a coffee table to go with a contemporary-style sofa and chairs. Should it be rectangular or round? What sort of material and styling would be best? I want to avoid a heavy, traditional look.
A: In choosing any piece of furniture, the first thing to consider is its functional aspect. For a coffee table, height is all-important. It needs to be no more than 16 inches and no less than 14 inches off the floor to ensure a comfortable reach from standard-height seating pieces.
Size and shape are also crucial, but these qualities will in turn be dependent on the amount of available space. In general, the edge of a coffee table should be between 18 and 24 inches from the front of a sofa.
Round tables are preferable if the surrounding seating pieces are curved. But finding an attractive coffee table in that shape can be a challenge.
One possibility is to affix a rounded glass top to a square table base. Remember that a table will appear smaller with a top of glass rather than solid wood.
Since your surrounding furniture is contemporary in style, you have lots of options for the the coffee table. Accent pieces in such a setting can swing in almost any direction: traditional, modern, even antique.
Given your desire to avoid traditional styling, you may want to consider a 1950s retro design that happens to be a very fashionable look just now.
The photo shows a classic piece of American modernist furniture. This design was created by the Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi. It has recently been reintroduced by Herman Miller in the same size and shape as was originally produced by the same manufacturer.
With a firmly balanced glass top on a black ebonized and sculpted base, this table still invites comment. And how appropriate for a coffee table! After all, this item of furniture is supposed to serve as the centerpiece for a conversation grouping.