Sofa Companions: The Coffee Table vs. The Ottoman

Deciding Between Two Furniture Classics for Your Home

Both coffee tables and ottomans serve as functional decorations that blend seamlessly into the design of your living space. While we believe that you can’t go wrong with either choice, knowing the differences between them – and what questions to ask when deciding to bring one home – can help you make the right decision for your home.

Here is a list of some things to keep in mind when making this important decision.

living room with red and blue textiles
cane styled ottoman

Questions to Ask Before Purchasing an Ottoman or Coffee Table

You hear us say this a lot, but that’s because we mean it! At Nell Hill’s, we believe that what you love is always in style. Our goal is to learn how customers live in a space and give them the best options to suit their room and lifestyle. There are a few questions to ask yourself when you’re ready to purchase your new ottoman or coffee table, and we’re here to help!

What are a few things to keep in mind when searching for a sofa companion?

When selecting a new sofa companion, there are a few things to consider to help make your choice a little easier.

  • First, what is the ultimate purpose of this piece? Will it be a place to kick up your feet or set a cup of tea? Will it primarily be used for styling your favorite accessories? The answer to these questions will help give you direction.
  • What kind of wear will the piece receive in your home? Is it likely to see condensation rings from stray cups, or do you have a kitten at home that would love to use the side of an ottoman as a scratching post?
  • Consider the design and feel of the room. How much wood exists in the space already? What colors and textures are at play? How much space do you have? With what existing pieces will this new piece work?
  • Lastly, consider the styles and colors of your sofa and other adjacent pieces. And are you looking for a standout piece or a supporting character that ties the rest of the pieces together?

When is a round shaped coffee table or ottoman preferable to a square or rectangle one?

Oval and round coffee tables are great for breaking up an angular space and making edges seem softer. We often choose round when we just need another shape in the space so everything isn’t so square, or for rooms and groupings where space is tight.

A rectangular option is preferable for longer sofas (or ones with a chaise) to provide easy access to coffee, late night snacks, or cocktails of choice. Depending on fabric and wood finish choices, this look can be more informal than a round ottoman.

Having your Nell Hill’s designer create a floor plan for your space is a great way to see a “bird’s eye view” of your room, ensuring that pieces and walkways are the right size and in the right places before you make your selections.

coffee table with fluted edges
wooden coffee table

Purchasing a Coffee Table

Coffee (and cocktail) tables come in many shapes and sizes and can range in texture from wood, metal, and even stone. Incorporating natural elements into your space, like a wooden coffee table for instance, is one alluring way to enrich a design. Like we mentioned in a previous post, using multiple high-contrast wood pieces in a room adds depth and visual interest.

A Coffee table may be preferable when:

  • The room is more formal
  • A flat surface/high functionality is needed
  • Extra storage is needed

What are the limitations to a coffee table?

  • Not as comfy and casual as an ottoman – no place for feet to go
  • Easier to bang a knee or stub a toe on (and does not come childproofed)
  • Extra storage is visible (often just a lower shelf or tabletop)

wicker coffee table

Purchasing an Ottoman

An ottoman may be preferable when:

  • Space is more informal
  • Comfort is key
  • Wanting to incorporate more pattern into room design
  • Extra seating is needed in a pinch
  • Too much wood or too many hard surfaces in a room already

What are the limitations to an ottoman?

  • Not a flat surface for placing items – need basket or tray to safely place things like drinks
  • Easier to stain and more challenging to clean
  • Can fall into the trendy instead of timeless design trap

Designing an Ottoman

We love ottomans for so many reasons. One of our favorites? They can be completely tailor-made to your style. Literally! Customers can choose the style, the shape, the leg, the fabric, add nail heads, trim and choose the wood finish.

When it comes to designing your own sofa companion, just have fun with it! But I do have one piece of advice to impart for those of you looking to design with leather. We like to remind our clients that hides are a natural material and therefore no two are alike and each one has its own unique character – and we like them that way! It’s part of what makes them such a great texture-add to a space. But if you are a person who likes things to not show imperfection and wear (which is perfectly okay!), natural leather probably isn’t the way to go. Thankfully, though, we have performance leatherettes (synthetic leather) for you!

blue and white ottoman

Why get an ottoman from Nell Hill’s compared to somewhere else?

Please forgive a bit of shameless self-promotion! It’s important to us to make your design dreams come true. At Nell Hill’s, customization is the name of our game, and we love to create pieces along with our customers. Armed with a long list of vendors, our team of talented designers can show our clients all the options and sizes available to them.

neutral animal print ottoman

Now is the perfect time to visit the shop to pick out your own sofa companion! In two short days, we kick off our annual Wood Sale that runs through March 15th, where you can find 20% OFF all wood furniture pieces in our two-story show room – which includes a gorgeous array of coffee and cocktail tables. Pop by and browse our great selection of in-stock pieces, or make an appointment with a designer. I hope to see you here! Until next time – happy decorating!