Why Are Modern Coffee Tables So Low?

Why Are Modern Coffee Tables So Low

We often get asked by our loyal customers, “Why are modern coffee tables so low?” And although it may seem like a strange question, there has definitely been a shift in their overall designs through the years. 

Configured to adapt to our changing lifestyles, these functional additions to our living rooms are both versatile and stylish, fitting in seamlessly with our everyday needs. And with so many options available, choosing the right one to fit our spaces can be a daunting task.

So to help you create a seamless aesthetic, let’s take a look at the latest in coffee table trends and explore why a low profile is such a popular option.

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A brief history of coffee tables through the ages

It might surprise you to know that this now indispensable piece of home furniture originated in 17th-century Europe and was initially used for serving tea. 

Small and portable, it featured a tall base and round, foldable top which could be set up as a service station for either seated or standing guests. 

During the 18th century, the “tea table” then took the form of a trolley which could be wheeled out when needed, making it even more versatile than before. 

The introduction of coffee in Britain led to the opening of institutions that catered specifically for this revered drink, allowing academics to gather for their daily brew. And, as influential patrons complained that there was no place to set their cups while reading their journals, proprietors commissioned tables to cater for this purpose. 

The earlier editions looked nothing like the coffee tables we know and love today. In fact, first found in the homes of the wealthy, they were commonly decorated with gold vine trims and massive claw legs. But as having a cup of joe became popular in the homes of the masses, designs shifted once again to accommodate function over form. 

It is thought that, with influences from the Ottoman Empire, tables were constructed taller to accommodate a higher seat. However, as Japanese styles became popular in Europe in the late 1800s, lower, longer tables began to make their mark.

The Art Deco movement gave rise to coffee tables that were sleek, metallic and geometric, with profiles barely wide enough to serve a purpose. But after the war, designers focused on a more practical approach, configuring them to accommodate everything from accessories to plates. 

With the birth of the television in the 1950s, these popular household items became even lower so as not to obstruct one’s view of the screen. And, as furniture makers became even more experimental, materials like glass, acrylics, ceramics and steel were introduced.

Now, with the production of modular sofas and classic designs in full swing, coffee tables are built to accommodate our busy lifestyles. Generally standing between 40 - 46 cm high, they are built to accommodate a plethora of functions from housing your remotes and drinks to serving as a work or eating surface.

And that, in a nutshell, is why the modern coffee table is so low.

Uses of the modern coffee table

Originally designed to accommodate your cups and saucers, modern coffee tables have multiple uses that help to enhance our living areas:

Conversation area

These marvelous additions to our homes help to form our conversation areas, allowing family and guests together around them for social interaction. The hexagonal Sax coffee table by Eichholtz, for example, can be grouped together to suit multiple different spaces from small to expansive.

Focal point

Many professional designers use coffee tables as the focal point in a room, drawing the rest of your furnishings together, unifying your style and providing a central hub around which to sit. 

Storage space

Contemporary coffee tables often include additional storage space like drawers, shelves or concealed compartments, allowing you to take care of your clutter. If you’re looking for something in this line, we would suggest the T160A range by Gamma & Dandy, with its stylish leather-clad drawer and glass or ceramic top.

Functional surface

They are the perfect companion to discerning hosts, providing an easily reachable platform for glasses, snack platters, trays and other items. 

Visual impact

Aside from being utilitarian, they provide an opportunity to add visual impact to your rooms. So, if you love to create a stir, hunt down something unusual like the Pebble coffee table by Bonaldo and add a cool, contemporary vibe to your aesthetics. 

Define zones

Coffee tables can be used to separate zones in an open floor plan, such as the living room from the dining area or study. 

Create a flow

Lower coffee tables, like the Uptown coffee table by Naos, are ideal for creating a sense of flow, allowing you to walk around your seating plan with ease. This renowned brand offers an innovative range that allows you to fold out additional surfaces during special occasions, or keep them tucked away on regular days.

Benefits of a low coffee table

Coffee tables are one of the most important pieces of furniture in any home. They can be used as a place to rest your feet, hold drinks, display decorative objects, and more. Unfortunately, they can also take up a lot of space, so finding a low one definitely has some extra benefits. Here they are:

  • They are a great solution for smaller apartments, where every square foot of floor space counts.
  • Their lower height brings a sense of openness and helps to create a more expansive setting. 
  • In many cases, the lower the table, the smaller they are in size, allowing them to fit into compact rooms without overdominating your other furniture. 
  • Placing short coffee tables in front of sofas and chairs will provide a practical storage surface without interrupting your line of sight. 
  • They are lightweight and easy to move, allowing you greater flexibility when it comes to rearranging furniture or adapting to changing needs and layouts.
  • The lower they are, the less likely they will be bumped into, decreasing the risk of accidents, especially if you have young children.
  • Some offer built-in storage solutions, helping you to reduce clutter and stay organised.
  • Low coffee tables can be paired with cushions, footstools and nesting tables, such as the Benny range by Cattelan Italia. This helps to create a casual seating arrangement that takes up minimal space. 
  • They can be used in offices and waiting rooms, making them multi-purpose furniture pieces for both home and commercial uses. 


Why Are Modern Coffee Tables So Low
Why Are Modern Coffee Tables So Low


Shop modern coffee tables at FCI London

At FCI London, we offer a fantastic range of modern coffee tables, curated from some of the top brands in the world.

Get in touch with us today to explore all your options or pop into our spectacular showroom and let our design professionals help you with all your home decor needs. 



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