Cocktail vs. Coffee Table – Not All Tables Are the Same

Cocktail vs. Coffee Table - Not All Tables Are the Same

Where would we be without our indispensable coffee and cocktail tables?

There would be nowhere to put our popcorn when we Netflix and chill. You need a spot to craft a nightcap after a Saturday night out at the theater. And where would you put your feet in the absence of a comfy ottoman?

Some people call this handy piece of furniture a cocktail table while others, a coffee table. But who’s right?

We’re certainly curious to find out the difference between a coffee table and a cocktail table. So below, we attempt to settle the cocktail table vs. coffee table debate once and for all.

The Coffee Table Explained

A coffee table is typically defined as a long, low table placed in front of your couch or sofa. But then, so is a cocktail table! So when it comes to dissecting the conundrum of cocktail vs. coffee table, we need to examine this standard piece of living room furniture in greater detail.

History of the Coffee Table

Furniture resembling today’s coffee and cocktail tables dates back to Victorian England, where conversely, homeowners used these tables to serve tea.

These tea tables were generally smaller and taller than today’s coffee tables. This was because the high-backed sofas of the era demanded a straight-backed posture, elevating the sitter.

The tables, almost exclusively constructed of wood, stood beside or at the back of the sofa–not in front of the couch as we see them today. They held everything from books and candles to tea and sweet treats. British artisans handcrafted early tea tables from local wood and exported them worldwide.

As craftspeople in other countries caught on to the trend, they developed regional differences in style, size, and materials.

How It’s Used Today

What was initially a tall table for tea has now become a low, long table used for, well, pretty much anything at all.

While early Victorian coffee tables mostly held a teapot and cups, everyday contemporary coffee table adornments include TV remotes, fresh flowers, books and magazines, snack bowls, soft drink cans, and much more.

Manufacturers craft today’s coffee tables from almost any material: from brass downpipes and glass to hand-painted and up-cycled wooden pallets to stunningly modern lucite coffee tables.

No matter the material, it’s essential to keep your coffee table clean. Because they’re used so often, they quickly get covered in crumbs, grease, and sticky liquids. Wipe your table down with a cloth and a material-appropriate cleaner a few times a day.

What a Coffee Table Costs

Coffee tables are heavy-use furniture items in most homes, so they tend to get replaced often. If you’re doing a home remodel or feel the need to change up your decor, coffee tables offer a cheaper way to experiment with a new style. But how much will a new coffee table set you back?

Ideally, if you’re looking for a high-quality, mid-range coffee table, expect to spend around $200 to $400. However, if you want something name-brand or designer, you’ll need to save your pennies for a bit longer. They may set you back upwards of $500 for a single table.

If these prices are too high for your budget, check charity shops and the Facebook marketplace for bargains.

The Cocktail Table Explained

The cocktail and coffee table tend to be defined by their shape. No matter how big they are, cocktail tables are most often round or oval. And because of their rotund design, you can use them in a myriad of creative ways.

History of the Cocktail Table

Just as historians still debate the origins of the cocktail, so too does the cocktail table fall under the same aura of mystery.

The cocktail’s origins lie somewhere in 1800s America, and people were likely converting tea tables into rests for their heady concoctions around the same time. The cocktail as we know it today rose to fame in the Roaring Twenties, where partying socialites made creative drops like the Bee’s Knees and the Mary Pickford trendy.

Once the government repealed Prohibition in the 1930s, alcohol consumption increased. It’s thought to be in this era that the coffee table was transformed. It became known under another decidedly more marketable name: the cocktail table.

How It’s Used Today

Though usually smaller, rounder, and sometimes taller, people use cocktail tables at home in much the same way they use a coffee table. Often they are less practical and more of a statement piece.

Perhaps you adorn them with a large plant in a decorative planter. Maybe it’s a place you show off your collection of quirky handmade ceramic sculptures. And, of course, they’re the perfect place to store spirits, liqueurs, and other cocktail ingredients.

Cocktail tables are also commonly used in public venues.

Theatres and comedy clubs often place cocktail tables with couches or seats so audience members can drink and snack while they watch the show. Since the coffee shop in the TV show Friends, Central Perk, made cafe couches a trend, cocktail tables are a staple in cafes that let you lounge about as you sip your latte. Tall cocktail tables are familiar sights at large vents. You’ll see them at networking events, parties, and, of course, in bars and restaurants.

What a Cocktail Table Costs

Both cocktail tables and coffee tables can be durable, attractive pieces of furniture. But cocktail tables are typically something you buy once and use as a decor feature for years to come.

If you’re looking to purchase the perfect cocktail table for your home, be prepared to spend anywhere between $200 and $500 on average.

Of course, the sky’s the limit in terms of price when it comes to designer, vintage, and antique coffee tables. Anything one-off, rare, or with a documented and interesting history could be worth thousands.

Cocktail Table vs. Coffee Table: Is There a Difference?

As you may have guessed already, there’s not much difference between coffee and cocktail tables. In fact, some furniture stores even use the two words interchangeably to refer to the same product. Perhaps the deciding factor in the cocktail table vs. coffee table argument is simply personal preference.

Are you ready to digest more helpful insight into the world of home decor? Delve deep into the other articles on our blog.