When it comes to furniture, there are a lot of confusing and conflicting terms that many shoppers aren’t familiar with. This is especially true with occasional tables. What is an occasional table, you ask? Unlike a kitchen or dining table, an occasional table is one that, you guessed it, you use only occasionally. Think of it as a piece you use when you’re lounging about or when company comes over. This includes end tables, cocktail tables, coffee tables, accent tables, sofa tables, console tables, etc. The list goes on forever! Today we’ll focus on just two of those; the coffee table and the cocktail table.
As we discussed a few weeks back regarding sofas and couches, sometimes there are multiple terms used for what appears to be the same piece of furniture. Here in the South, most people are quite familiar with the coffee table. However, many shoppers find themselves asking, “What is a cocktail table?” Read on for a brief discussion on their history, as well as their similarities and differences!
Both cocktail tables and coffee tables are low tables meant for use in the living room or den. Usually in front of a sectional, sofa or loveseat. They are useful for filling out the room, displaying decor or accessories, and entertaining guests. And of course, as the words “coffee” and “cocktail” suggest, they are the perfect place to set a beverage. Most are between 16” and 21” in height and should be chosen based on the height of your sofa. Manufacturers craft both types of tables from a wide range of materials; from hardwoods, to metal, wicker or glass.
Here’s where the rubber meets the road. There’s not a whole lot of consensus among experts about the origin of these terms or about their characteristics. Generally speaking, cocktail tables are usually square or rectangular in shape, while coffee tables are often round or oval. But even that small distinction isn’t universally agreed upon.
Articles like this one track the creation of the first coffee table back to the early 1900s and the start of coffee culture. Meanwhile, others say the cocktail table evolved from the tea table, a taller, formal table used to serve tea in Victorian-era Britain. Lastly, others speculate that the popularity of the prohibition movement led to the trend of renaming cocktail tables as coffee tables. The only clear thing is that both the cocktail table and coffee table are relative latecomers to the furniture party and have only been around for a century or two.
Cocktail Tables or Coffee Tables? Either way, we’ve got them at WFMO!
On our website, we don’t distinguish between cocktail tables and coffee tables. They are all listed as cocktail tables with the understanding that for most people, these terms mean the exact same thing. WFMO chose to use “cocktail table” because it has been in use longer, and is more traditional. But unless you are a decorating guru or furniture historian, there is no practical difference.
So when you come visit us at one of our North Georgia locations, you can confidently ask our assistants to point you toward our massive selection of coffee tables or cocktail tables – whichever term comes to mind! As the largest locally-owned seller of occasional tables in metro Atlanta, we have tables from over a dozen high quality brands to choose from. Come see for yourself at Woodstock Furniture & Mattress Outlet!