Coffee Table vs. Ottoman – Which One Is Better?

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While coffee tables and ottomans are two different types of furniture, you may want to consider one over another for multiple reasons. In this guide we’ll walk you through the differences, benefits, and disadvantages of both.

Coffee tables and ottomans are two different pieces of furniture, yet people may often choose one instead of the other for various reasons. They can both offer storage, they are great to have when you’re entertaining guests, and they both add a level of comfort and functionality to your living room.

You might be wondering, then, what would suit your living room best—a coffee table or an ottoman? This article looks at the pros and cons of both coffee tables and ottomans as well as gives a quick run-down on which of these two might be the better one for you.

Introducing the coffee table (pros and cons)

Functional coffee table with a wooden finish and a rising top with hidden storage compartment
Coffee tables are functional pieces of furniture. Some models have hidden storage compartments under the tabletop. For more examples, see coffee tables on Amazon.

A coffee table is a low table that is often placed in front of sofas and chairs in a living room. Depending on the design, some of them can be used to store magazines, remote controls, drinks, and snacks. Some people top their coffee tables with a centerpiece to add a bit of accent to their room.

Coffee tables can also be used to place drinks and snacks especially if you are entertaining guests. Nevertheless, you don’t use it for eating, like you would a regular table, as it is too low, unless you are seated on the floor.

When it comes to sizes, ideally, you should have a space big enough to fit it, though coffee tables come in multiple sizes. Some coffee tables also come with storage, in case you are looking for multi-purpose furniture that you can use both as a decorative piece and as an extra storage space.

Coffee tables are generally made of wood, but over the years have come in various sizes with various styles, designs, and even materials. If you visit your local furniture shop, there’s no doubt that you’ll be able to find a coffee table that suits your needs.

If you want a multi-functional coffee table, check out these amazing coffee tables with storage.

Pros

  • Coffee tables are very easy to clean. Because of the hard material they are made of, you can easily clean any spills without worrying about your coffee table’s surface getting damaged.
  • Got a small space? No problem. Coffee tables come in different sizes so you can always choose something that suits the space you have.
  • Some coffee tables can also serve as storage spaces. If this is something you’d like to have, choose one with a shelf underneath (though there are some that come with a drawer or basket).
  • Wooden coffee tables can be painted over if you want them to better match the color scheme of your living room.
  • If you want a space that looks formal, a coffee table will give you that look and feel.
  • Coffee tables are sturdy. You don’t have to worry about drinks or snacks being knocked over (and even if they are, you can easily wipe them up).
  • High-quality coffee tables last for a long time. They may seem expensive, but they’ll be with you through the years.
  • Coffee tables come in different shapes (not just sizes). While the standard is something square/rectangular, you will be able to find oval and round coffee tables too, which will break up an angular space and give your living room a softer look.

Cons

  • Coffee tables are made of sturdy material. While this makes it durable, it can also be pretty painful and might cause bruising if you accidentally walk into them.
  • Coffee tables are pretty heavy. If you happen to push or pull it across the floor, there’s a chance that it will leave scratches.
  • Coffee tables aren’t known for hidden storage. Even if you do get one to keep some things in, you still have to make sure that it looks neat as everything is stored in plain sight. Even if you buy a coffee table with drawers, they aren’t usually that big and won’t be able to hold or store large and bulky items.
  • If you have a wood coffee table and leave a cold glass of water, it can cause water rings on the surface. Over time, this might affect the wood and you will have to sand down the surface in order to restore it to its original look.
  • If you have an uncluttered home, you’ll find that it can be difficult to keep items off your coffee table. Since it’s easily within reach, you might find yourself inadvertently stacking various things on top of it—something that could add to the clutter of your home.
  • People sometimes prop up their feet on a coffee table which is unsanitary and could also lead to food and drinks accidentally being spilled.

Our thoughts

There are a lot of benefits to getting a coffee table—a great-looking living room, extra storage, sturdiness, and durability. Plus, they are easy to clean and they come in so many shapes, sizes, colors, and materials. If you have a space that’s big enough to accommodate a coffee table and you’re looking for multi-purpose furniture that will serve as additional storage and will also look great for your place, then you might want to consider a coffee table for your living room.

Introducing the ottoman (pros and cons)

Soft, cushioned ottoman with a dark gray hedda tufted fabric and hidden storage
Ottomans are soft, comfortable pieces of furniture that you can sit on or put a tray with your drinks and snacks on. For more examples, see ottomans on Amazon.

Ottomans are upholstered pieces of furniture that usually come with a matching chair. They don’t have arms or a back, but they can be used as extra seating if necessary.

Ottomans are also used as footrests or makeshift coffee tables. Because an ottoman is upholstered, and thus less sturdy than a coffee table, you’ll need to place a tray on top if you want your items steady and to prevent spills from leaking onto the fabric.

Ottomans can also be bought by themselves (without their matching chairs). Some ottomans also come with storage once you lift the lid. If you’re looking for a place to put blankets, books, toys, that are easily accessible and yet out of sight, you might want to get an ottoman for your living room.

If you live in a smaller home and don’t have space for a coffee table, a good alternative would be an ottoman. They are smaller, can provide covered storage, and can be used in so many different ways (as a chair, as a table, etc.).

Pros

  • Ottomans come in different styles. Thus, you’ll be able to find one that suits the look and feel of your living room. If you don’t like the color, you can always easily cover it up.
  • Hidden storage is a big plus in ottomans. It adds to the ease of cleaning your living up quickly in case you have some unexpected guests. It’s also an easy way to keep some of the extra items you have, like blankets and pillows. If you have a kid at home, you can have them keep their toys in there.
  • Ottomans are soft. In case you accidentally run into them, it won’t hurt as much as it would if you accidentally ran into a hard coffee table. This is perfect if you have kids so you don’t have to worry about sharp corners.
  • Ottomans provide an extra seat. If you’re entertaining guests in your home and run out of chairs, you just have to pull out your ottoman and you have another seat available.
  • If you can’t decide to get a coffee table or an extra seat, an ottoman can serve as either, depending on when you need it. You can sit on it or place a tray on top and use the ottoman as a table.
  • Leather ottomans look really classy and can improve the look of your living room.

Cons

  • If you’re looking for an ottoman that will be really useful, you’ll need a really big one. This, however, can make it difficult to navigate around, especially if you have a small living room.
  • After some time, especially if you use it a lot, your ottoman will start showing some signs of wear and tear. You can have it reupholstered, but that can be time-consuming and can also cost quite a lot, depending on how much damage your ottoman has suffered through the years.
  • Spills from food and drinks can be a lot harder to clean in an ottoman. They can also stain the upholstery and leave unflattering smalls and unpleasant smells.
  • Sometimes, it can be difficult to find a matching chair and ottoman set that will appeal to everyone’s taste or to find an ottoman that will fit the theme of your living room.
  • Ottomans are low to the ground and have thick legs to hold a lot of weight. This, however, can make your living room appear heavy.
  • Even if you put a tray on top of your ottoman to keep the items on top of it from spilling, that doesn’t necessarily protect your ottoman if someone accidentally knocks things over.
  • While an ottoman does provide you with built-in storage, if you have a lot of things inside, it can be very bulky and heavy to move.

Our thoughts

An ottoman is a great addition to a living room if you want something that looks classy, comfy, and unique. They are softer than coffee tables, due to being upholstered, so they are a great option if you have kids in the house. Plus, they can function as both a table and a chair so you don’t have to choose to get both or either of them.

Which one is better: Coffee table or ottoman?

Sitting on the fence where coffee tables and ottomans are concerned? Find out which one suits your needs—and your living room—better:

1. Functionality

Ottomans can serve as a chair or table and have a bit of storage space, nevertheless, because they are made of upholstered fabric, they can easily tear or get stained especially when food or drinks are spilled on them.

Coffee tables, on the other hand, are sturdier, offer more surface area, and can also come with some storage space. You can also serve food and drinks on them, making them a great piece of furniture to have if you love pampering your guests in the living room.

Winner: Coffee table

2. Comfort

Coffee tables (even the oval and round ones) are hard pieces of furniture. If you accidentally stub your toe on them or your knee on one of the edges, it can hurt a lot. You also have to keep an eye on your kids so they don’t get into accidents.

Ottomans, on the other hand, are upholstered, which makes them soft and comfortable. Plus, they can also serve as an additional comfy chair when you happen to have a lot of guests and no more space for them to sit.

Winner: Ottoman

3. Aesthetic value

There are so many different kinds of coffee tables, made of different shapes, sizes, and colors. No matter what your living room looks like, you’ll most likely be able to find a coffee table that matches it. A coffee table makes your space look more formal.

Ottomans, on the other hand, add softness to a room that would otherwise be filled with hard corners and edges. They bring comfort and promotes relaxation and lounging. If you have a leather ottoman, it also adds class to your living room.

Winner: Both

Conclusion

Both coffee tables and ottomans have their pros and cons. At the end of the day, it’s up to what you think will suit your living room best. If you’re going with a more formal look, then a coffee table is the one for you. If you want your living room to look softer and more comfortable, then an ottoman is the very thing you need.

Coffee tables and ottomans also have similarities and differences in terms of functionality. A coffee table is sturdy and easy to clean, but you have limited (and open) storage space with it. An ottoman, on the other hand, can serve as a table, a chair, or a storage space, but they stain easily if food and drink happen to spill on them.

When you’re weighing your options and deciding between these two pieces of furniture, think about the look and feel you want your living room to have as well as what you want your coffee table or ottoman to do for you and to add to the look and feel of your place.