How to Place Occasional Tables

Michelle Radcliff
occasional tables

As the name implies, occasional tables don't have a definitive, regular function in one particular room. These small, decorative, portable tables can be used throughout the home and function as the occasion requires.

In the Living Room

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In living rooms, all types of occasional tables are used except for bedside tables. Tables are used for:

  • Holding drinks
  • Providing a surface for task lighting with table lamps
  • Holding TV remotes or reading material
  • Holding decorative items

End Tables

Place end tables on each side of a couch or loveseat, spacing them an equal distance from each arm for a symmetrical appearance. Use mismatched end tables for a casual, asymmetrical look. For small, intimate conversation areas, center one end table between two chairs. Place one near a window to hold a house plant or near a bookcase to display a small vignette.

  • End tables placed next to seating furniture should be no higher than the height of the arm of the furniture and no lower than the height of the seat.

Sofa Tables

When floating furniture away from walls, place a sofa table behind the sofa and place one or two lamps on it for task or accent lighting. Use it against the wall as a console table or place it perpendicular to the wall to divide one area from the next.

  • Sofa tables should be no higher than the back of the sofa. The sofa should be a minimum of 12 inches longer than the table, allowing for six inches on either side of the table.

Coffee Tables

coffee table

Center a coffee table in front of the sofa, leaving at least 18 inches of space between the table and the furniture. Coffee tables can also be centered in a conversational grouping of furniture. Fan out a few coffee table books or add a centerpiece.

  • Coffee tables should be about two thirds the width of the sofa and within four inches of the height of the seat.

Nesting Tables

Use nesting tables as end tables in small living rooms or when extra surfaces are needed. Look for occasional tables with hidden storage compartments to help keep small rooms clutter-free.

In a Foyer

Not all entryways are big enough for occasional tables but if you have the space, a console or end table here can serve a couple purposes:

  • Holding decorative items
  • Providing a space to set keys, mail, and other daily items

The foyer is a good spot for fancier, ornate tables to welcome guests into your home.

Console Tables

foyer console

Console tables are often placed against a wall in an entryway, just beyond reach of the front door if it opens against the same wall. The table can be placed closer to the door if it's located on the other wall.

Typically, a large mirror hangs on the wall over the table, which might have a large floral arrangement, a lamp or some other decorative items. A tray placed on the table makes a convenient spot for car keys and mail.

End Tables

Another option for an entryway includes an end table accompanied by one or two chairs.

In a Hallway

interior hallway end table

When considering an occasional table in the hallway, make sure you have at least 24 inches between the table and the opposite wall for an adequate walkway. Tables in the hallway are usually simply decorations themselves or they hold small decorative accents.

Console Tables

A console table placed in a hallway provides a surface for decorative items. Since hallways are transitional areas and not living spaces, the table is more decorative than functional.

End Tables

Place an end table along the narrow wall at the end of the hallway to display a plant, a small flower arrangement or a few collectibles.

In a Bedroom

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Occasional tables help complete a functional bedroom. They are typically used for:

  • Holding lamps, alarm clocks, and evening necessities
  • Displaying items like collectibles or photographs

Bedside Tables

Bedside tables or nightstands flank the head of the bed on each side. End tables can serve as bedside tables as long as they are not too tall. Lamps placed on these tables provide light for reading or watching TV. Most importantly, one can turn the lamp on or off without having to get out of bed.

Nightstands also hold water cups, eyeglasses, alarm clocks reading material and sometimes telephones.

  • Bedside tables should be about the same height as the mattress or slightly taller.

End Tables

An end table can be used in the bedroom next to a chair or in between a pair of chairs. End tables can also be used as bedside tables.

Nesting Tables

Nesting tables can be used like shelves to display small collectibles. They can also serve as a nightstand, although the smaller tables might be more difficult to reach from the bed and should be reserved for decorative items.

In a Dining Room

diningroom sideboard table

Occasional tables are not as common in the dining room but can still serve a purpose here. They function by supporting dining and entertaining and as decorative holders.

Console Tables

A console table placed against the wall can serve as a sideboard. Use this table to hold centerpieces and candle holders when not in use on the dining table. This table can also serve as a bar for holding wine and liquor bottles. Use it as a self-serve buffet when entertaining.

End and Nesting Tables

An end table or nesting tables placed in a corner or next to a china cabinet can be used to hold greenery or other decorative objects.

In a Den or Office

occasional table in office

Depending on the size of the room, occasional tables can serve similar functions in a den or home office as they do in the living room.

End Tables

Place end tables next to seating furniture such as a sofa or chair. Put one next to a window for a live plant or by a bookcase to display a small vignette.

Coffee Tables

In a large, traditional style den, place a coffee table in front of a sofa facing a fireplace or between two sofas facing each other.

Console Tables

Expand your workspace with a console table placed near the desk. You can also use a console table as a desk if you don't have one.

Nesting Tables

Placed next to a desk, sofa or armchair, nesting tables can be used to hold books, magazines and decorative items.

Keep it Cohesive

Occasional tables should complement the style of the room and the accompanying furniture. A modern, chrome and glass cube-style end table would look out of place next to traditional style furniture. Take note of the other furnishings in the room and look for occasional tables made from similar materials and with similar finishes.

How to Place Occasional Tables