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Oonagh Turner

Square vs round coffee tables - which are better? Designers agree on the best shape for a perfectly curated space

Round nesting coffee tables

The shape of your coffee table is a design decision that can have real impact on a room and how it feels. Not only does it impact the look and tactile feel of a space, but it can change the flow of the room, how you and your friends or family interact and use the room. 

Current coffee table trends point towards round coffee tables as more popular, bringing that arched, shapely look that is so popular in living room furniture at the moment. But some prefer the more angular feel and structure that can come with a square coffee table. 

There is no hard and fast rule as to what is right, but there are points of consideration to bear in mind. Follow our guide to help you find the perfect coffee table for your room. 

1. Consider the shapes you have in the room

(Image credit: Matti Gresham. Design: Urbanology Designs)

Choosing your shape is about more than just current coffee table trends - it's completely dependent on the space it sits in. Think about the other shapes you have in the space and the answer as to whether you go round or square will be obvious. Look at your sofa, is it curved? Does it have a rectangular feel to it? Echoing this movement will help a living room feel cohesive and unified. 

Think about the wider shape of the room too and how you can complement the space and the four walls with your choice of furniture. This is important to Annie Obermann, co-founder of Forge & Bow, who believes mirroring and echoing the shape of the space works to tie the room together.

'In a more linear space, a rectangle or oval shape is best and in a more square space a circle table is recommended,' she advises.

'The shape of your coffee table should complement the living room layout,' agrees Alla Yaskovets of O&A London.

'A round coffee table may be the perfect addition to an open-plan living room with a rectangular dining table. This is because it adds a softness to the sharp edges of the surrounding furniture, making for a more inviting atmosphere.'

Alternatively, a square coffee table may work better in a space with a round dining table, as it balances out the roundness of the table. 'Ultimately, the shape of the coffee table should be carefully considered to ensure it complements the overall layout and creates a cohesive design,' says Alla.

2. Think about where your coffee table will sit

(Image credit: Kendall McCaugherty. Design: Searl Lamaster Howe Architects)

Secondly, think about where in the room you are putting your coffee table and how you plan to use it. Is it going to be against the wall or will it sit floating in the center of a living room rug? A coffee table against the wall makes sense to be long and rectangular, whereas a floating coffee makes sense in a round shape. Think about the relationship between the bigger pieces of furniture - if it sits at the 90 degree angle of a L-shape modular sofa, a rectangular or square shape coffee table can slot perfectly there. If you've opted to position your armchair at more of an angle, then a round table could look better as it will open up your space a little more.

Your coffee table shape might be dictated by the size of the space you have too. For sizing, 'A good rule of thumb for coffee table size is to select a coffee table roughly half the length of your couch,' says Alla. 'For example, the length of the Ocean sofa [above] by Liaigre is 94 inches, whereas the diameter of the Tudor coffee table by Holly Hunt is 48 inches.'

3. Pick a shape that enables flow around the room

(Image credit: O&A London)

Think about the use of the room and the traffic flow. Will people be able to easily manoeuvre around the space without bumping into the table? Is it a high traffic area that needs to be carefully considered? This can impact whether you choose square or round. 

You need to be able to circulate around a coffee table,' says Ophélie Doria of Space Factory. 'Round coffee tables typically allow for a better circulation. The most important is to think about its height, if the sofa is low, the coffee table has to be even lower, and the same way and vice versa.'

4. Look for a style that is softer

(Image credit: Ali Lahlou)

There is something soft and gentle about a round coffee table, softening any harsh edges that might make your space feel cold and unwelcoming. The roundness subconsciously feels more welcoming. 'Round coffee tables are my preference versus a square one,' says Andi Morse of Morse Design. 'Round coffee tables have softer lines, are not as structured and provide more legroom in most instances.'

The softness of round tables isn't just welcoming, they can cause less injuries due to a lack of any hard edges. 'If there's any issue with the size of the space at all, I will steer clients towards a round coffee table. I always say, your shins will thank you later,' says Bethany Adams of Bethany Adams Interiors.

(Image credit: David Chatfield. Design: Wrightson Stewart)

There is no doubt that curves and organic shapes are trending and proving popular among homeowners and designers. So if what is popular is important to you is the latest coffee table trends, then round is your way to go.  Bring in curves with travertine tables, go fully round, or try two round nesting tables that work together to give you storage space but in a stylish way. 

'Curves are trending in 2023,' says Erin Coren of Curated Nest. 'Coffee tables are a fun way to bring in this trend. They add softness, a feeling of coziness and clean, modern lines.'

'Curves not only add architectural interest and diversity to a room but also something unexpected,' says Ginger Curtis of Urbanology Designs. 'We are often used to clean lines and right angles, being thrown a curve ball is not always a bad thing.'

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