6 Of The Best Round Coffee Tables

Today’s post brings you six of the best round coffee tables that are around at the moment, but while looking for them I started to wonder why it’s called a coffee table in the first place? It’s fine by me as I never drink tea but why aren’t they called tea tables? I have written two coffee table books. Would I have minded if they were called tea table books?

coffee table from french connection
coffee table from french connection £150

Maybe I spent too much time alone last weekend as The Mad Husband was away, but be that as it may, I have looked into it (so you don’t have to) and while there doesn’t seem to be a definitive conclusion there are a few common threads.

It seems that these small side tables did indeed begin as tea tables and were about 27 inches tall. A coffee table is defined, specifically, as being low and while some claim this was an invention from Victorian England, others claim that it was invented by an American Stuart J Foote, the president of the Imperial Furniture Company, who said he had cut the legs of a tall table by happenstance ( I mean really? He just happened to cut the legs off?) and was so inspired by the results that he started selling them in the 1920s as the perfect low table for in front of the sofa.

hampstead gold coffee table from rockett st george £149
hampstead gold coffee table from rockett st george £149

It is also said that while tea tables were common in Europe, the Americans have always preferred coffee so they changed the name. Others say that it was perfect for the living room when the television started to gain popularity as it didn’t block the view of the screen.

The one truth I did uncover was that if someone claims to be selling you a Georgian or a Louis XIV coffee table then it’s certainly a misnomer as no-one was drinking coffee back then, which doesn’t mean you can’t find a small Georgian table however.

cutlers stool by galvin brothers
cutlers stool by galvin brothers £165

I think this probably means that due the difference in height to these ones, there are a mix of tea and coffee tables in this round up. I like all six. The first, in petrified wood, is something I am often asked about sourcing and it’s great for an industrial vibe or even a modern one where you don’t want something in that ubiquitous pale oak (which I basically don’t like). I’m not sure it would sit well in a room with carpet as that might be the wrong style for it but anywhere else would work well.

I also like the brass and glass from Rockett St George. This is a bit of a ringer for the design classic Platner and it’s good for small rooms as the structure means the light can pass through so it doesn’t make the space feel more cluttered. That’s not to say it wouldn’t work well in a large empty room as well as it’s a good looking piece.

calvert coffee table from conran shop
calvert coffee table from conran shop £544

The cutlers’ stools by the Galvin Brothers are a modern interpretation of an old workshop design, made by a cutler, or silversmith, fashioning somewhere to perch out of a bit of leftover wood. The brothers have kept to that idea by using only left overs from other pieces and carving them by hand to match the original process. A hand turned leg has been added. You can still find originals (often from Sheffield) and they can fetch up to £750 so maybe you want to start with this and create your own heirloom in years to come.

The coloured Calvert table was designed by Ferdinand Kramer for e15 in 1951 and is made from oak veneer with a coloured lacquer. Each piece is made from a single sheet of ply. The round top is called the Charlotte and both are collapsible so you can either store it or put it the other way up to create a different look.

glass side table from rose&grey £195
glass side table from rose&grey £195

Now I must confess that I rather love this glass table although parents of toddlers and bouncy dogs look away now. It’s unusual to see glass used on this scale and in this way and it will, of course, allow light to pass through keeping a sense of spaciousness. If I needed another side table, which I absolutely don’t, this would be the one I would spend money on.

Finally, these ellipse tables, from Westelm, are a really good deal at £99. The base is lacquered bentwood, the top is back painted glass so you can put hot and cold on it and the colour won’t come off. Comes in the three colours below – I might have the black and the terracotta at either end of a sofa. Well not in my house obviously as there’s only room at one end of the sofa or you’d never be able to open the door but in your house perhaps.

super ellipse side table from westelm £99
super ellipse side table from westelm £99

So tea or coffee, whatever you’re putting your table, I hope you will like this selection should you be in the market for such a thing. Goes without saying that all of them would work well as bedside tables. Again I’m coming back to the glass one or these above which are narrower, while the little cutler’s stools would be great in the bathroom.

Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. Back when we were all skint, we used the cut the legs off dining tables to make lovely big. coffee tables. They were great!
    That glass table just makes me think of constant annoying smears. I try to avoid glass furniture< too much work.
    I like the little cutlers stools.

  2. Explanation….because a tea table was once where you sat on a chair to have your “TEA” as you will remember from living at your Grandma’s.

    AKA …..Tea time as featured in Ladybird books!!!

  3. Hi Kate, whilst I love the Rockett St George
    and the glass table, I’m at odds with their practicality
    in the real world. How do you keep them clean,
    dust and smear free?
    In a house with 3 Labradors enough of my life is
    spent cleaning fur, dust and paw prints as it is.
    To me they are museum or bachelor penthouse
    pieces, not for busy bustling households.
    I have a circular black granite wine table which has been with us for at least 15 years and is still going strong!
    I do find it fascinating where names for things
    come from!

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