A wooden coffee table is one alternative. Others are a steamer trunk or some wood fruit crates. 

A coffee table is as vital to a living room as a sofa.

Besides its practicality — it’s where you serve the cheese and crackers when you’re having guests over and where you put your feet up later when they leave — a coffee table adds personality and texture to a room. If your taste isn’t particularly traditional and you’re wanting something more unusual, there are other options to the classic wood table.

Whatever you decide on, it should look like it fits in the space and be at least half as long as the length of the couch but no longer than two-thirds. Here are four interesting alternatives :

Steamer trunk

Once used as luggage that was designed to fit on a steamboat or a train, a steamer trunk makes a sturdy, one-of-a-kind coffee table, especially if it’s got a flat-top design. Vintage varieties were often made of canvas, tin or wood, some with brass nail-head trim or other metal accents.

“They might have stickers that reveal the former owner’s world travels,” says Scott DeLello, an interior designer in Los Angeles.

Trunks also provide ample interior storage space for bulky items like linens and blankets.

Wood fruit crates

“This is an inexpensive alternative to the traditional coffee table,” says DeLello.

(If you can’t find any discarded wood fruit crates from a store, you can buy them at a crafts shop.)

After sanding any rough spots, “paint, stain or leave them in their natural wooden color,” he says. Put four crates together to form a square with each box’s open side facing out. “Crates are fairly strong and sturdy and their openings make a nice place to display books and decorative accessories.”


When you think of ottomans, myriad varieties and features come to mind. There are some with tufted cushioned tops, and others covered in leather or upholstery fabric. You can find ottomans with metal legs, wood frames, or shelves underneath.

DeLello suggests putting a large tray on top to create a steady surface for drinks and snacks. And don’t forget the storage when you lift the lid. That’s the ideal hiding place for extra blankets and sheets for guests.

Side tables

Put a pair of matching side tables together to form a single coffee table. The beauty of this is that they look like a single table but you can move them around to accommodate your needs or your guests’ needs. The guacamole and chips are too far away for Aunt Helen to reach? Just move one of the tables closer to her and everyone’s happy.

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