choosing the right coffee table

While there are a lot of fantastic articles online to help you select the right coffee table, this write-up will focus on choosing the right coffee table for families with small kids.  And while the child’s safety is paramount, our review will also focus on the safety of the coffee table itself .. because coffee tables need to be protected from children as much as children need to be protected from coffee tables.

The first point to make is that there are literally thousands of styles available, but finding the perfect table which can cope with small children and vice versa, sadly eliminates quite a few from the selection pool.

So, where to begin? If you have a baby or are planning to have kids or you have toddlers running around, no doubt everyone around you with older kids has given you that knowing look when you say you want to replace your furniture.  You know THAT look.. followed by a story about why you should not even entertain replacing your furniture till the kids are 34 and have their own kids..

But the truth is that yes, children don’t care about your nice things, but that should not stop you from updating items that are past their use by date. Here is our summary of what to look for:

There are obvious materials to avoid such as glass, but other not so obvious materials may include timber. Not all timber, most modern coffee tables are wood veneer, not solid timber, and unlike the veneer of the 60’s, today’s veneer is much thinner.  Veneer tables are prone to chipping and generally don’t do well over time.  Veneer tables also don’t cope well with spills which aren’t wiped up straight away. Spills left for any length of time may cause the veneer to bubble and split.

If timber is the material you love, opt for a solid timber-top constructed table and choose a timber with a hard Janka rating. The higher the rating the denser the timber and the less likely for it to sustain damage.  If your table is one which will need to be moved often, we recommend a lighter powder coated steel option or laminate top option.  However these may not be so forgiving if your little ones decide to tap dance on your table.  On a side note, apart from the obvious fingerprints, chipping and shattering danger, if you have your heart set on glass, please keep in mind that unless the glass is inset, most frameless glass tops are only resting upon the base, hence pose a real danger toppling over if enough pressure is applied to one side.

So what materials to go for?
Our top picks are metal, marble, granite and solid timbers.  If you are on a tighter budget there are many fabulous lacquered mdf tables, and high pressure laminate top tables, which won’t break the bank. If you really love the glass look, lucite is a great alternative.  Also petrified wood, ply wood or lacquered mdf, powder coated steel, zinc or ali, rattan and concrete.  And tables with soft or rounded edges.

materials to avoid
upholstered & fabric, glass, veneer,  sharp edges, anything which will topple easily, anything where the top is not attached to the base.

size + height
As a rule of thumb the table should not be significantly lower or higher than your surrounding furniture.  Both for aesthetic reasons but also as its more practical.  When thinking about the dimensions, always consider the thoroughfare and allow enough walkway space around the table. Round tables allow for extra airflow and reduce the chances of stubbing your toes.  If you are short on storage, tables with a lower shelf a great solution to store all your excess remote controls! out of sight but within reach.

Whilst its very on-trend to have slim line tables, we recommend for this period of your childs life to consider a table that may be a little heavier and that is very well balanced. We speak from experience, think Noguchi table.  Not a good fit with little feet.  A solidly constructed table need not be drab, but safety is paramount with little ones around.  Another option to consider for the over eager little hands is looking at tables with a tray lip, to catch all the little spills.

Not everyone has a cool 3K to drop on one item of furniture, so if you fall into this category, keep to the more cost effective options.  Also consider shopping online or through a designer.  Designers often have access to trade accounts at stores which cost wise may be out of reach for most. With their assistance you may be able to purchase a much better quality table for a fraction more than a poorer quality table from an outlet store.

If you can stretch your budget, consider buying Australian made. Products made here are made to much stricter guidelines and your wellbeing is protected as well as the product being covered by warranty and statutory warranty.  Some overseas products can be treated with hazardous chemicals which can emanate toxic fumes.  With Australia having one of the highest rates of allergies and respiratory ailments in children, the benefits can be worth the extra cost… not to mention supporting local industry and keeping people in jobs.

Finally, you didn’t think we would get here, the style! Yes you can have style and safety and durability. The only concern here is that you love the table you select. Style and tastes are so personal, so go with your instinct and taste.

Happy shopping!