We don’t own a coffee table. We had one in our very first apartment in North Carolina—a funky little table that a neighbor gave us for free. It had an odd shape, like it had been made with a piece of wood originally cut for a different purpose, and even a fresh coat of paint couldn’t improve it. When we moved into our second apartment, it didn’t make the cut. We’ve been coffee-table-less ever since.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t cobble together a little something to make late-night movies or daytime loafing around more comfortable.
Sometimes our coffee table is a chair pulled over to our bench or a wooden crate dragged out from under our cot and turned on its side. Our approach to these makeshift tables is for their temporary service more than their style. They’re places for resting an evening cocktail or cup of tea or a book we’re in the middle of reading. If we’re feeling festive they might get the addition of a bottle with flowers. More than once we’ve balanced our cutting board on top of a crate to enlarge the surface area to accommodate snacks for two. We get a particular kick out of arranging fancy hors-d’oeuvres on our board for at-home movie dates. Two crates pushed together gets you something that’s practically gargantuan by tiny apartment standards. The truth is that just about anything with a hard surface can be used in place of a classic coffee table. (And by this stage, we’re old pros. Here’s a vintage RMTL post for proof.)
When space is limited, I’ve found that creativity goes further than rule abiding. In our apartment, taking a minute to transform a chair or crate into a coffee table for the night means more flexibility in our space the rest of the time. I wrote a bit about keeping our floor space clear in this post, and as Faye gets older, that’s become even more important. These days she’s busy pushing our kitchen table chairs around the apartment as she learns to walk. She motors from one chair to the next until she’s more or less lapped the room.
Even better for me, forgoing the coffee table can also mean eliminating a spot where clutter might otherwise build up. Coffee table styling is a big deal in blogland. There are coffee table books and trays to consider and complex tutorials on how to achieve just the right ratio of height and size and mementos. But I have a feeling that many coffee tables become resting spaces for things not to love rather than opportunities for artful displays.
In case you’re hand wringing about what size coffee table to squeeze into a small space, here’s a little encouragement to just forego having one altogether.
Tiny apartment survival tips #1 – 121, RIGHT HERE.