Shopping for Side Tables – The New York Times

The Four Percent


Side tables are among the smallest pieces of furniture, but they make a big difference in the way a room looks.

“They’re like the bags and shoes of your outfit,” said Poonam Khanna, an architect who founded the Brooklyn-based studio Unionworks. “They’re accessories that are very important.”

Just as knockout shoes can enhance the look of simple clothing, interesting side tables can add visual appeal to an otherwise understated interior, whether you choose clean-lined ones made from beautiful materials or tables with sculptural forms or unexpected colors.

Of course, it’s not only about how they look. Side tables also make a room more inviting by adding flat surfaces beside sofas and chairs to hold lamps, books and drinks. Depending on your needs, they can be a simple pedestal or include drawers or shelves for storage.

And those choices offer plenty of opportunity to personalize a room. “You could take the same space and just swap out the side tables,” Ms. Khanna said, “and it would change everything.”

  • How high should a side table be? The top of the table should usually be close to the seat height of adjacent furniture, Ms. Khanna said, so it’s easy to reach.

  • Should a side table have storage? “It really depends upon the location,” Ms. Khanna said. A drawer or cubby for books is helpful in a table that will be used beside a bed or in a family room, but might be unnecessary in a more formal room.

  • Do they have to be used individually? Not necessarily. Ms. Khanna sometimes places clusters of similar tables at the center of a seating group, as a flexible alternative to a one-piece coffee table. “They’re smaller tables that can move around,” she said.

Powder-coated steel table with storage cubby

About $336 at Design Within Reach: 800-944-2233 or


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