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The Versatility of Side Tables: 10 Ways To Use Them

  • furniture
  • Side Tables
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Olivia Lowry
orange sofa with black side table

As smaller pieces of furniture, side tables are often overlooked or brought into living rooms as a last-minute addition. In reality, this small addition can be hugely transformative to how you use your living room, and how cohesive it feels overall. It’s tempting to skip details like this when you’re furnishing a space, but we’re here to prove there’s a good case for taking small furniture seriously. 

Side tables aren’t just for your coffee cup, and in this blog we’ll take a look at 10 of the most unexpected and clever ideas for using them. We’re on a mission to prove just how versatile this unsung hero of the furniture world is, with everything from makeshift workstation ideas to ways side tables can elevate games nights and more. Here are ten of our best ideas to get you started plus all the FAQs you need to know the answers to.

1. As a portable workstation

Working from home, or tackling a long list of life admin? In smaller spaces, there’s often not enough room for a dedicated desk. That, or some of us just prefer working from the living room now and again. Use your side table to set up a portable workstation that can follow you around the house as an ideal seat-height stand for your laptop.

side table with laptop

Image: @ourneutralground
Sofa: Model 03

2. Doubled up as a bedside table

When guests are staying over, a side table can double up as a bedside. If you’ve opted for a sofa bed, adding a small side table will give your guests somewhere to put their drinks, books, phone, and anything else they want close by whilst they’re sleeping over at your place. Adding a small side table makes this transition from daytime sofa sitting to sleeping a lot more seamless.

Sofa bed with side table

Sofa bed: Model 08

3. As a mini bookshelf

If you’re creating a reading corner, you’ll need somewhere to store your books. If your shelves are full, you can use a small side table to extend your collection and turn it into a feature in itself. Store a few books on your side table using bookends, or use it to display your favourite coffee table reads and magazines.

side table with book storage

4. As a stand to display plants

Incorporating plants into your living space is a great way to clear the air, boost your mood and make your space feel homely. Side tables make great plant stands for smaller potted plants, or as a plinth for more mature leaves. Choose a plant pot that compliments the rest of your space, and add this to a side table for a cohesive living room look.

side table with plant

5. As somewhere to showcase artwork

If you’re big into artwork, adding a side table is a great way to introduce a new piece to your room. Use a side table to showcase framed prints with their own stands, or lean bigger art pieces up against the wall behind your side table. If you’re adding a sculpture or vase, think about contrasting the colour with your side table to add interest and depth to your space.

cream sofa with black coffee table

Image: @lukearthurwells

6. As a party drinks station

Get your hosting game on by using a side table as a drinks station. If you’ve not got the space for a large sideboard, a side table could be the answer. Style your side table with trays, coasters and glassware that still act as pieces of decor when they’re off-duty. When party season is in full swing, a side table is essential for making sure guests have somewhere to put down their drink of choice.

side table drinks stand

Image: @marthastewart

7. As a way to declutter your room

Living rooms can get messy quickly, especially if you’re short on space or you have a busy family. Side tables can be a great way of organising your space. Choose side tables with built-in storage, or DIY your own by adding decorative storage containers and boxes to an existing table. This makes for a great place to neatly hide away remotes, magazines, chargers and other small day-to-day items.

Side table with orange sofa

Sofa: Model 10

8. As somewhere to put lamps

Ambient lighting plays an important part in how cosy and inviting your room feels. Make sure there’s a variety of lighting at different levels by using side tables to place lamps on. When choosing a lamp for your side table, make sure it’s in proportion and fits with the overall aesthetic you’re trying to achieve.

Green sofa with side table

Sofa: Model 06

9. As a surface for board games

Game nights are made even better with side tables. Easily portable around the room, a side table is perfect for board games with friends and can be returned to the side of your sofa or armchair after your night of fun is over. Measure your space to make sure your side table is big enough for the games you play with friends most often, and is just the right height for dice-rolling and card shuffling.

Board game side table

Image: @lafabrikabrussels

10. As a place to display seasonal decor

We’re big fans of decorating mantlepieces and bannisters throughout the seasons, so why not utilise your side table for the same concept? At Christmas, side tables make the perfect spot for a mini Christmas tree, or in spring, you can decorate yours with a vase of seasonal flowers. Side table styling is a great way of refreshing your living space throughout the year.

Side table with flowers

Sofa: Model 04 sofa bed


Do side tables have to match?

Side tables do not necessarily have to match, and mixing styles can add character to your living space. Pairing a small side table with a larger side table can create visual interest. However, it's important to maintain some element of harmony like a shared colour scheme or material. A wooden side table might complement a round side table with more subtle wooden elements. Taking this into consideration when choosing a sofa side table will make sure your space feels cohesive.

Can my side table be taller than my sofa?

In general, it’s a good idea for your side table to be about the same height as the arm of your sofa, or slightly lower. This isn’t a hard and fast rule though, and it depends on design and functionality. For example, a tall and narrow side table might prove more practical in a space where you need to reach items whilst standing. It’s a good idea to measure your space before you buy a side table so you can work out if the scale will look balanced and in proportion.

Should my side table go on the rug?

Whether your side table should be placed on the rug depends on the layout and size of your room. In a smaller room, placing a small side table or a round side table entirely on the rug can help define the seating area and create a sense of cohesion. In larger rooms, it's fine to have the legs of the side table partially on and off the rug, as long as the overall layout feels balanced. Make sure your side table surface still sits level if you’re planning on having it on and off a rug.

Do I need side tables?

Side tables offer lots of worthwhile functional and aesthetic benefits for living rooms, especially smaller ones. They provide a convenient surface for everyday items like drinks, books, or lamps, and can also enhance the overall decor of your room. A wooden side table can add warmth and texture, while a narrow side table is perfect for tight spaces. Ultimately, the decision depends on your lifestyle and the layout of your living space, but as a very versatile piece of furniture, it’s almost always a good investment.
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