difference between cocktail table and coffee table

What’s The Difference Between Coffee Table and Cocktail Table?

We often decorate our living rooms with low center tables where people can put their beverages, plates, or belongings.

These center tables are often referred to as coffee tables or cocktail tables. Although both of these terms are interchangeable, there are a few significant differences between a coffee table and a cocktail table that make them unique.

You’ll get to know about the differences in our cocktail table vs. coffee table guide.


What Is a Coffee Table?

coffee table

The origin of the coffee table is a bit questionable, as some claim that the inception of the coffee table terminology came from the Victorian era; in contrast, others think that the term coffee table originated in the prohibition era as people reduced their alcohol consumption. It is believed that coffee tables were usually tall tables but became stable low-rise tables for modern times.

These low, oval tables were not just centered in front of sofas in living rooms to hold coffee but to hold conversations.

As a living room became lively with the conversation and guests and hosts sipped on their beverage, the coffee table became the epicenter of family gatherings and laughter to hold their mugs.

Interior designs tactfully use the oval shape of a coffee table to soften the look of a room crowded with rectangular, sharp objects. Coffee tables also inspired the term coffee-table books decorated on top of coffee tables across the world.

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What Is a Cocktail Table?

cocktail table

Over the years, the term cocktail table came into place, but no one can say for sure when the term was coined. Some historian says that the cocktail table term originated during the 1800s while other have different theories.

Cocktail tables can be found as both high and low tables with a square or rectangular countertop. It was called a cocktail table because, when hosts entertained their guests, they rested their cocktail in a long rectangular or squarish table.

As cocktail tables can be found as both long and short structures, they can be an interior designer or decorator’s saving grace. With the option of choosing a lower and a higher table, they can optimize the beauty and functionality of the place they are decorating.

Apart from being a center table to hold cocktails, the squarish table can have storage underneath the table, and the tabletop can be adorned with flowers, vases, and other accessories.


Main Difference between Cocktail Table and Coffee Table

cocktail table vs. coffee table

Coffee tables and cocktail tables are both low central tables that have a few distinguishing characteristics them apart.

Shape of the Table

Coffee tables are small, low-rise, round tables situated in living rooms. It sits in front of a cozy couch, sofa, or sectional.

Its primary purpose is to hold beverages. Its low height makes it perfect to set a mug of coffee while cozying up with a book on a couch.

Apart from having drinks, coffee tables are a great way to display your style. You can style the petite, round tables with coffee books, flowers, and much more.

On the other hand, cocktail tables are long, rectangular tables with a low or high rise. It is usually set in front of a formal living room centered in front of a sofa where guests can rest their glasses as their hosts entertain them for the evening.

Cocktail tables are versatile in the sense that they offer more sizes. If you want to have a taller rectangular table to fit your aesthetics, cocktail tables are the choice.


Safety and Child Friendliness

Another considerable difference between a cocktail table and a coffee table is that the round, oval-shaped coffee table is the safer option.

This is because it has a softer and rounded finish and does not have any sharp edges, which children can harm themselves with.

On the flip side, the pointy edges of a square cocktail table can stick out like a sore thumb. It is easy to be hurt by the sharp edges of the cocktail table.

It can especially be harmful to kids or children as cocktail tables are low-rise tables that children can easily run into or access.


Coffee Table vs. Cocktail Table: The Comparison Table 

Parameter of Comparison Coffee table Cocktail Table
Definition Coffee tables are placed in front of a couch to hold mugs, coffee books, and other accessories. Cocktail tables are also placed in formal living rooms in front of a couch. Guests place their glasses and other accessories on the table while they converse.
Shape Coffee tables are low-rise round tables Cocktail tables are slightly taller than coffee tables and are square or rectangular in shape.
Length Coffee tables generally come in either 16 feet or 18 feet. Cocktail tables usually come in 20 or 22 feet.


Key Takeaways

  1. Coffee tables are low-rise tables with an oval tabletop, but cocktail tables are both high- or low-rise tables with a square or rectangular tabletop.
  2. The coffee table usually is 16 or 18 feet, while a cocktail table is 20 or 22 feet.
  3. Cocktail tables have been generally taller than coffee-table, so coffee tables are usually shorter.



Our cocktail table vs. coffee table guide observes that their primary distinguishable feature is between their dimension and silhouette.

Although both of these tables are low center tables, at the end of the day, no furniture police will scurry in to charge you for committing the crime of calling your center table, coffee table, or cocktail table. Still, it is always important to know the correct terms.

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