It’s no secret that I love multi-functional furniture. From sleeper sofas to storage beds and everything in between, my small-space-loving heart soars when I find a great piece of furniture that really earns its keep. Nesting tables, ladder chairs, garden stools – you name it, if it does more than one thing well, I love it. Some of my personal favorites, though, are actually coffee tables. Why? Because ordinary coffee tables take up a lot of space, but don’t really do much. Sure, you can toss a magazine or a remote on one, or maybe kick up your feet (if that’s your thing), but these big, low tables aren’t actually useful for much more than taking up space… unless they’re specifically designed to.
While you might find coffee tables with a built in drawer or two, or maybe an open shelf at the bottom, by and large ordinary coffee tables are more for show than utility. Simply put, they’re designed to help fill up the empty space left in the middle of your living room set, and often act more as a visual anchor than a functional furnishing. So, more often than not, coffee tables are nothing more than a pretty little waste of space – at least, until they aren’t. This Bay storage table looks like a perfectly ordinary modern coffee table on the outside, but the table top lifts up and pulls away, revealing cleverly hidden storage on the inside. It’s a subtle modification, but one that not only makes the table more functional, but also keeps it looking neater than a conventional open shelf at the bottom.
Lift-top coffee tables also come with another added benefit: not only do they have a whole lot of storage on the inside, but when you lift up the table top, it raises to just the right height – and moves just close enough to the sofa – to be used as a TV tray. This might actually be my favorite coffee table modification, because it really makes the table well worth having. Lift-top coffee tables make it possible to eat comfortably in the living room without adding any extra furniture, are worlds classier than basic folding TV trays, and best of all, stow away completely invisibly when they aren’t in use.
Moving parts can also be used to expand the amount of surface space a coffee table has. At a glance, this Mellow Motion coffee table looks like nothing more than a simple square with some cool lines. But give it a little push, and you can move one or both of the top two layers to create a larger, rectangular surface, or push them out of the way entirely to reveal added storage underneath. This is perfect for a smallish living room, because it means you can get a little extra surface space when you need it – say, if you have company over and need a place to put some glasses or mugs – but still have the ability to fold it away when you don’t, so your whole living room won’t be dominated by a too-large coffee table.
This Elsy coffee table offers similar benefits, but is even more flexible, able to fully fan out into a long, wide shape, or simply twist slightly so that each of the layers of the table is pointing in a slightly different direction. Once again, this makes it possible to add a little extra surface space when it’s needed (and even orient it directly toward where the person who needs it is sitting), and while this table doesn’t have any built in storage, it has a gorgeous sculptural quality that would make a brilliant centerpiece for a modern living room.
Of course, a coffee table doesn’t have to be a transformer to be considered “multi-function,” and in fact some of the best modifications are simpler ones. For example, I’m absolutely in love with this Tiffany table, which has a removable tray integrated into the surface of the tabletop. Put together, the two pieces have a very strikingly modern look; with the tray removed, it becomes a surprisingly elegant and convenient way to serve drinks or snacks to a group: just load up the tray in the kitchen, then secure it in the fitted niche of the table for a no-clutter tableside service.
Other small details, like incorporating dips and grooves into the surface of the table, also work surprisingly well. This Discovery table, for example, has a built in sling that’s perfect for keeping magazines and remotes organized. Again, it’s a pretty small difference, but one that really helps cut down on clutter (and misplaced remotes!) while simultaneously eliminating the need for a second piece of furniture to do the same job.
Coffee tables are often throwaway pieces, but they certainly don’t have to be. Adding in simple, innovative features will add functionality to your living space, and often a really unique style, too. But what do you think of these modern multi-function coffee tables? Let me know in the comments below!