Get Rid of the Coffee Table

There was a time when my coffee table was my most expensive piece of furniture. Until the days of the shelves, it served as the centerpiece of my living room, a carefully selected expression of my 20-year ambition. Atop a rectangular sheet of glass with industrial copper tubing legs stood a pair of nifty books – Design * Sponge at Home to showcase my modern aesthetic, and Edible Selby because I loved the idea of taking a culinary adventure around the world – along with The New Yorker that I would tell myself I would sit down and read very soon. Alongside all the reading material was a beautiful candle that was never lit and decorative knick-knacks that changed with the seasons. (A family of shiny deer showed up every December, which made my husband moan.) “Oooh, good table,” the new guests said as they entered the room, and I smiled.

And then – and here’s a page when so many stories take a sharp turn – we had a baby. As this child grew and became more mobile, the coffee table became something else: a danger trap. Why is this thing here? I asked gloomily. “And why does he have so many corners?” There was no more beauty in him – instead, whenever I looked at him, I instantly saw a wound on my precious daughter’s forehead, which led to a permanent scar, which led to a story that began with the words: “So my mother had this stupid table. ” It was clear that the coffee table needed to be removed.

But what would replace it? My relatives had a huge ottoman with a tuft that they no longer need, so we decided to try it. It was soft and definitely kid-friendly, but besides being fun for my daughter to climb and bang like a drum, I found it to be more awkward than helpful. It was not very comfortable to put our feet up unless we were pushing it next to the couch (which was bulky), and while I know some people balance drinks on it with a tray, it just seemed like a bad idea. So the ottoman went on.

Then for a long time we had nothing. Just a wide open space. It was a little strange, like a dazzling abyss. But soon something magical happened. We started to actually use this area. It became the place where my daughter did children’s yoga , the place where we all sat on the carpet and played board games, the place where I packed Christmas gifts while watching Netflix, the place where we lived.

Others, like me, seem to see a heirloom of furniture on the coffee table. I’m on a Facebook group called KonMari with Kids, inspired by Mari Kondo’s guide, Life Changing Cleaning Magic , and there are hundreds of comments dedicated to being without a coffee table. “This is NOT fun,” writes one participant. “We gave up ours and it was one of the best decisions we have ever made,” says another. “Just wasted space and an extra thing to clean up!”

People use all sorts of workarounds for a coffee table, as sometimes you need a small, flat surface to place things like a drink, remote control, book, or reading glasses. There is an option with small nesting tables , such as these , that can be expanded when you have people. Others have a long, thin console table or shelf behind the sofa. Or some people make a table that fits over the arm of a sofa like this , or an end table like this . I have a light accent table that I can slide towards me when I watch Black Mirror drunkenly, or push it against the wall when my daughter wants to practice flips. It works.

As beautiful as my coffee table was, I never realized how uncomfortable it made the room – every time we wanted to get to the couch, we had to maneuver around protruding corners and try not to hit our shins. The space now seems more open and inviting. I’m not sure if I will ever return to the coffee table even when my child is older. So much freedom comes with getting rid of it.


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