Choosing the Right Table for Your Space: End Table vs. Side Table

Typically found at the end of a sofa or next to an armchair, end tables are an essential component in any living room setup. They are ideal for holding lamps, books, or drinks, providing a convenient surface within easy reach of seating areas. End Tables are often smaller in footprint and may feature a variety of styles from classic to contemporary, often designed to match or complement the primary seating furniture.

  • By Leo Lu
  • Published on January 08, 2024

    end tables


    • Where to Place End Tables?
      • Flanking The Sofa
      • Beside Armchairs
      • Between Two Chairs
      • Next To The Bed
      • As A Room Accent
      • Functionality and Proportion
      • Match Room Décor
      • Avoid Obstructions
      • Consider Existing Layout
    • End Table Or Side Table Which One Should I Buy?
      • End Table
      • Side Table
      • Choosing Between the Two
    • In Summary
    • FAQs

    End tables, also known as side tables or occasional tables, are versatile pieces of furniture that can serve both functional and decorative purposes in various rooms throughout a home. Their placement can significantly affect both the aesthetics and functionality of a living space.

    Where to Place End Tables:

    1. Flanking The Sofa:

    End tables are commonly placed at either end of a sofa. They should be roughly the same height as the sofa’s arms for easy access. This placement allows for convenient placement of lamps, drinks, remotes, or books, and helps to frame the sofa and define the seating area.

    2. Beside Armchairs:

    Similarly, an end table can be situated next to an armchair or recliner as a standalone spot for setting down items or for holding a reading lamp. This can create a cozy reading nook or a comfortable spot for conversations in a living or family room.

    3. Between Two Chairs:

    An end table placed between two accent chairs can create a small conversation area and provide shared space to place items for both users. This layout works well in smaller rooms or in a larger space with multiple seating areas.

    4. Next To The Bed:

    In the bedroom, end tables serve as nightstands, where they can hold items like lamps, alarm clocks, and books. They should be in close reach from the bed, ideally at the level of the mattress for ease of use while lying down.

    5. As A Room Accent:

    End tables can also be placed in other areas of a room where there is empty space that needs filling. For example, an end table could be positioned beside a window with plants, a hallway, or an entryway for decorative accessories or to catch keys and mail in a decorative bowl or tray.

    6. Functionality and Proportion:

    When placing end tables, consider the scale and proportion of the surrounding furniture. A small table can look out of place next to a large sofa, while a large table can overwhelm a small chair. There should also be enough space around the end table for people to move freely without bumping into corners.

    7. Match Room Décor:

    The style of the end table should complement the rest of the room’s décor. Whether you opt for a matching furniture set or an eclectic mix of pieces, the end table can be an opportunity to add a new texture, color, or shape to the room.

    8. Avoid Obstructions:

    Be sure to place end tables in a manner that they do not obstruct pathways or doors. A good rule is to leave at least a couple feet of clearance around walkways to allow for smooth traffic flow.

    9. Consider Existing Layout:

    Take a look at the current layout of your space and the positions of electrical outlets. The placement of end tables should take into consideration the need to plug in lamps or charge devices.

    Buffet Tables

    End Table Or Side Table Which One Should I Buy?

    When deciding between an end table and a side table, it's important to consider the intended use, space available, and style preferences, as the terms are often used interchangeably but can imply subtle differences in design and functionality.

    • End Table:

    End tables are typically meant to stand at the end of a sofa or by the arms of chairs in a living room or family room. They are often designed to be about the same height as the arm of the seating they accompany, making it easy to reach for whatever may be resting on top, such as a drink or remote control.

    Key features to consider for end tables:

    1. Height: Should be level with the sofa or chair arm for convenience.

    2. Functionality: May include storage options like drawers or shelves.

    3. Size: Should be proportional to the seating furniture it accompanies.

    • Side Table

    Side tables can be more versatile and are not necessarily restricted to the living room. They can be used in various locations throughout the home, like hallways, bedrooms, or as accent pieces in a dining area. Side tables are often slightly taller than end tables and can be more decorative.

    Key features to consider for side tables:

    1. Decorative Appeal: They might offer more unique designs and can be statement pieces.

    2. Versatility: Can be used in multiple locations and for various purposes.

    3. Dimensions: They can vary widely in size and shape to fit different spaces.

    • Choosing Between the Two:

    1. Purpose: Think about what you need the table for. If it's to hold a lamp and your book next to your favorite armchair, an end table might be best. If you need a table to place keys and mail near your front door, a side table could be more fitting.
    1. Space: Measure the area where you plan to put the table. Ensure there's enough room for movement and that it fits proportionally with other pieces of furniture.
    1. Style: Decide if you want the table to blend in with your existing furniture or stand out as an accent piece.
    1. Storage Needs: If you need additional storage, look for an end table with drawers or shelves. If storage is not a priority, a simple side table may suffice.
    1. Budget: Prices can vary based on design, material, and brand. Define your budget beforehand and find a piece that combines quality with affordability.
    1. Material and Durability: Consider materials that complement your space and can withstand the intended use. Wood, metal, and glass are common options, with different durability and maintenance requirements.

    In Summary,

    End tables should be placed based on the needs of the room's users, taking into account convenience, aesthetic balance, available space, and the existing design elements. While there are general rules regarding placement, they can be adjusted to suit individual preferences and the specific functionality required in the space.


    Q1: What is the primary difference between an end table and a side table?
    An end table is typically placed at the end of a sofa or chair, while a side table is placed alongside a chair or in a different location in a room.
    Q2: How do I determine the right height for an end table or side table?
    The height of the table should be level with the arm of the sofa or chair it's intended to accompany, making it easy to reach for items resting on top.
    Q3: Can end tables and side tables serve different purposes?
    Yes, they can. End tables are often used for functional purposes, such as holding lamps or remotes, while side tables can be used as decorative pieces or for more complex tasks like eating or working.

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