Must Have: Coffee Tables

A small piece of furniture can make a big difference.

Coffee Tables

A small piece of furniture can make a big difference.

By Lila Edythe / Photography by Cole Buckhart

“A coffee/cocktail table is the heartbeat of the seating area,” says Cheryl Frey, the founder and owner of Alley Modern & More, which sells vintage mid-century furniture and decorative arts. “It not only defines the space by its size, but also functions as an art form, entertainment center for cocktails, or game watching/playing station. Add a stack of books and it becomes an impromptu library.”

 Christian Burch, who with John Frechette owns and runs Mountain Dandy Showroom, agrees with Frey. “A coffee table is a communal space; during a party, it’s where everyone gathers,” he says. Because of the importance of a coffee table to a room, Burch sees it as an opportunity to showcase your personality and things that are meaningful to you. “It’s a way to express yourself without hanging a big piece of art on the wall. It’s where you can put a small collection of favorite things that don’t have to be fancy, just special to you,” he says. Here Frey, Burch, and Susan Temple, owner of Jackson Hole Book Trader (because no coffee table is complete without some beautiful books) share some of the things that are must-haves on their coffee tables. Unless specified otherwise, items are available at Mountain Dandy Showroom (265 W. Pearl Ave., 307/690-2896, or Alley Modern & More (245 W. Pearl Ave., 307/413-4007,

Light it Up

“I like a mirrored coffee table because it is a light source in a room,” Burch says. “Around here, a lot of rooms are big and the furniture is dark and then you put a dark coffee table in and you have a black home. But if you put something with minimal legs or that is mirrored, it works against that darkness. Plus mirrored reads a little naughty, which is fun.” Made Goods mirrored coffee table, $2,800


Whether on a coffee table or a kitchen counter, a trivet like this brass one designed by Sir/Madam organizes things. “Your messiness looks like it’s not messy,” Burch says. Available in brass and nickel finishes, $98

It’s in the Details

“Coffee tables are great places for interesting objects and handmade pieces,” Burch says. This two-link chain ceramic sculpture by Michele Quan of MQuan Studio is both. $290

Books for Wyoming Coffee Tables

“As 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, we thought a book celebrating [female] trailblazers is appropriate for coffee tables in the Equality State,” says Susan Temple, owner of Jackson Hole Book Trader. With more than 400 photos of women from more than 50 countries, Women: The National Geographic Image Collection “is both beautiful and has so much substance and depth,” Temple says. Available at Jackson Hole Book Trader, 970 W. Broadway Ave. Suite A, 307/734-6001, $50 

“To us,” Temple says, “the importance of Wild Migrations: Atlas of Wyoming’s Ungulates is summarized in the first line of the forward by Annie Proulx: ‘[This book] is the book Wyoming has been waiting for all its life.’” Wild Migrations tells the story of the migrations that elk, mule deer, pronghorn, bison, and mountain goats make through the eyes, words, and photos of the biologists and wildlife managers who study them. Available at Jackson Hole Book Trader, 970 W. Broadway Ave. Suite A, 307/734-6001, $50

Glass it Up

“The use of glass as a coffee table to me is brilliant,” says Frey. “It allows the piece to have its own presence yet not take up visual space in a room by allowing other objects to be just as important.” Frey found this 1940s Pietro Chiesa for FontanaArte coffee table at an auction in Denver. “The slight green hue of the glass married with the elegantly shaped legs held together by nickel-plated brass make this table timeless and able to pair well with many different interior styles,” Frey says. 

Double Duty

“It can be seating if needed,” Burch says of this Stephen Kenn Studio upholstered coffee table. “It also invites you to put your feet up on it, and it can take kids all day long.” From $2,200, available in leather, wool, and canvas

A Staple

“Candles bring warmth, light, and scent. I always have one on my coffee table at home,” Burch says. “It rounds out the experience of a room.” Assouline is best known for its gorgeous and wide-ranging coffee table books, but it also makes candles. Or a candle, in its exclusive Culture Lounge fragrance, which has notes of lemon, rum, vanillamusk, and sandalwood. $250


Adding vintage or handmade pieces keeps a coffee table from looking like you just went to a showroom and bought what you thought should be on a coffee table, Burch says. The slip cast white bison is by New York studio Em Ceramics. That said, Burch admits, “If I had kids or a dog with a big tail, this table would look completely different. But I also think that if you love things and purchase them, you can’t let them own you.” Vintage pieces: availability and price vary; bison: $640

“I am a coffee table book guy and constantly look at them,” Burch says. “I like interior books, but not classical interiors. I like books with photos of homes that look like people live in them, like Francois Halard.” As far as stacking books, Burch say he often has a few stacks and doesn’t think there’s a right or wrong number of stacks. “I actually think in a great big room, if you don’t need to use your coffee table you can’t have too many stacks.” From $85  

Share This Story With Friends