As furniture types go, interior designers think of occasional tables as the go-to solution for multiple design dilemmas. These handy pieces of furniture can be placed just about anywhere and serve a multitude of functions. "Remember that old grammar lesson that suggested a preposition was defined as anywhere a mouse could go? Well, you might think of occasional tables as anywhere a lamp can go." says designer Stefanie Navarra. "The quickest fix for any small, dark corner is to move an occasional table into it and place a good-looking lamp on the table. Voila! Problem solved."
Known by many names, occasional tables include coffee or cocktail tables, end or side tables, consoles for sofa tables, accent and nesting tables. No matter what we call them, however, we can count on these small, typically decorative pieces to greatly increase a room's functionality overall.
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Make that just about any room's functionality. "Occasional tables work hard nearly anywhere you put them," Navarra says. "Placed in front of a sofa in the living room or den, a cocktail table isn't just a spot to rest a drink or snacks. IT can also help keep your living space organized. More than just surfaces to rest things on, some of the most popular new styles of cocktail tables include shelves, drawers or baskets beneath the table, ideal for stowing magazines and remote controls and generally keeping clutter under control. Some also have lift-tops, which raise the top of the table directly to you when you're sitting on the sofa."
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And, just as end tables are ideal spots for lamps on either side of the a sofa, the same can hold true in the bedroom, where an accent table might serve as an elegant alternative to a nightstand next to a bed. "Or, tuck one next to a small upholstered chair in the bedroom to create the perfect, private reading spot," Navarra suggests. "In the bathroom, an accent table might hold towels or a collection of decorative bottles filled with bath salts and oils, while an occasional table in the foyer or hallway can help corral mail or keys, or be the perfect place to show off family photos, flowers or other decorative items that add life to a home."
Need more ideas? An accent table set between two chairs in any room can instantly create an intimate conversation spot for two, and the options are almost endless in the kitchen or dining room as well. Think cookbook collections, a silver tea service, or simply a place to set extra dishes and glasses when you're entertaining."
While on the subject of entertaining, it's a good bet that while researching occasional table options you'll encounter upholstered ottomans, sometimes referred to as poufs, used in place of a cocktail table. Or, in the same vein, cocktail tables that include hassocks or ottomans tucked beneath.
Anyone who's ever thrown a party and wished they had more seating on hand will understand why these space saving designs that do double-duty in the function department is all the rage. Nesting tables - a set of two more table of varying heights that "nest" underneath each other can be separated as needed to create multiple table surfaces - are popular for much the same reason.
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Also, the days when matching tables in the same finish were considered the height of style are long gone. "The eclectic look is in," Navarra points out, "so it's perfectly acceptable to pair, say a glass and metal cocktail table with a wood end table."
The only must-have, really, is a bit of confidence and willingness to try something new. Bear in mind that in the great big decorating scheme of things, there's not too much at risk here.
As the designer says, "Since these smaller tables are generally quite portable, you can always move a table that doesn't blend in seamlessly to another room where it might turn out to be the focal point you've been looking for!"
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