What were coffee tables called before 1920? We will tackle where the name coffee table originated and how it came about. If you enjoy learning about the history of everyday items in your household and where it comes from, then read on and learn more about coffee tables. 

By the end of the 19th century, the catchphrase coffee table was beginning to be widely used by many Americans. They figured that calling it a cocktail table did not make a lot of sense. 

E.W. Godwin, a renowned and celebrated furniture designer and architect, referred to one of his creations as a coffee table. Because of that, in 1938, the new name has been validated. 


Stuart Foote, the president of Imperial Furniture Company, claimed to have created the modern-day coffee table in 1920. The story was that he cut down the legs of a regular table, and as soon as he saw the finished product, he thought about placing it in front of the sofa set. 

He figured that it would be ideal to set down one’s coffee while resting. Hence, the coffee table was born. However, it is still up for debate whether J. Stuart Foote invented the coffee table or not, but we all know that we are grateful that it exists. 

The production of coffee tables expanded rapidly in the early 20th century. This low and rectangular table was marketed and manufactured specifically for the average homeowner. 

Purpose Of The Coffee Table

1920s coffee table

Coffee tables are commonly designed as low tables placed near a sitting area to support beverages, books like large and illustrated coffee books, magazines, decorations, trinkets, and even remote controls conveniently. 

These coffee tables are made of wood or faux wood, glass, and metal. Metal coffee tables are usually stainless steel or aluminum and may also include storage space like cabinets and drawers. The original coffee tables are believed to be constructed and manufactured in Renaissance England. 

Difference Between A Coffee Table and Tea Table 

Unlike tea tables that are typically round and tall, coffee tables are a considerable evolution and progression in its design. The most basic coffee table structure is low on the surface, about 18 to 19 inches from the floor. Its height is less than 27 inches from a tea table. 

The founder and creative director of Address Home say coffee tables should be about the same height as the cushions in our sofas or one to two inches lower. At the same time, its length should at least be two-thirds the length of the couch. 

Most Common Coffee Table Styles 

Shaker Coffee Tables 

The Shakers are developed and manufactured by the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing. Its distinctive and unique style is inspired by its principles of honesty, utility, and simplicity. 

These minimalist tables are thoughtfully made with the right proportion and functionality. 

Cottage Coffee Tables 

This coffee table style is designed and decorated to celebrate ordinary treasures and imperfections that perfectly blend with every household’s furniture. They are developed to look unpretentious, humble, homey, and full of heart. 

The Cottage coffee tables showcase detailed feminine lines like its turned legs. They are commonly painted and added distressed finishes to give it a more country and cozy look. 

Industrial Coffee Tables 

Industrial coffee tables elicit a purposeful and practical look with the feel of factory tools. These types of tables use wood and metal in a more rough and uncultivated style. These tables are sturdy and stable and are a perfect fit for any loft-style living rooms. It is also a great contrast to homes with softer backdrops. 

Mid Century Coffee Tables 

Commonly called mid-century modern, this style refers to the popular interior design style back in the 1950s and the 1960s. These tables are described as clean and straightforward. It uses molded plastic or bentwood to achieve its look. Often, wood finishes are kept simple to showcase its natural beauty. 

Contemporary Coffee Tables 

These contemporary coffee tables feature eye-catching, bold, and bright accents. The most common features used in contemporary tables are glass tops with metal bases. Although the term contemporary is continually changing, the modern or contemporary style usually refers to what is popular at the moment.

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