Height for End Tables – How to Pick

End Table HeroWood, metal or acrylic? What shape side table? Shelves or drawers? What is the best height for end tables? With so many elements to consider, choosing the right side table can be daunting. So, we’ve created some simple guidelines to help you get the casting right.

Determine the right height for end tables

First, let’s tackle one of the most important considerations: height. Ideally, a side table should be equal to or just below the arm of the seat it’s next to. Not only does this positioning create a nice visual flow in the room, the table is within easy reach for setting a drink down or turning on a lamp. Standard sofa arm heights can range between 24 and 32 inches, so get out your measuring tape. 

aesthetic end tableNarrow down the overall look

If you’re already on the hunt for the perfect accent table, you know how hard it can be to settle on a look. When in doubt, it helps to think in terms of adding contrast to a room. Take a look at your existing furniture. Do you have a lot of upholstered pieces or bold patterns? You might want to offset the soft edges and visual texture with a more clean, streamlined design. If your aesthetic slants modern, go with something more chunky and ornate. 


Select an end table shape

Next, something as subtle as table shape can make a huge difference in the look of your room. Just think of your side table hunt like a Jenga game. What fits the space best? From round tables to square tables, each shape has it’s pros and cons. Here are a few things to consider about each shape table. 

Round Tables

  • Perfect for small spaces
  • The eye is naturally drawn to round objects

Square Tables

  • Offer more surface space for decor
  • Fit naturally tucked into corners

Organic Tables

  • Enhance overall look or aesthetic
  • Bring balance to a square room with boxy furniture

Consider end table storage & function

You’ll want to make sure the functionality of the table you choose is tailored to your needs. If you think you need extra storage space for remotes, games, tablets, books or magazines, look for a table with drawers or open shelves. Also, make sure your end table has enough surface area for accessories like lamps, coasters, and other decorative accents.

Colorful Living RoomLayer end tables for a cohesive look

Generally speaking, we think every seat should have its own side table or share one with another seat. If you’re worried about layering multiple side tables, remember that there’s no law that says the style, shape or finish has to match. In fact, we prefer a more mismatched, collected look for extra depth, dimension, and personality. Whatever side table you end up with, we know you’ll love the finishing touch and polish it adds to your room.

Need more furniture inspiration? Check out our YouTube channel or read these related posts to learn more:

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This post was updated in April 2022. 

Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.


  1. Reply

    Audrey Hyman

    July 27, 2021

    I’m interested in finding out the name of the side table used in the first picture. It’s square shaped and seems to be a walnut color. I’d appreciate any help you can give me.
    Thank you,
    Audrey Hyman

  2. Reply

    Christina Brewton

    April 18, 2017

    Great Post…!
    I would LOVE to see more updates as Ruby grows! My son is 3. As someone mentioned above, most of the stuff in your living room would be fair game to him, especially that table behind the sofa! And while he hasn’t taken to climbing bookshelves (like your bar cabinet) he’d have brought the step ladder to that the second I wasn’t looking! I feel defeated and have given up on “style” for the next 15 years (more things were broken in my house growing up when I was a teen than when I was a toddler) =P

  3. Reply


    March 12, 2017

    Thanks for the helpful tips for side tables..

  4. Reply


    November 18, 2016

    Thanks for the helpful tips for side tables. I love the tangerine print armless chair with the Garden Seat as an end table. Do you mind sharing the fabric name and manufacturer of the chair?

  5. Reply

    Bonnie Coward

    August 27, 2016

    Great advice about side tables! Could you do another column on rugs? I need rugs to cover the floor in oddly shaped rooms and square spaces. I have lived in several old houses. The hearth sticks out into the room and heating/ac comes through floor vents which leaves a rectangular room with a square that needs covering. You have great looking rugs but none of them are square!!!

  6. Reply


    February 17, 2016

    A very thorough overview with great information! The visuals along with your explanations are so helpful. Your rooms and examples are just beautiful.

    • Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      February 17, 2016

      Thanks Donna!

  7. Reply


    February 16, 2016

    Could you please tell me the name of the square table with the basket on the lower shelf? Thanks!

    • Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      February 17, 2016

      That’s our Morgan End Table.
      Happy Decorating!

  8. Reply

    Monica Lavin

    February 10, 2016

    This is great advice for picking a side table! It can be so challenging to find the perfect fit for a room. But I love all of your pics! They definitely add a polished touch to any rom.

    • Reply

      Caroline @ How to Decorate

      February 10, 2016

      Thanks Monica!