A coffee table isn’t just a place to put down your coffee or put up your feet. It’s “like the campfire of the home,” said Francis D’Haene, the principal of D’Apostrophe Design.
That’s why it’s important to find the right one. “It’s usually in the center of the room,” Mr. D’Haene said, so it’s one of the most noticeable pieces of furniture. “And people sit around it to have conversations.”
Whether he’s designing apartments in Manhattan, houses in the Hamptons or boutiques for fashion designers like Jill Stuart and Rick Owens, Mr. D’Haene, 50, favors clean-lined spaces. “I don’t like the word minimal, but we want to be simple,” he said. “It’s modern and contemporary, but with a warm feeling.”
That means including just enough sculptural furniture to make those spaces inviting — so every piece counts, particularly the coffee table. Before you buy a new one, he suggests asking yourself a few questions:
• How does the height compare to that of the seats around it? “It should be at seating height or a little lower,” Mr. D’Haene said.
• Should the table be square, rectangular, round or organic? “The choice depends on the shape of the room and type of seating,” he said. A long, skinny table often works well in a rectangular room, while organic shapes pair nicely with curvaceous sofas and chairs.
• What will you put on top? “You can do a coffee table very low to the ground, if you know you’re going to stack a lot of books on it,” he said. In that case, “it can become more of a display space and conversation piece.”
The Quick Fix
Eames Elliptical Table | $899 at Design Within Reach; (800) 944–2233 or dwr.com
Designed in 1951 by Charles and Ray Eames, this surfboard of a table from Herman Miller, which measures nearly seven and a half feet long, gets a lot right. “I love its shape, proportions, low height and simplicity,” Mr. D’Haene said. The form is playful and welcoming, “not aggressive,” he added. “It would be a great piece for a long seating group.”
The Future Heirloom
Luna Coffee Table | from $6,000 at John Eric Byers; (607) 564–0421 or johnericbyers.blogspot.com
With a hand-gouged surface of tiny craters, this blackened maple table by John Eric Byers has a travertine disk at its center, so it’s loaded with textural appeal. “He makes great pieces that are very simple in form,” Mr. D’Haene said, but reflect top-level craftsmanship — all of which should help this table stand the test of time.
The Object of the Moment
Nenuphar Coffee Table | about $16,300 at Galerie Negropontes; (011) 33-1-71-18-1951 or negropontes-galerie.com
“At the moment, it’s all about metals like bronze, brass and gold in combination with dark woods and surfaces,” Mr. D’Haene said. This lacquer table designed by Hervé Langlais with a polished-brass insert and edge is a fine example, he noted, and “just so chic.”
Limestone Table | $6,350 at Espasso; (212) 219–0017 or espasso.com
“The fact that this table was designed in 1970 is pretty remarkable,” Mr. D’Haene said, because it could easily pass for something more recent. Conceived by the Polish-born, Brazil-based architect Jorge Zalszupin, with wood legs that come right through the limestone top, he said, “It’s a beautiful combination of two natural materials I love.”
Low Table and Lamp | $5,980 at Matter; (212) 343–2600 or mattermatters.com
Mr. D’Haene deemed this piece, designed by Muller Van Severen, unusual and ingenious. “The thinking is out of the box: How do you combine a light and a coffee table?” This well-executed answer, he said, is both eye-catching and surprisingly functional.