What’s the Difference?


As a professional interior designer in Bergen County, New Jersey, I find that people sometimes run into confusion when hearing words that describe furniture.  Many just don’t know what is being referred to.  Let’s get it straightened out.


When shopping for living room tables, sizes and styles can be similar but each have specific uses.  A variety of names could be used in description for what you are researching and it can get confusing.   Let’s sort it out.


This is an accent table.  It is used in an entry foyer or hallway.

It is taller than other living room tables.  The height is like a dining room table of 30 inches and can go up to 36 inches tall.  Length varies as well. 

When selecting this kind of table, measuring the wall to see its length is critical.  Usually, console tables can be as small as 36 inches long and can stretch out all the way to 72 inches if there is space for it.  Some people purchase two tables to get the measurement they are looking for when put together. 

Depth is usually shallow for this type of furniture, ranging from 12-18 inches.  Most tables have four legs, but some are more sculptural and have only two legs.  The back of the table can be cleated to the wall.  Usually, the design is special with an open base, or with shallow drawers.  Some pieces have open shelves for storage or display.

Console tables add a finished touch to these spaces,  Not only great for accessories, they are practical for keys, and mail. Often there is a mirror above, so you can see how you look as you are leaving/coming in.


This is also an accent table.  It is used in a living room or family room/den.

When a table is placed against the back of a sofa, it is called a sofa table.  It might look just like a console table in style.  It might be placed up against a wall and the sofa comes up to it.  Or, the sofa placement may be floating in the room, in which case, the sofa table sits in the middle of the room up against the sofa.

This is a great piece of furniture that acts as a surface to display or add lighting in the form of a lamp or two. 

The size of this table is what distinguishes it.  It is shorter than the back of the sofa frame—not the pillows, which are usually higher than the frame.  If you are looking for this item, you must measure the back of the sofa first.  That takes care of the height of the piece.

The length of this table is shorter than the sofa.  There should be 6 inches of space on either side, so the sofa extends out beyond the table.  If the table is up against the wall, there is no accessible storage.  If it is a floating table, there may be some storage available.

This is typically a slim table with a depth of no more than 12-15 inches.  If you intend to place a lamp on this table, you need to measure the lamp shade.  It’s not the base you have to worry about!

I hope this explains some of the misunderstandings about these two types of tables and helps sort out the differences.

Need some more help to figure it out?  Let us know!