My mother had a particular attachment to her living room tables. She selected a rectangular cocktail table that sat in front of our sofa until after I left the house and got married. The coffee table had a storage shelf below the table top, where she could place last week’s issue of Life Magazine or the Sunday paper before it was time to drop it in the trash. She also selected a matching set of end tables, with a dual tops-the upper for a lamp, the lower for books, like the family Bible they got as a wedding gift.
When I was collecting furniture for my first apartment, I needed to get creative. I had little money and no hand-me-down furniture from my parents’ home. The day I moved in, I found a worn coffee table and a pair of end tables left by the previous tenant. I was happy to find those tables. I learned how to refinish furniture using those tables as my practice pieces. They weren’t perfect, but I was learning to take my décor into my own hands.
The day came when I was able to replace my used sofa and second-hand living room tables with a new set of my own. I bought a creamy white sofa in a contemporary design, a pair of oval end tables, and a high-gloss rosewood and black coffee table. My first real living room was my own creation, and I was pleased with myself.
My next redecorating project was for my home with children. I kept my white sofa and grown-up rosewood coffee table, but I moved them to the formal living room, where my kids had little reason to play. I replaced the old furniture with an odd collection of tables-a square wicker coffee table, which would hurt less when little heads bumped the edge, a bedroom end table to store a blanket and pillow for afternoon naps, and a large wooden square and iron end table, with a bottom shelf that held plenty of storybooks and issues of Highlights magazines.
The girls got older, and kid-friendly furniture was not as important as it once was. I moved into a new house, and the first thing I did was outfit a new formal parlor. I found glass-topped tables-both coffee tables and end tables–that sat on black wrought iron bases. They were elegant, and their glass tops let the area rug and the rich floral upholstery take center stage in the room.
My new family room had a custom-fit sectional, and its premium cost made me shop around for a bargain for more living room tables. I found a round coffee table in the clearance section of an import store, and an apothecary chest at a used-furniture store. I placed a lamp table for the other side of the sectional. It was a splurge, with a weighted base and a hammered copper shade, but it fit perfectly between the entrance of the room and the end of the couch. The living room tables worked like a charm.
I have learned that successfully furnishing a living room was a combination of vision, luck, and compromise. But the living room won’t work well without a good set of living room tables.
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