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The Short History of Coffee Tables

Did you ever wonder how your coffee table got its name?


Trendy coffee art served on a coffee table.

It began in 1652 when the first coffee house opened in London. It was so popular that more coffee houses soon opened all over Europe. Also called Penny University, the cost to enter was a penny and included a cup of coffee.


An undated illustration showing Lloyds Coffee House on Pope’s Head Alley in London. Photo credit:

The idea of a coffee table came from the need to put down your hot beverage between sips. These tables, called tea tables were tall at 27″ high, compared to today’s coffee tables at 18″-19″ high.

There are no documents from the 17th and 18th century mentioning coffee tables although there are hundreds of references about coffee houses during the time period. It is speculated that the name tea table was changed to coffee table because coffee became more popular than tea.


photo source: source:

It wasn’t until 1938, that a coffee table was defined as a “low wide table used before a sofa or couch.”

Today, coffee tables (also called cocktail tables) still share the same location in the living room in front of the sofa. Yet, the shape, size, and functionality have changed vastly.


Distinctly modern curved Eliptical coffee table by Actona Company. Polished white finish adds to is minimalistic look.

Allure T1396_T1396-65-b copy

Architectual Allure coffee table with glass has dark hazelnut finish bent wood legs for a stunning artful piece.


Foosball coffee table keeps the crowd entertained. source: chicago gaming

Juniper 1020_T1020-45-b

Junipur coffee table with 4 tuckable ottomans on castors serves duo purpose. Ideal for those with limited space.

Lego table

Is it a toy or a table? Source:

Do you have a coffee or cocktail table in your home?

For more information, visit the following sources:


About Terri Dux

When not watching her favorite TV channel, HGTV, Terri likes crafting, gardening, and thrifting at neighborhood garage sales.

One comment on “The Short History of Coffee Tables

  1. D Sion
    May 19, 2016

    Nice article. Especially like the Penny University and coffee foosball table.
    More info on it if anyone is interested.

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