No, we’re not talking about beverages. This is a decorating blog, after all. But just for fun, here’s a trivia challenge for you. What’s the difference between a coffee table and a cocktail table?

Errrrr. Times up. They’re the same, you say? Not so fast. While the two terms are used interchangeably, a purist will tell you a cocktail table is square or rectangular in shape while a coffee table is round or oval.

The good news is that both tables serve essentially the same purpose – to hold decorative accents, a magazine or a beverage within easy reach of a sofa. No one knows where or how coffee tables originated except that it’s theorized that they were originally used during the Victorian era in England and were based on tables used in tea gardens.

With the popularity of cocktail parties in the Roaring ’20s came cocktail tables which became even more fashionable following the repeal of Prohibition in the 1930s. While coffee tables are usually 16-18” in height, cocktail tables have a history of being slightly taller at 20-22”.

Today these tables not only provide a convenient surface to place things, but are also a centerpiece for entertaining and a focus for decorating.

When you visit Connell’s in Mt. Vernon or Newark to buy one of these tables, it’s good to know what type will work best in your living area. Today there are many different sizes, shapes and styles.

Take an objective look at the adjacent furnishings. The style of cocktail table should coordinate with the upholstery and other tables. While it doesn’t need to exactly match, its style should complement and not clash with other furnishings.

A traditional sofa is usually best accented by a traditional table. However, a contemporary table in a coordinating finish or texture will liven up the room.

Consider the shape of other furnishings. If the neighboring sofa has curved lines, then a round or oval table will work best. If there is a rug underneath the table, consider a glass-top table which will let the beauty and design of the rug show through.

Allow 12-15” between the edge of the sofa and the coffee table and 6” between the end of the table and the end of the sofa.

Finally, think about how the table will be used. If it will be used for dining in front of the television, consider a higher table with a flat, easily cleanable surface. If it will be used to hold multiple family items, choose a table with storage drawers or hidden compartments.

Your Connell’s sales representative will be able to show you different options on your next visit to the store.