Up for debate: Are coffee table books mandatory?

I’ve been having a kind of internal debate recently about coffee table books… mostly, whether they’re almost mandatory because there’s hardly any substitute for them. Given the fact that most coffee table books are basically overpriced coasters and that technologically we’ve progressed far beyond the paper book (and also because no one actually reads them) I’m kind of hoping the answer would be no… but aesthetically it’s kind of hard to come up with alternatives. I’ll lay out the evidence here, let me know what you think. Here are rooms with books on the coffee table:


Yup, that’s home. I’m ready to curl up and pretend to read one of my coffee table books. From decorpad.


Here the books serve to reinforce the rectilinear geometry of the room. From eclectic revisited.


This room feels cozier with a pile of magazines on the coffee table and a stack of books as an end table.


An orange coffee table book provides a splash of color in a sea of neutral.


A modern space made more accessible and personal through its coffee table books, from Tumidei.

Even the most modern living room is displayed with coffee table books.

AND NOW, here are some living rooms sans coffee table books

How about coral and candles, does that do it for you? From HomePortfolio.

How about vases and bowls? From HomePortfolio.

A tray of pretty things that are all perishable doesn’t count, regardless of how cute they are.

Great midcentury room with a practically bare coffee table. Awwwwwww. (Pitying sigh.)

Beautiful room again compensating with perishables.

Without coffee table books to personalize the space, this room ends up feeling a little hotel-ish.

So what do you think? Does every living room need coffee table books? If not, what else could you use on the coffee table instead? Roomology wants your opinion!

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4 responses to “Up for debate: Are coffee table books mandatory?

  1. How about a bonzai?

  2. What about personal photo albums instead? A way to display photo albums that might otherwise get stuck in storage or on a back shelf, and fun to leaf through while you’re lounging about and visiting with friends.

    • I like this idea, particularly because they look like books from the outside, so they could also be used in conjunction with/on top of your coffee table books. 🙂

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