Are you going to sit on a sofa or chair and put your feet up on the table? Look for a soft, ottoman-style and put one or multiple trays atop it for food and drinks. Make sure it's at seat height so your legs and feet are comfy.
Are you going to sit on the floor and eat off the coffee table? Look for one that you can slide your legs and feet under. Solid tables and ones with a lower shelf won't work.
Are you going to sit on the sofa or lounge chair and eat from the coffee table? Look for one that's a little higher than your average coffee table height of 18 or 19 inches.The 18-inch rule
Place your coffee table 18 inches from the sofa or chairs -- in almost all instances. Otherwise it's too far from people sitting on the sofa.
A small, round table is perfect for a small space, where the relationship between the edge of the sofa and the edge of a round table exists at only one point and gets farther and farther away. You can break the 18-inch rule and pull the table as close as 12 inches to the sofa.
A square table works with a sofa flanked by a couple of chairs on each side or when you've got a sectional with both sections being the same length. This gives you an 18-inch distance to all seating pieces.Two's company
Two smaller tables work better than one if you have a narrow space and a really long sofa or sofa bed. They can be reconfigured as night tables when the bed is extended.The long, short and width of it
The length of the table should always be long enough for everyone seated on the sofa to be able to reach the table without getting up from their seat, but never as long as the seat length of the sofa.
The depth of the table varies enormously depending on the size of the room and the placement of furniture adjacent to the sofa (the orientation, number and dimensions of chairs). Refer to the 18-inch rule.
But if you want to make the adjacent seating spread out without making the coffee table excessive in size (which it would have to be to stick to the 18-inch rule), place an occasional table between the chairs and forgo the rule. That way, everyone has access to a flat surface.The people/ worry factor
Consider who is using the table and for what. If it's kids with crayons or homework or adults without coasters, choose a hard material such as a stone or laminate.
Outsmart circumstances. Choose one that comes with imperfections, such as distressed wood, so additional "flaws" become part of the patina.