Once upon a time, there was one style of sofa tray table. It had folding X-shaped legs supporting a cheap metal or composite wood table, it came in a set of four, and it sat in front of the couch so people could lean forward to eat their newfangled TV dinners while watching Gunsmoke or The Beverly Hillbillies.
Those cheap sofa tray tables are still around, but we’ve come a long way from the 1950s and 60s. We may be viewing YouTube, the latest shows on Netflix or a new release in our home theater, but we still watch our HDTVs while relaxing on the couch. And there is now a wealth of designs for tables and trays that can be used in front of, beside, above and directly on top of sofa cushions.
Let’s look first at materials used to make modern versions of TV tray tables. Most metal models are stronger than the old flimsy ones, and many are powder-coated so they can blend into a contemporary décor. Today’s manufactured woods are a lot stronger than the material used in the mid 20th century, and a wide choice of veneers lets them fit almost any design. Hinges on today’s folding tables are much more reliable, too. These tables are available in plastic polymers like ABS as well.
It’s also easy to find an (admittedly more expensive) solid oak or mahogany sofa tray table which will fit into an upscale room, a metal one with beautifully-crafted scrollwork to match a country-style design, or a chic metal-and-glass unit.
The bigger advance in sofa tray table design involves how these tables can be used. Perhaps the most popular style features a table sitting on a single “L” or “U” shaped leg that’s mounted on a rolling or stationary base; the base can be pushed or rolled underneath a couch or chair so the tray can be positioned right above your lap. You don’t have to lean forward to eat – the table comes to you.
There’s an extra benefit of these single-legged tables. If the couch doesn’t have an arm which extends all the way to the floor, the table base can be positioned underneath the side of the sofa to hold your snacks or drinks next to you. That way you’re not crowded by a table in front of you, and you’re not blocked from making a quick bathroom run.
One more style you’ll see is a tabletop tray. It can be flat or flexible, made of plastic or wood, but it serves a brilliant purpose: it attaches directly to a couch seat or armrest and sits flat, creating a “sofa tray table” which won’t interfere with you and is easily moved.