End tables are an essential part of any well appointed home. Not only do they serve a vital function, serving as bookends to a furniture grouping, but they also allow table lamps to be strategically paced around the room.

As with all furnishings, the design of end tables evolve from year to year. Old ideas are reborn and the hottest trends seem to fade away. Somewhere in the middle lies the enduring design ideas, ones that will not only continue to look fresh year in and year out, but also solve some of your most common furniture needs.

Nesting tables are a good example. These allow you to get maximum flexibility in the smallest amount of space. Nesting tables are just what they sound like. They have several tables that nest with one another. Think of those Russian nesting dolls and you’ll understand how nesting end tables work. These are ideal if you entertain a lot, as you essentially get three tables in one, allowing you to spread them around the room during a party. Everyone can have their own table, a big plus if you’re watching a movie and everyone wants easy access to the popcorn and Junior Mints.

If you gravitate toward modern furniture, you may want to take a look at tables that were inspired by cubism. These cube shaped tables come in a wide range of materials, including modernistic favorites – steel, aluminum and plastic or resin. These will really jazz up a room and are extremely popular.

Flexibility is key in American homes and you can get tables that are multi-talented. For example, you can get end tables that can double as ottomans. These are perfect for a lot of homes, as the top of the ottoman can be removed to disclose additional space for storage. Some of these ottoman/tables even come with a flip top so you can have padding for the ottoman or a tray for serving food and drinks or serving as the top of an end table the rest of the time.

In fact, you can get end tables that are more traditional in style that have removable tray tops, perfect for serving. You can even conceivably put two of these end tables together to live carts create a nice coffee table.

Ever resourceful, designers are creating all sorts of multi-purpose tables for use throughout the home. For example, you can get end tables that double as stools. Or you can even use step stools as an end table. Some models allow you to mix and match the components, allowing you to create a unique table or pair of tables that have subtle differences in the designs, such as different arrangements of the shelves or contrasting layouts.

There’s no real rule that you even have to use traditional tables, creating something that is different and perhaps even a bit surprising. For instance, you can opt to go with a stack of vintage suitcases or a manufactured table that looks like old luggage. This can give the room a warm look and showcase your love of travel. The tables can be luggage and the coffee table, a steamer trunk.

This is one of the great things about tables in the living room or great room. You can choose tables that reflect your interests. Properly executed, nearly any piece of furniture can be put into service as an end table. If you love plants, for example, consider using a short, tiered plant stand, reserving the top level for your traditional table area. Or consider using a wrought iron serving cart at the end of your upholstered furnishings. It fills that double duty trend that is so popular, serving as a table most of the time, but being able to be pressed into service as a cart at a moment’s notice during a party or holiday.