The social season may be at a lull right now, but the festive period is a great time to work out if your home functions as well when it comes to entertaining, as it does for relaxing. Were there enough surfaces for drinks and nibbles? Could your guests mingle or sit comfortably and place their plates and glasses down easily, or were they nipping into the kitchen for top ups each time?

Step forward, the Occasional Table. This nifty number can be brought out when you have a crowd, or sit neatly in a corner as a base for a reading lamp, book or tablet, during the quieter times when you want to kick back and relax.

There's a wide choice in styles, shapes and materials too, with some side tables even doubling up as seats, foot stools or sculptures, such as the elegant piece from Julian Chichester or the classic Stool C by Charles and Ray Eames, designed in the 1960s, as part of a series of lobby seats for a much larger project commissioned by Time Inc at New York's Rockefeller Centre.

Whether your budget is high end or high street, you can choose from turned and sculpted timber, marble and brass finishes or classic designs from famous names.

They're not just for the living area either. If storage isn't an issue and you prefer a lighter look without the need for drawer space, many of the current crop of occasional tables are just the right height to serve instead of a bedside cabinet, bringing a stylish alternative to the sleeping quarters. This also offers the option to move the side tables from room to room, whenever you fancy shaking things up and moving the furniture around.

Invest now and you'll be ready when the next round of parties and gatherings begin.

SPLINTER SIDE TABLE, £475, THE CONRAN SHOP

SPLINTER SIDE TABLE, £475, THE CONRAN SHOP

Designed by Japanese label Nendo, this simple splintered oak side table has been expertly crafted and is great for accenting your living space.

BOBBIN SIDE TABLE, £220, DEBENHAMS

BOBBIN SIDE TABLE, £220, DEBENHAMS

Sculpted from mango wood, the Bobbin's smooth silhouette and rustic good looks have a contemporary feel that would suit a number of interiors.

BOBBIN SIDE TABLE, £220, DEBENHAMS

BOBBIN SIDE TABLE, £220, DEBENHAMS

Sculpted from mango wood, the Bobbin's smooth silhouette and rustic good looks have a contemporary feel that would suit a number of interiors.

FREE-RANGE SIDE TABLE, £499, HEAL'S

FREE-RANGE SIDE TABLE, £499, HEAL'S

With its beautiful marble top sitting on a tripod of solid walnut legs, this versatile piece oozes elegance.

DUCKBILLED SIDE TABLE, £1243, JULIAN CHICHESTER

DUCKBILLED SIDE TABLE, £1243, JULIAN CHICHESTER

Is it a sculpture? No, it's a handy yet sophisticated piece of furniture. Crafted from solid oak and finished with blackened brass, it's an elegant way to introduce an extra surface.

BERLIN SIDE TABLE, £590, LOMBOK

BERLIN SIDE TABLE, £590, LOMBOK

Not just for the living area, this chic piece is just the right height as a bedside table too.

STOOL C, £1150, CHARLES & RAY EAMES AT VITRA

STOOL C, £1150, CHARLES & RAY EAMES AT VITRA

Originally commissioned by Time Inc in the 60s for three lobbies in the Rockefeller Centre, New York (as part of a larger project), this solid walnut turned stool can also be used as an occasional table.

PORRA SIDE TABLE, £149, SWOON

PORRA SIDE TABLE, £149, SWOON

Made from Mango wood and brass, this slimline table would fit neatly into an unused corner and provide a perfect perch for a reading lamp, tv remote or drinks and snacks.