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The Ultimate Guide


15 Pretty Ways to Style a Coffee Table

  • 01 of 15

    The Art of Coffee Table Styling

    Coffee table styling is a bit of an art. Since coffee tables usually have prominent places in living rooms, it's important that they look good, but it's equally important that they function in the way they're supposed to. Displays like this one from Sarah Greenman need to be attractive without disrupting the flow of the rest of the space. Fortunately, coffee table styling is easy to master as long as you keep certain guidelines in mind.

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  • 02 of 15

    Keep it Balanced

    Close up of an elegantly styled coffee table
    Amanda Carol Interiors, photo by Laurie Perez Photography

    Balance is an important component of any coffee table display, and one of the easiest ways to achieve balance is with symmetry. In the case of this example styled by Amanda Carol Interiors, a central object grounds the display while smaller displays of equal visual weight on either side round it out. Notice that while the objects on either side are not identical, they do balance each other out in terms of size and tone.

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  • 03 of 15

    Composition is Key

    Simple and elegant coffee table display
    Massimo Interiors

    Composition is a tricky thing to get the hang of, and it's the element most people have trouble with when it comes to coffee table styling. The key is to think about how all the items in a vignette work together as a whole. Sometimes they'll connect through color, sometimes style, sometimes shape, and sometimes theme. Once complete the entire display will read as one unit, with each item fitting together with those around it. And when done really well, even seemingly unconnected items will read together as one, like in this display by Massimo Interiors. Getting the composition of a display right takes practice, so play around with items and their placement until it feels right to you.

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  • 04 of 15

    Use a Tray

    Coffee Table Styling
    Vanessa Francis Design, Photo by K West Images

    There's a simple trick stylists and decorators like Vanessa Francis use to ensure items work together in a display. They use a tray to corral all the items. It's a great way to force items together and it helps to make a vignette look unified. If you're having trouble with composition take all the items and work within the confines of a tray. If it doesn't fit, get rid of it.

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  • 05 of 15

    Size Matters

    Elegant farmhouse coffee table styling
    Park and Oak Interior Design

    When it comes to coffee table styling it's important to use items that are the right size. Items should have enough visual weight that they don't get lost, but they should never be so big that they overwhelm the space or disrupt the functionality of the table. Like in this display from Park & Oak Design,  there should still be room to put down a drink, book, remote control, or whatever else makes sense in your home.

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  • 06 of 15

    Work With the Room

    Simple coffee table styling in a transitional living room
    Cortney Bishop Design, photo by Andrew Cebulka

    Coffee table displays don't exist in isolation. They need to work with the other items in the room. In this transitional living room from Cortney Bishop Design, the coffee table styling mimics some of the rustic undertones of the rest of the space. For example, the rough wood of the mantel and the wood blinds are complemented by the raw wood coffee table and some of the accents. While there's always room for contrast, the objects should enhance the décor, not stand out like a sore thumb.

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  • 07 of 15

    Keep it Low

    Calming blue living room
    Digs Design Company, photo by Nat Rae

    As a general rule, when creating a coffee table display you should never have anything so tall that it obstructs the view of people sitting on either side of the table. In the case of this display from Digs Design Company the branches are visually light, so the effect isn't as disruptive as it would be were the item solid. When the space is being used, it might be beneficial to have a lower display. While tall floral arrangements are often Instagram-worthy, they're not always suited to the realities of everyday living.

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  • 08 of 15

    Don't Overcrowd

    Sometimes it can be hard to resist filling up a table surface with a lot of treasured accessories. It's important not to overcrowd and disrupt the functionality of the table. When it's just for show as it is in this room from Alexander James, it can be fun, but if it's a space where you want to set down a drink or put up your feet, you need to make sure there's space to do it. Leave enough room so that items can breathe, and leave space for whatever you might need.

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  • 09 of 15

    Stick With the Classics

    Elegant coffee table styling
    Jennifer Reynolds Interiors

    Not sure what items to use? Take a lesson from this display by Jennifer Reynolds Interiors. Some classic, can't go wrong items include books, flowers, and a decorative object or two. The reasons are that they always work. Books can be stacked, a floral arrangement adds a bit of pretty, and a decorative object provides a conversation piece. It's that easy to create something Pinterest-worthy.

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  • 10 of 15

    Take a 360 Approach

    Neutral living room with styled coffee table
    Alexander James Interiors

    When it comes to coffee table styling remember to take a 360 approach. A coffee table is often placed in a central area of a room, so people can see it from all angles. Try to avoid using things that don't look good from all sides.

    For instance, if you put a picture frame on a coffee table someone will have to look at the back of it. A vase, on the other hand, looks good from all angles. Look for items that are finished on all sides, like Alexander James has done here.

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  • 11 of 15

    Include One Statement Piece

    Modern styling on a rustic coffee table
    Urrutia Design, photo by Matt Sartain

    Try to always use at least one standout piece. It could be an unusual item that sparks conversation, something that's got a unique shape, or something much brighter than the other items, like the green flowers featured in this room by Urrutia Design. They're simple and fit in nicely with the display, yet the eye is immediately drawn to the bright, fresh color. Just like in a room, a coffee table display can benefit from having a focal point.

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  • 12 of 15

    Add a Floral Arrangement

    Coffee table display
    Jennifer Reynolds Interiors

    Virtually every coffee table display can benefit from a floral arrangement. No matter how big or how small, flowers, like the ones in this display by Jennifer Reynolds Interiors, add a burst of freshness that can bring life to a display—and a room. They're also great because you can explore different color combinations and have a little fun. Don't be afraid to try a color you wouldn't otherwise use in the room. Since flowers aren't particularly long-lasting, it's a great way to experiment.

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  • 13 of 15

    Conversation Pieces

    Modern eclectic living room
    Tucker & Marks

    A large coffee table can handle a lot of items, and an eclectic room can handle a lot of eclectic items! While conventional decorating wisdom says that one conversation piece is enough, if your room is full of interesting items like this one from Tucker & Marks is, then your coffee table can follow suit. Stay true to the style of the room and you can't go wrong.

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  • 14 of 15

    Consider the Top and Bottom

    Sophisticated coffee table styling
    Gabriella Palumbo/Flat 15

    A two-tiered coffee table requires special consideration. When it comes to the bottom shelf you still want to consider balance, composition, and scale, but it should be simpler than the display on the surface. Keep the styles similar, but try not to detract from what's above. As in this photo via Flat 15, books, decorative boxes, and other simple objects are ideal for a lower shelf.

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  • 15 of 15

    Combine Shapes and Textures

    Pretty coffee table styling
    One King's Lane

    Create interest in a display by mixing shapes and textures. Pair curved items with straight, shiny with dull, textured with smooth, and hard with soft. While most of the items in this display from One King's Lane are square or rectangular, the burst of shapes that comes from the floral arrangement adds a ton of interest, as does the contrast in textures.