How to Decorate End Tables: Designers Weigh In

heavier end table

K+Co. Living

What are the key principles that you should be aware of when it comes to decorating end tables throughout your home? According to designer Karen Wolf of K+Co. Living, there are a few main factors to keep in mind when styling an end table, including its scale, function, and location, and other designers agree. Below, we explore all of these concepts in further detail so that you can ensure that your table looks top-notch, no matter where in your house it is placed.

side table with flowers and lamp

Studio Peake


A table's size and scale will dictate how it should be styled. "If the table is larger, you can style it like a shelf or foyer table in the rule of threes," Wolf explains. This means incorporating a small item, a medium one, and a tall one. "With larger end tables, the first step is deciding what the focal point is going to be," Amy Leferink, of Interior Impressions, adds. "This will be the largest item on the table; it will bring height and the first place your eye will go to. Our favorite items for this are a vase with stems or flowers."

Noel Gatts of beam & bloom agrees. "Groupings of three in various heights and widths, usually one being on the smaller side, is an easy formula to follow for a larger scale side table." After choosing your focal point, layer in some smaller pieces. "If you have a little stack of books, that works as a large scale piece, so a couple of smaller pieces on top work beautifully, too," Gatts says. "Think about balance and tiers of interest, as everything in the same height or size feel heavy and cluttered." She, too, greatly enjoys the look of something green. "I'm a huge believer in fresh flowers or plants as a perfect touch to any accent table," she says. "Smaller side tables could have a single bud vase and a photograph, or a larger arrangement and a small candle."

No matter what, do not forget to incorporate a colorful piece or two on your end table, urges Kristen Fiore of Kristen Elizabeth Design. "We always need a pop of color to draw the eye to the personal objects or photos," she notes. Maybe those are your flowers. "Adding in florals or greenery makes the space feel seasonal and cozy," Amanda Barnes, of Amanda Barnes Interiors, says. And be sure to display some textural items as well. "This can be a string of beads, or a small metal sculptural piece," Leferink offers. You can always shop in other areas of your home to source these kinds of pieces.

styled end table

Mackenzie Merrill for Interior Impressions


Keep a table's function in mind when determining how to style it. As Leslie Murchie Cascino of Bonnie Wu Design puts it, "What are you doing when you sit near this table? Reading or conversing? Having a drink?" Ensure that your purpose is clear first. Cascino adds, "Think about the items you need near this seat to enjoy your time there: coasters, a reading lamp, a candle or small vase, easy access to a charger? Once you've figured these basics out, next find a way to include them in a beautiful way that enhances the decorative direction of the rest of the room."

Keep in mind that you can make your table both functional and chic at the same time. "Less is more, meaning don't overcrowd a space just fill it up," Barnes explains. "A decorative box can hide coasters and a remote, but look beautiful while doing it."

You may also wish to add a table lamp to your end table to further enhance its function. "Adding a table light adds elevation and dimension," Fiore says. And the shade you select can bring the vibrance she references above. Fiore adds, "If your shade is artful, it can be a nice pop of color in the assortment."

end table with knick knacks

K+Co. Living


A table's location will also affect what goes on top of it. "Small end tables can be used in between two club chairs or at the end of a sectional with smaller spaces," Leferink says. Where exactly a table sits will determine how you wish to style it. For example, in one of Wolf's projects involving a high-traffic room, she opted to introduce a heavier table without any knick-knacks on top into the space to ensure that nothing would accidentally get in the way of children rushing in and out of the space.