As a large surface that has a prominent place in many living rooms, the coffee table needs to look good while it serves its function. Like with any tablescape or display, you have to find the right balance of style, texture, and proportion.
You want to accessorize it with a few items that look great and complement the style of the room, but you don't want it to be too crowded or obstruct anyone's view. Here are some tips and ideas for coffee table displays that will make the most of form, function, and style.
This is the element that most people have trouble with. It's not so much about the individual items you place on a table, but about the way they work together as a unit. The items should relate to each other either through color, style, or theme.
Balance and Size
It's important to find balance in your display. You don't want anything huge that will overwhelm the surface, nor do you want anything too small that will get lost. It's also very important not to use anything too high. While it's good to vary the heights of objects, make sure that nothing is so high it obstructs anyone's view when they're sitting around the table.
- Books, flowers, and a decorative object are the usual pieces you'll find on a coffee table. Feel free to use them. It's hard to go wrong with the classics.
- A big bowl full of flowers is great for a coffee table. Place it off-center and then balance it on the other side with a stack of three or five books (use odd numbers when grouping like-items together because it's more pleasing to the eye) and a decorative piece (a little sculpture, box, or another object).
- You can also use books as pedestals. If you have an item you want to display but it feels too small place it atop a stack of boxes. It adds height, and it the object is sculptural it will be a nice contrast with the streamlined books.
- It's always nice to have a mix of items. Look at objects for their shape, size, color, and texture and try to find a pleasing mix. For visual interest pair curved items with straight, shiny with dull, textured with smooth, and hard with soft (but don't forget that they still need to relate to each other!).
- Try to include at least one really interesting or unusual item. This can be a favorite statue, vase, decorative box, or even a clear bowl filled with something like seashell, pinecones, or nuts (seasonal items are always great).
- Use a tray to corral smaller items. Trays are great because they add organization and focus.
- Try using items all one color but give it interest by varying either the shade or the texture.
- Try to avoid using things that don't look good from all angles (such as a picture frame).
- Think about including a small decorative box to store remotes. It will look good and everyone will always know where to find them.
- Consider the style of the room. The objects should enhance the décor, not stand out like a sore thumb.
Whatever you do, don't overcrowd the table. It still needs to be functional so there should be enough room to set down drinks, put up feet, or serve whatever purpose your household needs. Remember that displays are meant to enhance to look of a piece, but they shouldn't overwhelm or hurt the piece's functionality.