How To Style Your Coffee Table - 18 Tips

February 14, 2022

How To Style Your Coffee Table - 18 Tips

Whilst it's important that your coffee table looks great, it is also vital that it functions in the way that it's supposed to. 

The aim is to style a coffee table that looks aesthetically gorgeous but that doesn't disrupt the flow or function of the rest of the space

The thing to keep in mind with this topic is that different coffee table shapes will all be styled differently. They have to be because the table top will have different parameters you have to work within. 

We will outline the general rules when it comes to coffee table styling, and then at the end we will be more specific around individual table shapes after that.

These 17 tips apply to all coffee table sizes, shapes and colours. 

They’re the universal rules you can follow to make sure your decorated coffee table looks amazing. 

1. Balance

Balance is an important component of any coffee table display, and one of the easiest ways to achieve balance is with symmetry. 

When styling a coffee table it can be a great idea to tape off your table into a four square grid so that you can compartmentalise your styling sections and achieve perfect balance and symmetry in each quadrant. 

It is always best to have one dominant central object that grounds your display such as a plant, stack of books or sculpture and then several smaller displays of equal visual weight positioned around it. 

These surrounding objects don't have to be identical, they just need to balance each other in terms of size and tone, think candles, vases, smaller sculptures, or crystals.

2. Personality

The objects on your coffee table should tell a story about your passions and memories. 

Be it chunks of coral from the beach or heavy gilded coffee table tomes on fashion, interiors or whatever suits your personality.

There are endless ways to make your coffee table style uniquely yours. 

Be sure to avoid cluttering your coffee table as it is vital that it remains a functional piece of furniture in your room. 

Whilst it can be tempting to display everything you love at once, DON'T, and instead rotate pieces out seasonally to keep your look fresh, up to date and inspiring!

3. Ensure the Styling Reflects your Theme

No home should feel overly themed, but you should have a cohesive vibe going on. 

Is it a calm and soothing space that gives a nod to a Hamptons style, or a coastal/boho vibe, for example? 

Ensure the objects on your coffee table tap into that scheme.

4. Different Heights

There should be a number of objects at different heights on your coffee table. 

You want the eye to go on a visual journey; up and down the ornaments on the table to create a sense of interest. 

Don’t have them so high that you can’t see over them when seated on your sofa, but do explore different levels.

5. Medley of Textures

Texture is super important. 

All too often you’ll see coffee tables with objects of the same material. 

Like a glossy vase beside a glossy bird ornament on a glossy tray. 

That’s too much of the one finish. 

Ideally you don’t repeat the same finish at all. Instead, explore tactile materials that look and feel different.

6. Explore Depth of Field

Don’t have all the objects in a line. 

Have tall objects at the back of your coffee table arrangement, and then shorter ones in front. 

Think of it like a family photo; you want everyone to be seen. 

Instead of a row, though, think of the arrangement as a cluster or items, with some closer and some further away.

7. A Flower or Plant is Essential

A flower arrangement or plant is an essential ingredient when styling a coffee table. 

A plant or flower brings life and softness to the scene, and can break up the potential monotony of too many hard-items.

8. Think Beyond Just Looks

The look of your coffee table styling is vital, but you have to think of the other senses.

We’ve covered having tactile items you want to touch, but also consider scent. 

A fragrance candle is the easiest way to do this. It introduces a nice circular shape to the scene.

You want to have just the right amount of pieces on your table. We’ll explore your individual coffee table shape further down, but as a general rule larger items look better than loads of little trinkets. 

Lots of small items can make the scene feel messy. Larger items mean you can enjoy more visual impact without the cluttered feel.

9. Contain Items with a Tray

If you have a larger table and want to showcase a number of items, a tray is a great way to contain all of the pieces. 

On a larger table, you can house an array of items in a tray and then still have room to pop books beside the tray. 

Just ensure the tray is not the same material as your coffee table top.

10. Think About the Table from All Angles

When thinking about how to style a coffee table it’s important you remember that this is a scene you view from all directions. 

So don’t style with the front of your pieces all facing the same way. 

When it comes to books the spine is going to face a certain way by design, but other objects can be pointed in different directions.

11. Book Stacks are Your Friend

Stack like you’ve never stacked before when it comes to books on your coffee table. 

A book is a great way to elevate an ornament. Stack three books and pop an odd-shaped ornament on top and it becomes the hero of the scene.

12. Ensure Books are Thick and Themed

For the most part you want the books to be thick.

You also need to ensure they relate to the home and the room. You don’t want a cookbook on your living room coffee table, for example. 

Keep the book topics inspiring; something you can pick up and flick through.

13. A Colour Scheme is Key

The coffee table is a smaller reflection of what’s going on in the room overall. 

While the style of the objects is important, so is colour. 

You don’t want a colour on your tray that’s nowhere else in the room; it will just look odd. 

Instead, pull colours from places like cushions, rugs and artwork. It’ll make the whole scene feel really cohesive.

14. Think About Under the Table

Depending on your coffee table style, there might be room to decorate underneath it.

You could explore storage baskets under the table, which can hold remote controls and make the scene feel very resolved.

15. House Practical Objects

Storage boxes are a godsend for remote controls, but also ensure you get some great coasters that suit the coffee table theme you’re going for. 

Matches for candles can also be showcased in glass jars rather nicely.

16. Contrast Against Your Coffee Table Top

You want to avoid styling your coffee table with items in the same finish as your table top. 

Avoid marble pieces on a marble table, black timber pieces on a black timber table, and so on. 

You want contrast in colour but contrast in material is far more important.

17. Include some Odd-Shaped Items

Look at bizarre object shapes. This could be fluid shapes that don’t look clean. 

Things like branches, coral, and even balls with spikes on them. They make a huge difference.

18. Leave Room for Pieces to Breathe

Scale is really important. 

You want to fill the coffee table up with your styled objects but still leave room for day-to-day activity like putting a drink down. 

You also don’t want plant leaves drooping into your drinks, so just keep an eye on that. 

Leave an adequate gap between your objects and the edge of the coffee table.

How to Style a Round Coffee Table

The rule of three is a great idea here. 

Three large objects at different heights works well

An example would be a plant or flower as the tallest moment, then a candle, then a stack of books

You can add coasters on top of the books if you need them

Try to avoid trays on round tables, but if you must, go for a round tray – square looks odd

Your objects should sit in a cluster on the centre of your table

How to Style a Square Coffee Table

It’s wise to break up the table into a few sections; three main ‘scenes’ on the table works well

You want to have these objects for a rough triangle shape on the table top

Use a rectangular tray as one scene and then cluster items like flowers, a candle and a coaster on it

Beside the tray, look to a large object with a random shape like a round bowl or some coral

Your last item on the table, sitting beside the tray and odd-shaped object can then be a stack of books

How to Style a Rectangle Coffee Table

Break the length of table up into three parts

However, don’t feel the need to space the three parts equally along the table

Create one large moment a little off-centre on the table top

Either side of your larger moment, create a collection of smaller vignettes (book stack, tray etc)

Keep depth of field in mind; have some objects closer to the front of the table, and some further back

How to Style an Oval Coffee Table

Oval tables can go one of two ways; mirroring a round table or going for a formal option

The round table philosophy includes showcasing three moments at different heights in the centre of the table (flower, candle and set of coasters, for example)

The formal way to do it is to have one major moment in the centre (like a flower or plant) and then have two smaller moments of similar heights either side (like a book stack)

These guidelines will help you add that magical touch to your coffee table. 

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