How to Style a Coffee Table

When I first got my coffee table I didn't put anything on it. For me it was a functional flat piece of furniture and not a place to showcase tchotchkes (I had someone recently who didn't know what that word meant so just in case tchotchke means knick knacks, or dust catchers). But then I'd see these fabulously styled coffee tables on design shows and in magazines and I decided to give it a try. 

These pictures were all taken at different times of day and different seasons and the light in my apartment shifts dramatically, so my apologies for the different lighting. 

My first attempt, as you can see below, was kind of sad. The varying heights of the items on the round tray work well, but the wooden vessel that is the same size of the books is just too boxy and does not work. 

Attempt number two looks much better. It also helps to have that ZZ plant in the corner. Looking at the before picture the whole room looks sad and drab! The styling below works well because there are different items of interest, foliage, books and varying heights. It didn't work in practicality because there was no where to set anything down if you needed to actually use the coffee table. 

I removed one stack of books, which leaves room on the coffee table. This option looks pretty good. There is room on the table, there are items of interest, it is styled, but not overly styled and the best thing is it reflects who I am as a person.


Here are tips to styling a coffee table: 

  • Play. Plonk things down and move them around. You probably won't be satisfied with the first try, but that's ok, you can change it around. 
  • Use what you already have. I didn't buy anything new to put on the coffee table, well, except for a new plant when the other one died. 
  • Corral items using a tray. Just even that round tray meant I could create a small island of some of my favorite things. 
  • Coffee table books are awesome. I swap mine out sometimes because I do actually read those books! 
  • Leave space on the table to actually use it. 
  • The size of your table will dictate what you can have on it. I had a friend who had a square coffee table and she had four squares of items on the table. A round coffee table will probably look best with something round on it. 
  • Use the odd rule. Grouping things in 3, 5, etc just feels right. It's one of those odd golden rules of design. Just trust that it works. 
  • Vary things by height. Having everything the same height just looks like you dropped a pile of things on the coffee table and walked away. 

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