25 Budget-Friendly Coffee Table Ideas

Get high-design inspiration to create a chic coffee table on a budget. 

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July 05, 2016

Photo By: Michael Habachy

Photo By: Michael Habachy

Photo By: Michael Habachy

Photo By: Michael Habachy

Photo By: Kelsey E. Green

Photo By: Savage Interior Design

Photo By: Alice Cramer

Photo By: Michael Habachy

Photo By: Savage Interior Design

Photo By: Balance Design

Photo By: Rachel Greathouse

Photo By: B Interiors/Christina Wedge

Photo By: Decorated Designs

Photo By: Terracotta Design Build

Photo By: Terracotta Design Build

Photo By: Christina Wedge

Photo By: SNAP Real Estate Photography, LLC

Photo By: Balance Design

Photo By: Savage Interior Design

Photo By: Lennar Atlanta

Photo By: Haven Design Works

Photo By: Terracotta Design Build

Photo By: Christopher Oquendo

Photo By: Balance Design

Photo By: Beth Johnson/Christina Wedge

Coffee Table Art

This high-end coffee table was sourced from a designer warehouse sale and decorated by Michael Habachy with objet d'art, but you can achieve this look on a budget. Look for design-related art books—which are often cheaper than other decor—at yard sales and flea markets. If the covers are beat-up, just turn to a page you love and feature a beautiful image.

Eye for Design

Designer Michael Habachy uses a crystal lens to magnify a favorite photo in a coffee table book. He found the crystal item at a discount home decor store. It ended up costing 75 percent less than he had seen elsewhere. "I'm a big believer that if you’re on the lookout for certain things at a value and really make an effort, you will find it," he says.

Stone Stunner

A stone-topped table doesn’t have to always be a splurge. Atlanta designer Michael Habachy says you can make your own. Take an existing table, or purchase a cheap one, then add a remnant (a leftover piece of marble, granite or another type of stone that’s cheaper than a slab) to the top. “It’s a great way to take something inexpensive and make it look super luxe,” he says.

Tabletop Redux

Sometimes designers reupholster a tabletop to save money and achieve a certain texture. This table's design can be replicated by cutting a piece of wood, wrapping it in burlap, like with an upholstery project, and securing it to the top of the table. Then use a lacquer spray paint. “It gives you a great look that’s retro, but warm,” says Atlanta designer Michael Habachy.

Circular Style

The rosette pattern gives this hand-carved coffee table so much visual texture that you don't need to over-accessorize the top, which can save money. Terracotta Design Build used a natural element - antlers - on top of a single coffee table book. The new mango wood coffee table cost less than $350.

Sculptural Shape

When you have a coffee table with an interesting shape, you don't need to do much on top. For the Southeastern Designer Showhouse & Gardens in Atlanta, designer Jonathan Savage used a tambour table made of wire. "A single table, whether made of wood or wire, if it’s really interesting and unusual, it can really make a statement," he says. For a cheaper option, use a garden stool, he says.

Perfect Placement

Before an impulsive potted plant purchase, know what size you need to make even a budget buy worthwhile. This potted plant creates some height atop a rustic coffee table. Atlanta designer Alice Cramer says coffee table heights should correspond to seating heights, and with lower seating trending, her coffee table heights average 10-14 inches. 

Dash of Color

Use gorgeous design books to build a pedestal for a vase, with or without flowers. Scour used bookstores for ornate design books or search for books by designers you admire on Amazon.com, which sells used ones in various conditions. If the covers are beat-up, leave it off or cover them with a glossy wrapping paper in a color of your choice.

Bar and Table in One

If you like to entertain, put your coffee table to work as a small bar, instead of spending money on a separate mini bar or liquor cabinet. "I don’t think a coffee table necessarily has to be home to coffee table books. You can set it up as a bar; you can set it up as a game table," says interior designer Jonathan Savage.

Mid-Century Cool

Designer Stephanie Andrews, founder of Balance Design, is a big fan of hitting up antique stores for cool mid-century pieces, such as the tiered coffee table the used in this Atlanta home. 

Multipurpose Pieces

When deciding what kind of coffee table to buy, it's important to think about what function it will serve, says designer Rachel Greathouse. In this case, an heirloom trunk serves a new use as storage and a coffee table in this rustic space.

Paint Project

For kid-friendly coffee table decor, use games for a vintage and colorful look, instead of hiding them in a closet. To save money, Beth Johnson of B Interiors purchased an affordable coffee table on Wayfair, and painted the raw wood. "I ended up painting the wood part of it to give it a pop of color, rather than going out and trying to find a turquoise table. That was cheap, and a quick and easy way to make it your own," she says. 

Table in the Round

If you want to use an ottoman as a coffee table and the color or pattern of the fabric doesn't match your decor, you can save money by recovering just the top, says Linda Castle of Decorated Designs, a metro Atlanta interior design firm.

Memory Lane

Have you kept any beloved books from your childhood or recent favorites? Then pair them by author, topic or color to add personality and height to a coffee table, in an affordable way. The glass vases on this table bring additional interest to the room by Terracotta Design Build in Atlanta.

Centerpiece Choice

"White pottery goes with everything," says interior designer Ili Hidalgo-Nilsson of Terracotta Design Build. "White pottery is always a great investment because it looks good forever. It doesn’t have to be expensive to pack a punch."

No-Worry Accessories

Fake flowers and succulents from a discount home decor store beautify a tabletop. With these "permanent botanicals," Georgia designer Beth Johnson says the homeowners don't have to worry about plants dying.

Change the Finish

To keep a monochromatic palette when you can’t buy high-end furniture, distress or whitewash an existing table to get the same look.

Solo Objects

A single object can give the eye a place to rest on a coffee table, whether it's a traditional table or an ottoman. Designers say it's important to make sure the object, such as a ball or sphere, is heavy enough that it won't roll off.

Ottoman Option

Ottomans can be cheaper than a coffee table, and one decorator trick is using ottomans that can fit underneath a console table, says designer Michael Habachy. You can embellish an ottoman with details such as nail heads. This ottoman, which Nashville, Tenn., designer Jonathan Savage used in a showhouse, has an octagonal shape and gold square nail heads.

Natural Touches

Designers agree that moss is one of the biggest bang-for-the-buck accessories. You can mix long-lasting moss balls with other items, like a metal sphere or balls, on a coffee table. It works "with any style and color palette," says Donna Mathis, owner of Atlanta-based Haven Design Works.

Put It Together

You can replicate this coffee table, seen in an Atlanta model home. Take six storage cubes or square ottomans, or even six crates, and place them next to each other, three to a row. Then screw them together from the underside and turn them over, says Donna Mathis, owner of Atlanta-based Haven Design Works. For an extra touch, you could add metal strapping around the places where the cubes or crates connect.

Swap Out Glass for Acrylic

Terracotta Design Build used a pair of glass tables in this room. But if you are on a budget, you can get the same clean look with acrylic tables, says Ili Hidalgo-Nilsson, designer with Terracotta Design Build in Atlanta. She suggests stores such as CB2.

Balance It Out

Even when reusing existing items, such as this cocktail table and antique rug, you can decorate the table in a way that modernizes the look. As this table shows, take a pair of heavy glass candleholders, which designers Lance Jackson and David Ecton with Parker Kennedy Living say you can find affordably priced at vintage stores or on websites such as Etsy.com. Add a small sculptural item (this one is high-end turquoise, but you can find cut glass priced on the lower end) to contrast with the candleholders. The books are from the homeowner's collection.

Floral Focal Point

Flowers on a coffee table add a fresh, welcoming touch to a room. If fresh flowers are too expensive, use a single flower in an interesting vase or tray, like in this room by Balance Design. "It doesn’t take a lot actually to add a pop of color in a space. It could be a few flowers cut from the garden," adds designer Michael Habachy.

Using Pallets

Using pallet wood is a way to make a custom table in the style and shape you want, but for less money than buying a new table. "It's a a unique piece that nobody has," says Georgia designer Beth Johnson. A friend made the table, which also can roll to different spots in the room.

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