15 Designer Tips for Styling Your Coffee Table

Want to give your living room an easy update? Our 15 coffee table decorating tips will help you create a perfectly styled look like a pro.

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Photo By: Rustic White Photography, LLC

Photo By: Photo Credit: Jenifer Jordan © Gibbs Smith, Charles Faudree Interiors, Charles Faudree, Jenifer Jordan (photographer)

Photo By: Jenna Buck Gross

Photo By: H. Camille Smith

Photo By: Rustic White Photography, LLC

Photo By: Stacey Brandford

Photo By: CamilleStyles.com

Photo By: Rustic White Photography, LLC

Photo By: Molly Winters via CamilleStyles.com

Maintain Balance

Nothing makes for a cluttered surface faster than a large collection of small knick-knacks. Contrastingly, displaying only large items can look heavy and cumbersome. To keep your coffee table balanced, vary the scale of display items and stack or group like objects together.  

Form a Grid

When working with an oversized coffee table, knowing where to begin can be half the battle. Our tip: tape off sections to form a grid and position objects within the squares. This helps compartmentalize your styling and makes the entire task less intimidating. 

Make Seasonal Swap-Outs

As a living room focal point, your coffee table is a great place to rotate seasonal decorative elements. For example, nothing says spring like a vase of fresh tulips. In summer, place a sea conch on a stack of books for beachy vibes, then come fall, swap out the shell for a pumpkin or gourd. 

Look High and Low

When all items are at the same eye level, nothing gets noticed. To create a more eye-catching vignette, vary the height and scale of your coffee table's decorative objects, as designer Charles Faudree has here. 

Three’s Company

The age-old rule of threes comes in handy when styling your coffee table. Like in Tip #2 (Form a Grid), dividing your tabletop into three separate sections can help you decide where things look best. This especially holds true for long, rectangular-shaped tables. 

Contrast Colors

Choose decor that plays off the color of your coffee table. If the table is white or a neutral, go with bold colors on top. For black or dark woods, showcase metallic and crisp white tabletop items. And with a versatile clear table, any color choices are a go. 

Pick Sides

If you're working with a large area to cover, choose to decorate just one side both to keep the coffee table from feeling too cluttered and to ensure you leave plenty of space for friends and family to set a cup, plate or any other personal items. 

Go Green

Even for those with a black thumb, the coffee table is the perfect setting for a small, low-maintenance plant. Set it right in the center for an organic, fuss-free way to bring life into your space. 

Use a Tray

A tray serves both a practical and stylish purpose by showcasing your favorite small finds while also making them easily removable should you need to clear the surface for entertaining. A tray is also useful for giving structure and symmetry to a freeform table, anchoring tabletop items that might otherwise feel like they're 'floating.'

Be Entertaining

Give guests a way to break the ice when seated around the coffee table. A few playful options to consider: a vintage board game, deck of cards or dominos to add a bit of whimsy to your space. 

Examine Every Angle

When selecting coffee table items, consider how they will look from multiple vantage points. Picture frames, for instance, only offer one good angle and are better suited for the bookcase or mantel.

Be Choosy

If the thought of curating a large collection of knick-knacks doesn't appeal to you, showcase just one or two decorative pieces you really love. The benefit of opting to embrace this minimalist approach? You get to splurge a bit more on your favorite items. 

Provide a Practical Place

The coffee table is the hub of social activity in your living or family room. Focus on functionality with baskets, catch-alls or wooden boxes to provide a handy place to stash remotes, coasters, reading glasses or any other everday essentials that typically cause coffee table clutter. 

Make It Personal

Let the objects on your coffee table tell a story about your passions and memories. A grouping of sea shells collected from a memorable vacation, hand-me-down figurines or roses snipped from your own garden are all great ways to give your living room's decor a personal twist. 

Encourage Activity

Most of our beloved coffee table books collect dust over the years. Leave your current favorite open to a pretty page, encouraging all to take a peek. 

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