I’ve been asked a few times about how to style a coffee table… typically, this is the kind of thing that I do on a whim, utilizing a variety of accessories that were picked up at various sources for each client. But, after looking through pictures of our work, I noticed there is a bit of a formula I use! Since we’re all at home feeling antsy, maybe this can help you guys tackle this small but statement-making project!
BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS! We use lots of books of varying size. I like to make sure the stacks we make start with large, hefty books and tier up to smaller books. The bigger the table and more shelves there are, the more books you’ll need.
I like to place smaller objects like candles or small sculptures on top of the books too to mix up the medium. It’s also important to vary the height of each section of objects you create on the table.
When you have little kids, it’s hard to accessorize with much because they tend to pull things off and we don’t need any trips to the ER from falling or broken objects, especially these days! It’s ok to leave lower shelves empty, or to just use books or a woven tray or basket filled with magazines too. I love using a good tray to corral items – also makes it easier to lift off and move to higher ground when the littles are around!
Another good example of varying heights, types of objects and, most importantly, mixing in some living greens!
For bigger square tables I like to think in quadrants– it’s hard to see from this angle but this table is a HUGE square and so we used one long rectangle tray and paired it next to two stacks of books to fill it up
Similar approach here with a slightly smaller table.
A large tray is such a great accessory- keeps everything feeling neat and tidy and a great place to keep remotes and other stuff you actually need.
Trays are especially important on ottoman coffee tables!
Here are some favorites that can help you create the perfect tablescape on your own coffee table!
Images by Michael J. Lee, Sarah Winchester and Michael Partenio.
Thanks, Erin! Super helpful post! Any chance you have some affordable coffee table options to share as well?
Books by the foot … first struck me as weird because I’m a reader. I read all my books. But then I noted I’ve got a Shinto wedding kimono hanging on our wall that I never intend to wear. Tomato … tomahto.
We’ve got two small square side tables we use as our coffee table. Should the tray be smaller than the side table or can it bridge two tables? It’s convenient to split the tables for larger groups (back when that happened).
Thanks so much! God bless you for the color by the foot. Trying to style the chest under my wall mounted tv…
You READ MY MIND when creating this post. Just bought a new coffee table, and struggling to style it. These are great resources for styling shelves and fireplace mantles as well. Thank you!
This is a great post, thanks so much Erin! Question – what about when you have two square ottomans in lieu of a single coffee table? We just got two from Ethan Allen but are not sure how to style them. Please help!
Great post. Thank you!
Love this post (especially in these difficult times). Does the tray need to mirror the table? For example, if the table is round, should the tray also be round? Thank you again for your blog–love it!
Love this post you’ve given me some great ideas. I have always enjoyed your content but look forward to it even more while we are all in lock down mode. Thank you!