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11 Tips to Style Your Coffee Table

One of my favorite areas to decorate in our living room is our coffee table. Let me share with you 11 tips to style your coffee table.

Whether you are changing out the arrangements from spring to summer or fall or from Memorial Day to Thanksgiving, the elements of an interesting coffee table are the same. It’s always fun to style your coffee table.

At the end of this post, I have a free checklist for you so you can keep these 11 tips handy for future coffee table styling.

Thanks once again to Cindy of County Road 407 for hosting our popular monthly Pinterest Challenge blog hop. I think everyone is excited about this challenge. Creating coffee table decor is such a great way to bring seasonal decor, color, and texture to a focal point in our homes.

I am thrilled that the inspiration for styling your coffee table comes from my sweet friend Yvonne of StoneGable. She is not only so talented but super delightful to be around. If you are hopping over from visiting Terrie at Decorate and More with Tip, then welcome. She has a great tutorial to share.

style your Coffee TableAs we talk about ways to style your coffee table, keep the photo of Yvonne’s table in mind. She uses a tray, books, flowers in a white vase, a green boxwood ball on a white vase, and decorative items in the metal globe and ceramic acorn. There is a common color theme, and contrast in size, shape, texture.

11 Tips to Style Your Coffee Table

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When do you begin to transition from spring to summer to fall decor in your home? Do you totally change your colors and your accessories all at once? Or do you take a more “little~bit~at~a~time” approach?

I’m guessing that most of us take a more gradual approach. Why is the coffee table one of the easiest places to style for transitional or seasonal decor?

  • it’s a contained space
  • a relatively small space
  • can be redecorated for seasonal changes fairly quickly


I think this is true of any area that you are re~designing: your mantle, your bookshelves, your cabinets. It helps to clear your mind and look at the space as uncluttered and fresh. Here is the coffee table decor that we had most of last summer.

style your Coffee Table

I think it helps to take everything off your coffee table to start with a clean slate.

style your Coffee Table

TIP 1: Start with a clean slate.

This is also a good time to clean or polish your coffee table.

style your Coffee Table

Every coffee table needs something to tie it together.

TIP 2Choose a common theme for your coffee table; that could be the style (coastal, modern, farmhouse, traditional), a color, or a theme, such as holiday decor, or a particular item (seashells, boxes, candles, pumpkins).

We had aqua as the theme for our summer table. For this transitional coffee table decor, I wanted to stay with blues, but go in a deeper tone.


TIP 3: Coffee table decor has some essential elements that will make designing your space very easy.

Coffee tables are either square, rectangular, oval or round. Regardless of the shape of your table, these essential elements are the same. Depending on the size of your coffee table, your table should have 2 ~ 3 major elements. One big element in the middle of the coffee table looks like you just “plopped” something down in the middle of the table. That’s not very interesting.

TIP 4: Use 2 ~ 3 major elements on your coffee table. Multiple elements are more interesting and pleasing to the eye than just one.

What are essential elements for a coffee table?

  • books
  • a tray or basket
  • a candle(s)
  • a potted plant or flowers in a vase
  • decorative elements, such as a sculpture, a bowl, vase, or picture frame

Essential elements can be different sizes. The larger the element, the more important it becomes. Large coffee table books are more impactful than a stack of regular size books. A candle takes on more importance the larger it is.

TIP 5: Vary the size of your essential elements for more interest.

Combining smaller elements into one larger element makes it more important. How to do that?

TIP 6: A tray or basket is your best friend when styling a coffee table.

Our coffee table is rectangle. For my transition coffee table decor, I’m using 2 essential elements.


The first essential element is a round tray used as the base for grouping other smaller essential elements.

I don’t have a traditional round tray, but I remembered this round brass tray that Sweet Shark’s grandmother brought back from one of her travels in the mid~1950’s. It’s been hanging on the wall above our curio cabinet in his bar. I really wanted a round tray and remembered this one as I was laying in bed (no kidding!).

style your Coffee Table

I love how nicely the brass tray repeated the brass frame of our coffee table. The tray is large, about  17 1/2 inches in diameter. That is a great size for our coffee table; any smaller and it would seem “dinky” and any bigger would be too big for the table.

Remember to keep scale in mind when styling any area of your home.

I decided to put pads under my tray to make it easier to move around and to protect our table. I also did that to our rectangle wood tray.

style your Coffee Table

style your Coffee Table

TIP 7: The size of your essential elements should not overwhelm the size of your coffee table, but should comfortably fill the space.

Allow some negative space between the elements on your table. They shouldn’t be crowded nor should they be too small.


TIP 8: Add your larger, most important elements to your tray first.

We have had this blue planter for years. All I had to do was add a fern with a soft texture to contrast with the metal of the planter. I always fill in around a planter with Super Moss to give it a professional look.

style your Coffee Table

My next element to use was books. To keep with the blue theme, I chose to stack 3 blue books. Always take the paper covers off your books.

style your Coffee Table

Stacked books can stand alone or be a great place to set a decorative element on. This candle has been in our bedroom all summer. The color and size were perfect for the scale of the books. I also like that the stripes bring in some pattern.

TIP 9: Don’t forget to use pattern and texture to give interest to your coffee table.

style your Coffee Table

I like to have 1 decorative element that is whimsical or handmade, something even a little quirky.

Wood beads have been popular for a few years and since I had all the supplies to make one, I did. I’ll show you how I painted the beads in a future post. Until then, you should see how to make a string of wooden beads and 2 other DIY projects. The beads are light and don’t take up much visual weight or virtual space.

style your Coffee Table

TIP 10: Your essential elements should vary in visual weight. Think solids, like wood or ceramics in contrast with glass.

The denseness of the white vase and the “see~through” metal globe in Yvonne’s coffee table is a good example.

Here’s where I had some choices for my final decorative element. My first idea was to bring in one of my ceramic birds.

style your Coffee Table

I loved the idea, but the bird seemed too big, the shape didn’t blend in, and the turquoise color was a little off.

Next I tried my white ceramic pear. I liked the pop of white, but it was too big.

style your Coffee Table

Then my ceramic white apple. The size was better, but the white seemed too stark. Since I already had white in the candle and in the books, I thought that was enough.

style your Coffee Table

Looking around the living room, the previous grey tray with the ceramic vases in 4 shades of blue and green was sitting on the breakfast room table. Would those work?

style your Coffee Table

This is my favorite. I picked the lightest blue and the turquoise (better than the turquoise of the bird), which blended nicely with the other blues. The conical shape was a nice contrast with the round planter and the straight lines of the books. The size was right, not too small and not overpowering. (Think Goldilocks.)


I added my stack of coffee table books for my second major element. The top book was Reese Witherspoon’s Whiskey in a Teacup, one of my favorites. Unfortunately, the bright pink didn’t work with the books on the tray.

style your Coffee Table

So I switched the books around and placed Mark Sike’s Beautiful on top which gave the table a more cohesive look. (BTW, this is a beautiful and informative book, one of my favorite decorating books.)

style your Coffee Table

TIP 11: When styling your coffee table, play around: try different elements in color shades, sizes, shapes, textures, and patterns. Move elements around. There should be balance but also contrast. The final combination that works will make itself evident.

style your Coffee Table

Now my coffee table had all the essential elements for a beautiful, but simple focal point in our living room. What do you think? The next area in our living room to style will be our mantle.

style your Coffee Table

At the last minute, I moved my treasured vintage magnifying class from the bottom shelf to the top shelf on the book stack.

style your Coffee Table

Would you like a checklist to help you style your own coffee table? Here are the 11 tips to style your coffee table and all the notes from this post for you to keep. Just click on the graphic below to sign up to receive it. My treat.

style your Coffee Table

Now please take a few moments to visit all my coffee table styling friends. Christy with Our Southern Home is waiting for you to visit. If you don’t have time to read all the posts, please PIN them for later. We appreciate it.

style your Coffee Table

style your Coffee Table

style your Coffee Table

style your Coffee Table

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  1. Carol, I love this! It is so pretty! I especially love the brass tray, vintage magnifying glass and the blue planter! It has a perfect patina! Hugs!

  2. So pretty, Carol! I love all the colors and the stacks of books. Great tips too… I agree with you about putting pads under the trays. Once I started doing that, I wondered why I waited so long.

  3. You created a beautiful coffee table vignette, Carol. Your tips are so helpful as the coffee table is always a challenging spot to decorate in my opinion. You’ve got a great collection of decorating books. It makes me realize that I need to start treating myself to a few every now and then.

  4. I especially liked how you showed us the differences in your trial and erros system of styling. My coffee table ends up piled with stuff–no syle at all. It WILL get cleaned off at Christmas for one of my Nativity sets!

    1. Kathy, I feel it’s more helpful to see the beginning, middle and end of a project. Design is always trial and error until you get the look that you want.

  5. Carol I am in love with the coloring you used, it’s my favorite. Your coffee table decor is so pretty. I love how you used the gold tray on one side and then books for the other side. Great look for anyone’s coffee table.

    1. You are so sweet, Terrie. I hope it acts as a template for any coffee table decor. I didn’t know how much I liked the darker blue and the brass until I put them together. Lucky decorating choice.

  6. You did a lovely job, Carol, and how nice to offer a free printable to help us! Love that magnifying glass… it was the perfect ‘topper’ to your decor!

  7. Carol this is an excellent post, I love all the tips you shared. I also love how you showed what didn’t work and why.

    I think you may have a keeper for your coffee table, that tray is perfection! Of course I love that it’s vintage but the brass is the perfect match for the brass on your table. I just love it!
    You have a wonderful collection of books! I am currently adding to my decorating book stash so I will check out the Beautiful book.

    Great post! Enjoy your new styling!

    1. Amber, it’s really funny how using the brass tray just came to me as I was laying in bed. After I finished the coffee table, Sweet Shark asked me if he could he put it back up on the wall. Not a chance right now, boyfriend.

  8. This is beautiful, Carol! I love the pops of color and how the coffee table styling complements your mantle and living room color palette. That’s brilliant to include a checklist, too! Pinning, my friend!

    1. Crissy, Thanks friend. I love lists and check things off. It’s easier when you have a piece of paper you can print off.

  9. Great walk-through of how you achieved this pretty look, Carol. I really like the blues and the aquas together, and so pretty with the fern and the brass. I was totally thinking about Goldilocks before you even mentioned it!

  10. I really like how you styled your coffee table, Carol! The brass tray is lovely and is a perfect size to hold everything. I have Mark Sikes’ book Beautiful! Love it!! He was out at the Design Bloggers Conference (now Design Influencers, but you probably already know this. ;)) a year ago spring in Beverly HIlls. He gave a talk and shared how he designs and styles his clients’ homes. Very interesting and I love his use of color, especially blues!!!

    Enjoy your coffee table and happy decorating the mantel next,
    Barb 🙂

    1. Thank you so much Barbara. I’m not familiar with the Design Influences Conference, but it sounds wonderful. What a great opportunity to hear him. Mantle is done and ready for prime time.

  11. Your coffee table is perfect. It is hard to say it is finished and walk away when you are styling it, but this one is perfect!
    Have a wonderful holiday weekend,

  12. Love your magnifying glass, Carol! And I totally agree about Mark D Sikes Beautiful book – it is one of my favorites as well and is so photogenic as a styling prop, it appears in many photoshoots!

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