13 elegant and functional coffee table decoration ideas
If your coffee table is looking a little dull, try some of these simple tips and ideas to freshen it up.
Leaving a coffee table bare is a missed decorating opportunity. A coffee table is basically the centerpiece of the living room, but knowing exactly how to style it can be tricky. What are you putting on it? How a lot do you have to put it? And what’s the middle ground between organized and cluttered? Ultimately, you should always choose what’s practical in your home and what you like, not just what’s trendy. But it pays to see how designers and decorators are installing coffee tables in their spaces. So we’ve rounded up some of our favorite coffee table decorating ideas for tips and inspiration you can use in your home.
Related: The 12 best coffee tables of 2023
Keep it simple with a small plant
This one might seem obvious, but it’s an idea that people often overlook because it’s so simple. Make a small plant the star of your coffee table. This clean-lined approach is easy to maintain and can bring more life to your space. This look fits naturally into a minimalist aesthetic, as evidenced by the space above, but you can also consider it if you’re a maximalist. The contrast of a busy room with a simple focal point on the coffee table gives the eyes a place to rest.
Go big with an oversized floral bouquet
Instead of something leafy, you can opt for a beautiful bouquet of flowers to make a gorgeous statement. Jesse Vickers of JLV Creative gave a coffee table this simple yet glamorous treatment in this living room. Note that even if the bouquet is quite full, it is not too high. You shouldn’t have to crane your neck to see the person sitting across from you. Naturally, replacing flowers every few days isn’t exactly realistic, so no judgment on whether a faux arrangement is more your jam.
Fill a vase with branches
A third botanical option is to place branches in an oversized vase. Julia Marcum of Chris Loves Julia placed a few leafy branches in a heavy jug, which added height and lightness to the center of her reading room, especially when paired with the sturdy coffee table and stocky. An overhead arrangement works in this setting because it doesn’t obstruct any people or viewpoints. Silver eucalyptus stems, olive branches, and even dried herbs are great choices for an arrangement like this.
Stack stacks of books
Bibliophiles can show off their prized possessions by stacking neat piles of their finest coffee table books. Really any type of book works here, whether it’s an art book meant to be placed on a coffee table or your favorite novel with a colorful cover, your selections can infuse a little more personality to your space. Brittni Mehlhoff, founder of Paper & Stitch, did it here in her studio living room and incorporated some Monstera leaf cuttings to break the monotony. It’s a good solution for those of us who are overflowing with padded shelves.
Use a nice tray
Do you work with an ottoman that essentially serves as a coffee table? That doesn’t mean you can’t decorate it! A tray is your best bet in this scenario, as you can place items on it instead of the soft padding, where it’s prone to tipping over. In the example above, designer Orlando Soria used a lovely copper tray to serve breakfast on this curly piece. But you can place just about anything on your tray, like a bud vase with a few sprigs, a small bowl of candy, a stack of mini books – the options and combinations are endless. Plus, a tray holds the clutter and it’s easy to pull apart when you want to stretch your legs.
Prepare a board game
A board game ready for guests or family members to play is an easy way to fill space on a large coffee table. It’s also incredibly inviting. The backgammon set in this family room designed by Katie Rosenfield of Katie Rosenfield & Co. is particularly nifty because it folds up, so it’s a quick fix if you need to make room.
Configure two “clusters” of accessories.
If you prefer your tablescape to take up less space, you can group your favorite items into two “groups”. This will free up space for drinks, snacks, cell phones, etc. In the living room of her studio, Jenny Komenda of Juniper Print Shop placed a stack of books on one side of a coffee table and a decorated tray on the other side. This duo creates balanced symmetry (and, in Jenny’s case, beautifully mirrors the pairing of art on the walls).
Configure a triptych display
Placing two groups of accessories at opposite ends of a table is a guaranteed way to create balance, but in design the rule of threes (which states that decors arranged in odd numbers are very appealing to the eye) can get the same effect. If you don’t mind giving up a little more coffee table real estate, try arranging three neat “clusters” or stacks of items. Liz Bachman of Gray & Scout did just that in her living room and kept it tidy by making each cluster about the same size. (The books on either side have similar dimensions to the middle shelf.)
Group several vases together
Displaying vases in a variety of shapes and styles, as architectural designer Mikel Irastoza did in this funky and eclectic piece, can use up the random vases you’ve probably accumulated over the years. This collected look will give your space character and a personal touch. Bonus: Vases are super easy to swap when you want a quick refresh. Arrange an odd number of vases, like five or seven, in honor of the rule of threes we mentioned earlier, to help the display feel plentiful.
Displaying a bunch of pillar candles in multiple sizes is an inexpensive way to dress up a table. Place them on a tray or bowl to prevent the melted wax from marring the table surface, as designer Kara Haren of Along Came Lennox did in this living room. Bonus: scented candles can also double as room air fresheners. (Or, you can choose battery-powered alternatives for a long-lasting, mess-free option.)
Gather a bunch of glass orbs
A set of glass orbs as a centerpiece for your coffee table can add a unique and unexpected element to a space. We love how Diane Rath of The Rath Project incorporated these spheres into her bright, colorful space — they add a certain sophistication, and since they’re translucent, they don’t compete with the bold shades in the room.
Add something sinuous and sculptural
If you’re struggling to create a more unique tablescape, a quirky 3D object can add depth when mixed with more geometric shapes, like books, decorative boxes, or trays. Dabito, Founder and Creative Director of Old Brand New, included this elephant-shaped planter in his home office and it really draws your eye to the center of the room. It’s also just plain fun.
Stick to a corner
Things don’t always have to be in the middle of your coffee table! You can keep things stored in a hidden tray in a corner, especially if you want to use the table as a work surface. This approach works well in spaces that aren’t quite symmetrical, as shown above in this space designed by Natalie Papier of Home Ec. The off-center tray still looks intentional due to the delicate plant and neatly stacked coasters inside. It’s also another example of the coffee table layout mirroring the wall art – and it proves that things don’t have to be perfectly centered to look good.
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