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How To Style Your Coffee Table – In Just 4 Easy Steps

Photo: Anthropologie
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Design: Amber Lewis

As a central part of most living rooms, your coffee table certainly gets plenty of use: as a perch for your drinks, a place to put your feet up, and even an impromptu dinner spot. But besides its inherent function, a coffee table should also be a stylish surface that adds visual appeal to your space. And today, we’re showing you how to add that extra something – with the help of Bobby’s 4 (foolproof) styling tips. 

A stylish coffee table is totally attainable – no matter your style (or more importantly) budget. You just need to know a few fundamental rules, and you’ll be able to make this surface really stand out. 

 

Keep scrolling to see Bobby’s 4 foolproof tips – and shop his coffee table styling essentials.

 

Check out even more of our best design tips here: The 4 Styling Items You Never Knew You Needed (But Won’t Be Able To Live Without) and The Dos And Dont’s Of Styling Bookshelves: Bobby’s 4 Easy Tips

 

1. Start With Books

The best way to start styling? Grab a stack of books (they’re called coffee table books for a reason, after all). Think of them as the foundation piece that you will create visual weight, and allow you to easily style around. Since they’ll be on display, chose titles that you’re interested in – and also have attractive covers. Bobby suggests a stack of two or three to create a little bit of height and adding multiple stacks to help fill up the surface area of an oversize table.

 

 


BOBBY’S TIP
For the most visually appealing look, choose covers that will pop against your coffee table surface.

 

2. Add A Contrasting Accessory

To balance the scale of the books and add some contrast, you’ll want to bring in a similarly sized item in a totally different material. It could be a woven bowl, a wood tray, a ceramic dish, or a decorative box (that can also serve double duty as a spot to stash remotes). Whatever item you opt for, Bobby recommends placing it diagonally across from your stack of books, giving both the items some breathing room and allowing you to fill smaller around.

 

 


BOBBY’S TIP
Switching up texture is a great way to create contrast – like natural woven materials paired with smooth stone, or wood with shiny metal.

3. Bring In Some Greenery

Now that you’ve got some larger pieces, it’s time to think about filling things in – and bringing in texture and height. And the easiest way to achieve is that is with one of our design go-to’s: greenery! An arrangement of fresh flowers, a pretty potted plant, or even a few foraged branches in a lovely vase will do just the trick. Bobby advises you to also think about the size of your coffee table when deciding how large your arrangement should be. Scale things up and out for larger tables, and stick to more compact or slender stalks for a smaller one.

 

 


BOBBY’S TIP
If your coffee table is directly in front of your TV, be sure to select greenery that isn’t too tall – and won’t impede your view.

4. Finish With A Few Smalls

For the finishing touch to your table, consider a few smaller pieces to tie it all together. These can be items that also serve a real purpose – like a candle or coasters – and also happen to look great. Choosing pieces with more minimal packaging or in timeless material like leather, stone or wood will keep your table from feeling too busy. Bobby also advises to group these smaller pieces together to give them a substantial feel – and balance with the other larger items.

 

 


BOBBY’S TIP
Opt for a match striker for a more stylish way to display matches- and as an appealing decorative object too.

It’s that simple! While these tips are a great place to start, don’t be afraid to play around with the arrangement – and change things up as often as you like to give your coffee table a whole new look.

 

 

  1. These are such nifty little tricks that elevate the aesthetic and make a world of difference to a simple coffee table! Thank you for breaking it up into easy steps. I also wonder about the choice of the shape of a coffee table. Do you have any recommendations on how to approach choosing between round versus rectangular or even an irregular shape?

    1. It’s really about the shape of your room and the other furniture. If you have a narrower room, a rectangular table is probably a better choice. A Round shape can work well when you want to break up a lot of linear furniture. (Also keep in mind you always want to have at least 18″ of legroom between the coffee table and seating.) Thanks for reading! xx -B

  2. This guide is so helpful! Could you also do one for a dining table?

    1. Thanks so much for your comment! That’s a great suggestion for our next post. xx -B

  3. I love this article on coffee table arrangements. I could use some help with what to put on an entryway table. I tend to lean more to function vs form so I struggle with impractical things. At the moment, I have a stack of books as one of the items but feel it is silly. Someone may pick up a book from a coffee table to read but who would pick up a book from an entryway? Any tips would be great. My decor is beachy.

    1. I would suggest perhaps a woven basket or bowl to place keys, a lamp to bring in some height, and maybe a vase with greenery. These are items that could easily incorporate into a beachy interior, and also provide some function too. Check out the entry table in this project to give you some ideas. xx -B