share post

How to Decorate a Coffee Table

by | Jan 30, 2008 | Decorating Inspiration, Details, Style Tips

This Post May Contain Affiliate Links. Please Read Our Disclosure Policy here

How to Decorate a Coffee Table

Styling a coffee table is sometimes a tricky task. You don’t want your tables to look cluttered, but it is a nice touch to have a few attractive items to add to the ambience of a room.  A coffee table is a real focal point, so use it as an opportunity to have a little fun with styling!

To prevent the room for becoming overly cluttered or decorated, don’t style every table in a room with decor. If you want to style your coffee table, perhaps leave an end table clear.

I saw a great post on Neutral Dwelling and it inspired me to think about coffee table styling, so I thought I’d share the concept here.

Here is a simple formula that can get you started:

Books + Plant Material + Decorative Object = stylish and attractive tablescape

How to Decorate a Coffee Table


Here are some other quick coffee table styling tips:

  • Try unifying different shaped objects by using items of the same color. Three different shaped vases all in blue, for instance.
  • Create interest with items of all one color by using different textures.
  • Try opposites: pair smooth with rough, shiny with dull, old with new, round with square, organic with man-made.
  • Vary the heights so that each object is just a little bit shorter than the next tallest item. This keep items from feeling disjointed.
  • Make sure objects are not all too small. Choose at least one bolder item to be in focus.
  • Use books or pedestals to elevate items that seem too short.
  • Use a basket or tray filled with a collection of items: maybe books, fruit, artichokes, seashells, vintage toys, games or buttons.
  • Interesting conversation pieces are wonderful for coffee tables, we use carved wood instruments and attractive wood or vintage game boards.
  • Do double duty! Corral remote control clutter with pretty bowls or baskets.
  • Leave plenty of room on the table for actually using the surface for something other than display. If you don’t leave room for a coffee cup, the table will appear awkward and will not be useful to you. Make table tops pretty & useful!
  • Make sure your tablescape looks good from all angles.
  • You can use just one item on your table, such as a piece of pottery or a vase, but make sure it isn’t tiny! Wide and bold would be a better choice than tall and skinny.
  • When you look at magazines, focus in on coffee table table-scapes you like and duplicate what you see with your own items of similar size and shape!

Check out these four easy tips for decorating a coffee table!
For more decorating tips, check out the How to Decorate series!


  1. Pat

    Hi Melissa…I’ve been sort of busy and not visiting much in the last few days! I enjoyed catching up here. The first photo of the coffee table is amazing. I absolutely love it.


  2. Terri

    Melissa! What a fun post. I am always on the fence about coffee tables. I guess it depends if they are in a living room or a family room. In a living room, I like a couple of large books and a piece of pottery, but I am really not into tablescapes that are too contrived since I don’t like clutter and I don’t like useless things sitting around. I keep out books that I read and flip through frequently, like big beautiful decor books or books of my favorite artists. And I rotate the pottery collection, so one or two special pieces are on display! I like less, not more, on my tables.

    In the tv or family room, I like nothing on the table except feet and food (not at the same time) and maybe a pile of magazines or my novel. Ok, maybe a “thingie” or two, but this table is meant for living and I don’t want to have to move stuff when I eat in front of the tv (which often happens at our house!).

    But maybe I am coffee table challenged? i will need to think about whether I need more STUFF on mine. ;)

  3. Alison Gibbs

    Great post. Coffee tables are a challenge.
    Like Terri said in the family room you seem to get the feet and food as well as the coffee so it’s sometimes a bit difficult to display too many things on.
    I do like to have nice things on my lounge room coffee table though.
    Thanks for the tips.

  4. rosieswhimsy

    That is a gorgeous coffee table and a perfect topping :-)

  5. snhamlett

    Gosh Melissa, great minds think alike. I was just composing an inspiration post about accessories and tablescapes to publish tomorrow. I can’t wait for Inspiration week! I’m very glad I found your blog today; it’s definitely on my must read list now. :)

  6. JO

    Excited that you are going to do the style tips on occasion and love the tablescapes ….. Nice post



  7. Francie

    Ooh, this is fantastic. What a great way to break down that elusive look I’m always striving for. Thanks!

  8. Liberty Post Editor

    Coffee tablescapes are little vignettes of a family’s personality. I am enjoying your blog more and more each day. Thank You!

  9. Passementerie

    Oh I weep for our ugly furnished-apartment coffee table… glass with ugly brass edges…. nevertheless, the books we have piled on top of it are far more interesting… maybe I’ll do a post on it tomorrow!

  10. Natasha Burns

    Hi Melissa,
    Thanks for the wonderful tips!!! I always struggle with the coffee table, lol!

  11. Vee

    I think about coffee tables a lot. Often, I’ve gone without just using an oversized hassock, but recently I received my grandfather’s old wooden toolbox and so have been using that. I like it. It’s black and well used so it appeals to my quirky sense. Currently, I have a basket of books there, but perhaps something more attractive would be in order…hmmmm, how to combine the ugly with the beautiful for a charming look and now I have to think about it from every angle, too, eh? Thanks, Melissa. You always give me more to ponder.

  12. Ruth Welter

    Hi Melissa,

    I have magazines, my latest novel that I”m reading and a decorative porcelain bowl on my coffee table.

  13. Rhoda

    I always love to play around with my coffee table tablescapes as well as others around the house. It’s so fun to change them up and look for new ways of pairing things. Those are all great suggestions!


  14. Robin

    What a helpful post! My coffee table ends being a catch all..kinda like my kitchen island..and try as I may to keep it clean and clutter’s not easy! In my old house I had a formal living room and a family room and it was a lil easier!

  15. anne

    Gorgeous coffe table..I agree with Robin, someone always ends up putting things on it, my husband is the worst, a ledge, a table, a windowsill, he is a nightmare, ..the only room clutter free at the moment is our bedroom. He wouldn;t dare!! :-)

  16. Ann

    Melissa, thanks so much for your visit to hill country house.While I haven’t dropped off the blog planet, I do wonder some days what I was thinking when I jumped in with both feet! I can’t keep up with those who post every day and in such a professional way – I just don’t have the time in my life right now.
    That being said, I love this post on coffee tables and it makes me want to run downstairs and photograph mine – I am quite happy with how it looks these days!
    Hhmmm…………. maybe I will photograph Buddy, too, so he can meet WInston!! What a cutie! Thanks for your support!

  17. Julie

    On my coffee table is my bible and stand. Sometimes candles make their way on to the table. Sometimes candy dishes. But the bible is always front and center. I can’t think of where else to put it and since it was my grandmother’s…I want it on display.


  18. {this is glamorous}

    I have books, plant material and a decorative object, so I must be doing something right! And yet, sometimes it just looks like someone was rifling through all the books looking for inspiration . . .

    Happy Day to you too!

  19. Juicy Jennifer

    Ok I just found your site and from a purely asthetic perspective…oh how I love it! You’ve got it goin on babycakes! I’ll be back!


    Juicy Jenn

  20. Debra W


    Love it! You come up with the most brilliant ideas.

    Have a wonderful day.

    Hugs and love,

  21. Tracy

    oh my, if I only I could find the perfect coffee table, I could move on to how to decorate it! I am in-loathe with my current coffee table, and have been searching for a new one for I don’t know, months now. We have 4 places to buy furniture here, if you count Fred Meyer and the consignment store. And I’d totally settle for something from the consignment store if it was the right size & shape. No one carries anything remotely close to the style I’m looking for, though ~ cottagey/french country/shabby chic ~ and I’m finding internet searches incredibly overwhelming. Not that they’d even be likely to ship to Alaska if I ever found the perfect table! I had been looking for a round table, but was having such a hard time, broadened my search to the standard rectangular style. So frustrating!!

  22. Christine

    I love the ideas! Fab and inspiring.
    Spring is coming and I’m looking for some easy ways to freshen the house up a bit.
    Thank you! =)

  23. Penny, Mosaic Artist

    Thanks for the great info! I have always struggled with my coffee table decor!

  24. Amanda (aka Cottage Contessa)

    I WISH wish WISH they would open a Pottery Barn Down Under! Lovely table scape. I hope you have a wonderful weekend sweetie!
    Amanda (aka Cottage Contessa)

  25. Emily

    Hey Melissa – thanks for leaving a comment on my site so I could find you here! I’m adding you to my reader and blogroll tonight to be sure I catch up with you regularly. love your site and love this post. i’m coffee table-less at the moment. Still waiting for that perfect thrift store find.

    And in another post – with the red toile chair. If that’s your house – well, I love you and I hate you all at once :)

  26. Michelle

    I love decorating my coffee table.. Thanks for the ideas..I’m going to change it up a bit and you gave me some great ideas.


  27. MrsBranham

    Hi Melissa:
    Thanks for your sweet words in my comments. I love this coffee table arrangement- it’s so fresh and spunky! And the tips are great! Can’t wait to catch up on reading your inspiration week!

  28. Jenn and Jacqui

    Cofee tables, they are tricky! But with these ideas there is a solution!! J & j xo

  29. Carolyn

    Thanks so much for the tips! I love to see photos of others’ beautiful table arrangements. unfortunately for me, practically anything placed on our coffee table is fair game for our mischevious pup! LOL! I’ll live vicariously through you all. Thanks again!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

browse categories:

browse archives:

let’s stay connected!

Follow for daily
Home Inspiration:

get my free decorating guide

home decor inspiration, free downloads,
and more, straight to your inbox