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How To Properly Decorate Your Coffee Table

There are TONS of ways to style a coffee table! And you probably have a lot of what you need already in your home. I’m going to say there’s no way to properly decorate your coffee table because we all have different styles, different types of coffee tables, different lifestyles/use of our tables, etc. But I will give you a few great tips to consider if you’re interested in styling your coffee table!

linen sofas, large gray wood coffee table, white vases from west elm, and gray leather club chairs from restoration hardware with cloud9 designs pillows

Rule Of 3

First, I want to talk more about the rule of 3! You may have heard about this rule before. It’s a big design technique (not just for coffee tables). It simply means designing a space/table with a collection of three items or three clusters of items (size dependent).

You can also use the Rule of 3 within each of those clustered items on the table. For example, one cluster can have two coffee table books and an accent item on top. You don’t HAVE TO follow this rule, but it is a great starting point. Here’s a simple breakdown on how to create this Rule Of 3 design! But you can find more tips below…

  • Consider Your Base: Us something with a large base to take up more space, like a coffee table book.
  • Consider Shapes: If your base is a book, consider what other shapes and decorative items you can use to change up the shapes on the table. Since the book is rectangular, think about a circular trinket or vase.
  • Consider Height: Mix items that are taller and shorter to vary the look of the table. Usually, placing the largest item in the center helps with symmetry. But asymmetry is equally as stylish!

how to decorate style a coffee table, tray with coffee table books succulent plant geodehow to style a coffee table with coffee table books, indoor plants, magazine, vases, geode

More Coffee Table Styling Tips

Tip #1 | Balance

Having balance throughout your coffee table is key. You can achieve that balance with the Rule Of 3. Or, just think about mixing small and large items, textures, and high and low items. Another note on height…Don’t have anything too tall on your table so you can easily see and converse with guests easily.

Tip #2 | Complementary Items

Similar to creating balance, create a theme with complementary items. Consider color, style, and shapes. Each item should not overpower another item. Unless you’re trying to create one focal point with one standout item on your table, make sure that the items all go together and mix well.

Tip #3 | Colors

Deciding what colors actually work with your table itself is another thing to consider. If you have a neutral table, consider either adding more complementary neutral colors OR adding pops of color. If you have a darker table, a metallic or contracting metal can be very chic. For example, a black table would look stylish with a gold decorative item.

Tip #4 | Proportions

If you have a big table, it’s a good idea to have different sections on the table and decorate each of those sections with complementary items. Some people even create a grid-like design with large tables. If you have a two-tiered table, you style from top to bottom with items that are balanced in size, style, and symmetry. Also, consider the functionality of the table…is there room to set a drink, rest your feet on it, or have kids run by without knocking something over?

Tip #5 | Style By Season

If you’re a seasonal decorator, you can swap out items on your coffee table each season. It can be as simple as swapping out your vase of flowers from summer to fall flowers. Or even changing out your coffee table books with different colored books for each season (lighter covers in the spring/summer, darker covers in the fall/winter)

Tip #6 | Add Greenery

This is a very important one! Adding greenery can really help with that balance of textures and colors. If you have a super minimalist modern home, this tip might not be for you. But most coffee tables look great with some greenery! I can’t keep plants alive so we have artificial plants. I did an entire post on the best artificial plants here.

Tip #7 | Use A Tray (Or Basket)

Another important coffee table staple is a tray! It’s a stylish and practical piece that helps corral all of those trinkets you may have. It’s also great when you have company and need to quickly clear the table for drinks/appetizers/games/etc. Consider the color of your tray compared to your table (like I talked about in tip #3)

Tip #8 | Check Every Angle

When considering the placement of items think about how they’ll look from different angles. Does it look as good from the kitchen as it does from the couch or even standing over it?

Tip #9 | Keep It Simple

If you’d rather avoid putting trinkets and a bunch of decorative items on the table, you don’t have to…keep it simple! Choose one or two BIG decorative items to take up space and keep a cleaner look. For example, you can display a large decorative bowl and large book, or large plant and large decorative item. Whatever you want!

Tip #10 | Personal Conversation Pieces

Think about including pieces that mean something to you. For example, we have a Telluride book on our table, which is where we live. If you get a compliment or a question about something on your coffee table, it can strike up a conversation! Coffee table books are a great example of this and it provides your guests with an activity/something to look through. Another great example is something interesting you may have picked up on a trip.

Shop Pottery Barn coffee tables here.
Shop West Elm coffee tables here.
Shop Wayfair coffee tables here.

What coffee table decorating tips do you have? Let me know in the comments below!

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How To Manifest Anything, Fashion blogger Erin Busbee of Busbee Style wearing an orange and blue Staud Ina dress with white sunglasses walking around in Telluride, Colorado
Erin Busbee
After a decade in TV news, a desire to help women "look pretty" sparked a career pivot. I started my own wardrobe consulting business, styling "real" women for many years. In 2014, I changed direction again, using my TV background and styling expertise to launch this website and my YouTube channel. We are now a community of nearly 700,000 dynamic, vibrant, amazing women over 40... who know that age isn't something you need to hide from. For us, life is just getting started!!

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