When I first started decorating, coffee tables provided endless opportunities for trial and error. Some days I felt I’d gotten the design OK – it felt sorta sophisticated, maybe even a little organized – but most days I wondered how something as simple as a coffee table could be so difficult to style.

Eventually I learned that, like everything in design, there are guidelines. These guidelines, when followed loosely and mixed with doing what feels right to you will result in a well designed space every time.

For this post I’ll be sharing the basics rules of coffee table styling, along with two style perspectives to demonstrate how you can apply the rules.

I partnered with one of my dear friends Sarah for this post and will be showing her coffee table and my own 4 different ways. Sarah is a jewelry designer with incredible style, a mom, and an all around badass chick so I was thrilled to be able to share her space with you.

Did I mention Sarah has incredible style? Here is what her place looked like when I arrived the day of the collaboration:

roen handmade living room Coffee Table Styling Basics

No matter the shape of your coffee table, following a rule of thirds is a great place to start. Since we are covering basics let’s keep this one simple –  just design based on a principle of three: divide the surface of the table into thirds and design within those spaces; use groupings of three when selecting decor.

Speaking of decor, there are a few staples that are always great go-tos for coffee table styling. You can’t go wrong by adding:

  1. Candles
  2. Books & Magazines
  3. A small dish
  4. A tray
  5. A small box or basket for organizing
  6. Greenery or Flowers

Look for these basics in the examples below!

Coffee Table Style #1: Utility

For me, every design must begin by asking one question: how will this [room, table, space] be used? In the case of most coffee tables they will be used for remotes, drinks, books and maybe even for eating.

No matter how you plan to style your coffee table, it’s important to keep utility in mind. I mean really, what good is a great design if you can’t even use it, right? I’m all about function.

Since Sarah is one half of the husband and wife, jewelry creating duo that is roen handmade, it’s not unusual for her coffee table to be used for trying out displays for new pieces.

decor made me do it styling with roen handmade

My coffee table on the other hand is much more likely to be used as a make shift outtamen when I’m sitting on my couch blogging.

decor made me do it simple styling

The bottom line? Utility will be different for each person, so tweak whatever look speaks to you – and works for your life.

Coffee Table Style #2: The Bookworm

I love (ok am OBSESSED WITH) coffee table books. What’s not to love? The large size and photography make them easy to flip through and depending on the subject, they can be great conversation starters. Since Sarah shares my love of a good book, I decided to use them to our advantage and style around them.

Here I’ve used books and magazines as the basis for each coffee table style.  I also followed the rule of thirds to keep the tables uncluttered. Tip: Looking for a great way to stash remotes and coasters? Try a faux book like the one from Sarah’s table below (far left “book”). 

decor made me do it coffee table styling with books

decor made me do it coffee table books

Coffee Table Style #3: Flower Power

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, or follow decormademedoit on Instagram, you know how much I love flowers and plants. It’s only right that we should dedicate an entire coffee table look to them. Now, I’m not saying cover your entire table in plants since that limits the actual function of the table.

I am saying that you can not go wrong by adding a house plant, bouquet of flowers or even a cactus to bring the table (and room) to life. I love using succulents for this purpose by the way. They are great for people who swear they can’t keep anything alive. You can check out this post for the 411 on how to style with them.

For this look, I simply added flowers and used trays to protect the table from any water and  bring a fresh and vibrant feel to each room.


decor made me do it styling with plants and trays

Tip: Seriously can’t deal with the idea of keeping a plant alive? Try going the formerly alive route and give things new life in a dried arrangement like this beauty  I found at Sarah’s house:

roen handmade dried flowers

Coffee Table Style #4: Mementos

This style was completely inspired by Sarah since she loves to keep photos of her friends and family on her coffee table. This is how her’s looked when I got there:

roen hand made living room

Tip: to keep everything organized try using trays, small boxes or even a stack of books to consolidate smaller items like a frame or matchbooks. 

I had never really considered adding pictures to a coffee table, but after a bit of configuring this look actually ended up being my favorite of this post.

If you are someone that loves to keep special photos and keepsakes around, this look is for you. Keeping the rule of thirds in mind, I styled my coffee table for this look using family photos and small things I love. Tip: The flowers are working double duty in the look below and providing a welcome view from any angle.

decormademedoit coffee table styling with photographs

So what do you think? Which is your favorite style? Leave a comment below and let us know how you’d style it!

Behind The Scenes Bonus

I couldn’t leave without sharing a few more behind the scenes photos from my day exploring Sarah’s home for decor to style with. She even let me grab a few photos from her other rooms to share with you. Enjoy…

roen handmade arrow heads and bow cuff roen handmade screened in porch roen handmade coffee table styling roen handmade record player

decormademedoit coffee table safari style roen handmade jewelry coffee table styling - living room

Want to see more from roen handmade? Check them out on Instagram @roenhandmade




2 Comments on Coffee Table Styling Basics: 2 Tables 4 Ways

  1. sherry hart
    12/25/2016 at 4:23 pm (3 years ago)

    Johanna great post! So nice to meet you at the design class…..keep blogging:)

    • admin
      12/28/2016 at 2:16 am (3 years ago)

      Thank you! It was wonderful meeting you as well Sherry. I hope to see you in 2017!


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