How To : Style a Coffee Table
Updated: Feb 17, 2022
Sharing my ideas and sources for great, unique coffee table styling
Well hiya! I'm so excited to share my first "how-to" blog with you all! Styling is such an expressive, light-hearted part of design and it's one of my favorite ways to be creative. It's hands on, chock full of immediate gratification--one of my truest joys -- and extremely low stakes. There is nothing permanent or serious about styling, so I love to try lots of weird stuff, play around with it, and see what sticks.
Especially if you're decorating your home on a budget, adding unique and interesting styling elements can be such a great way to infuse a space with personality and interest for a really low investment. To avoid sounding like a broken record, I'll just mention now (and maybe just the once!) that styling is such a great way to add vintage, found pieces. Decorative objects from Crate + Barrel and West Elm are bland, overused, and expensive! Try something different--check out Etsy, Ebay, FB Marketplace and find unique pieces that only you get to have and love and make a special part of your home.
I usually am not a fan of generalized design rules, for obvious reasons, but I do think that for lots of people, a little direction up front can be a really helpful place to start. So, I am going to share what I keep in mind when I am styling and show you some examples of why it works and then (OOH buddy I'm excited) I'll break the rules, and show that if you think outside the box and have fun with it, really anything can look great! So here they are : my rules for coffee table styling, made and meant to be bent and broken.
Use at least three styling pieces The rule of three is always a good place to start. In most cases, and especially with a larger surface like a coffee table, styling with just two pieces feels unfinished and awkward. Try to incorporate at least three pieces to get started! Unless.... you only need two ;)
Vary the heights and sizes of your elements This should be obvious, but three of the same size pieces will not add a lot of interest or depth to a vignette. For the most impact, add some higher elements next to some really low ones. Or, don't!
Decide about high or low impact styling first When I am styling, I think first about the level of impact I need to add to the room. If I want to add something high impact and maximalist, I gather and arrange lots of goodies and textures and elements, but if I need something low impact, I keep it extremely simple. My point here is that I usually pick an extreme -- either an over-the-top, super engaging display or a very subtle, quiet one. In my opinion, there is less interest in the in-between.
Ground each element with something An isolated decorative object can feel awkward. Ground each of the elements you're using with something else. You can do that by either setting them next to each other, stacking them on top of each other, or including some kind of visual connection between the two (similar materials, for example).
Use pieces from around your home (psst. don't break this one ;) This accomplishes three things. 1. You can save a ton of money by getting creative with what you already have. 2. Using different and unexpected things from around your home will help you avoid the West Elm coffee table look--ie. no mini stone knots or wooden beads! And 3. Incorporating things you already had in your home will ensure the vignette feels cohesive with the rest of your space.
The "Rules", Bent + Broken!
no. 1 - the minimalist
Nothing like some white hydrangeas to steal the show! Breaking rule #1, this super simple vignette works because the two oversized pieces take up enough space and can comfortably stand on their own. They ground each other by being close enough together (imagine how awkward this would look if they were on opposite ends of the table) and as always, hydrangeas steal the show. For an alternative option, try something super symmetrical like this!
no. 2 - the maximalist
In the same way the minimalist styling works because it's so pared back, the maximalism here works only because it's SO over the top. This is just what I mean in rule #2 -- pick a direction, either super high or super low impact, and go all the way with it!
no. 3 - the in-between
Yeah, I mean forget what I said before -- this works! Again, the rules are meant to be broken. Because of all the varied heights, shapes, materials, etc., this in-between mini-and maximalist style really does work. And all those organic elements, mMmMMM! Love it.
no. 4 - low and steady wins the race
This one breaks the rules because all of the heights and sizes are fairly similar. It works because even though all the elements stay around the same height, the high impact of the massive bowl of flowers adds a different and interesting element to satisfy that rule!
no. 5 - the best for last?
The final, and my favorite, vignette follows and breaks most of my rules. There are varying heights and sizes, and more than three elements. The impact is definitely middle of the road, though trending towards maximalist maybe? And I suppose elements are grounded by one another in clusters, but they also distinctly stand alone. Oh, and I really went for it with the "include elements from your home" -- spare bulbs, anybody?? The combination of colors, textures, and playful elements just brings it all together to really work. Plus, can we talk about that royal blue font against the marble? Swoon!
Here are some of my favorite shops to find tabletop styling pieces. And don't sleep on your local thrift stores! I have scored so many good decorative pieces from Goodwill, local flea markets, and secondhand furniture stores. Happy hunting!
Etsy - RogerAppleyard
Etsy - MaiaMingDesigns
Etsy - ChaseVintage
Etsy - TheBullsManor
Il Buco Vita
I hope this was helpful and that you all enjoyed! Xoxo