How to Style a Coffee Table

Coffee tables are often largely ignored in interior design. Unlike other more voluminous or visually striking pieces of furniture, such as sofas or large dining tables, they do not attract our attention and it is not difficult for them to go unnoticed.

However, if we stop to think about it, coffee tables are not only important from a utilitarian point of view, but aesthetically, they often play an essential role in the composition of a living room, as they typically occupy the central space. Therefore, it is only logical that they should essentially articulate the guidelines or references for the style.

© Suiyu Studio

How to assemble the perfect coffee table? To decorate any room, it is advisable to apply a series of rules that are basically summarized in a word that encompasses everything: contrast. This involves playing off different styles and attitudes in the same space using different materials, such as antique furniture and objects alongside modern ones, or using soft surfaces with other harder ones, or combining wood with metal or glass, fabrics of different weights and prints. However, these rules should not be an exception in relation to the coffee table. Everyone is free to interpret and develop their own personal taste. Nevertheless, when it comes to choosing a coffee table, and combining it with what surrounds it in the same space, the challenge becomes more complicated.

There are several keys to making the right decision, which should be taken in a measured and unhurried way, and whose primary objective is moderation because what we see in a store may not always fit our style and the room we want to place it in.

© Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen

First, we must be clear about what we are looking for and not jump at the first coffee table we find. We must consider the proportions we are interested in and not deviate from them in our search. It is essential we avoid the mistake of getting carried away by enthusiasm and start looking at tables that are too big, which will result in buying one that swallows up all the space and prevents us from moving freely and feeling comfortable.

Once these search conditions are defined, to procure our ideal coffee table, the first feeling that must wash over us is that of exhilaration, knowing that we have found a piece that will make us feel happy every time we contemplate it, whether in a large or small living room. If the table does not excite and enrapture us each time we look at it, then it is certainly not the right piece of furniture for us, not only for the room in question but probably for any other corner of the house.

Nowadays, the materials used to make a coffee table are practically infinite, from traditional wood to metal combined with glass, travertine marble, granite, concrete, rattan and even synthetic resin.

© Brian Wetzel

© Brian Wetzel

The second challenge we face after choosing our coffee table is how to decorate it, which objects to place on the surface that can be contemplated as if they were part of a first-class decorative exhibition.

1. Create a focal point

Once we have selected the coffee table that best suits our room and our personal style and taste, we can choose the objects with which we intend to decorate it. The first thing is to select the piece that will occupy the center of the table, the most important element, the one we want to highlight by placing it, maybe not in the exact center, but in the most prominent place because it will receive most of the light and attention. There are endless possibilities to choose from: a small sculpture, a vase, a plant, an ashtray, a couple of art books… and you can even combine these options because the same sculpture or vase can serve as a pot for a plant or flowers.

© Jisoo Kang

2. Affection for our most beloved objects

As we have already mentioned, a coffee table usually occupies one of the most prominent places in the living room or room, and it is there, next to it, where we will sit to enjoy a good book, a movie or chat with friends. Therefore, it is the best place to display our most beloved objects. Each one of them will speak of us: our tastes, our personality, and our history.

3. The location

The center of the coffee table is not always the most prominent. There is no need to use a  tape measure or a compass to know where the exact central point of the table is since the object we want to highlight can be several decimeters away from the center and can even be placed to one side or in one of the corners. There is no written rule as to where exactly the piece or sculpture we want to highlight must be placed.

4. Grouping objects

The elements we want to highlight can be displayed alone or accompanied by other pieces. For example, a design vase always looks better if it is accompanied by a plant, or flowers, or branches. Similarly, art books are often displayed with other books of similar size and thickness, and perhaps a small sculpture or an ashtray can be placed on top of them.

© Photonic Studio

Conversely, if what we want to highlight has great sentimental value, or if it is a work of art, there should be no other objects nearby, so that its importance is not overshadowed.

5. Select height

It is important to remember that, preferably, the heights and volumes of the objects we intend to place are varied. The decoration is not like a corps de ballet in which all the dancers must be exactly the same height. The purpose of this diversity is that the heights and volumes, being discontinuous and different, and playing with shapes, sizes and textures, offer a rich selection of our most outstanding objects, through an attractive and varied composition.

© Photonic Studio

6. Corrections and additions

The best way to check the layout of the coffee table, in terms of the elements arranged on it, is to take a photograph so that we can make the necessary adjustments, reposition the pieces, adapt them in the layout  and make sure that we are satisfied with our composition. Naturally, we can make corrections, additions, and even remove elements we are not happy with. Any adjustment is valid, from a micro-adjustment of a few centimeters to a change of order or approach in the grouping of the pieces.

© Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen

The most important thing to consider is the first impression it makes, to pay attention to where our eyes wander after the first glance. This will tell us which element placed on our coffee table is the most important and how to coordinate all the others in relation to it in a harmonious manner.

Related content