How To Style Your Coffee Table

The coffee table is somewhat of a companion. It’s there for you on a Sunday morning as you have your first sip of coffee and scroll through the news, but also during the evening as you flatline on the couch and enter the Netflix bubble with a glass of Thursday-night sauv blanc. Case in point, it’s always there, and as such, requires extra attention. Because it’s the heart of the main living space, how a coffee table is styled can completely change the overall mood of a room. But you ought to have a strategy. Here are several.

1. Apply The Magic Formula

While for most things in life, there is no magic formula, for coffee-table styling, there is: it can be summed up as: something high, something flat, something living, something quirky. Just ask Pinterest. Examples of components you would need at hand: a big candle, a stack of two or three coffee-table books, a tray or shallow bowl, a vase of flower or a plant, and a decorative object.

Balance and composition is key, connecting the different elements visually with a harmonious colour theme or some form of symmetry.

2. Select a Statement Table

If you actually like to utilise the space on your coffee table, consider making the coffee table itself the focal point, by choosing a graphic, metallic or sculptural style.  [see image]

3.  Make it Monochrome

If your room is already fairly busy or eclectic, what can be unexpectedly striking is sticking to a single colour. Three items and all-white or all-gold tends to contrast particularly beautifully. 

 4.  Go Bare

Are you more of a minimalist and everything extraneous, no matter how well-designed, just looks like clutter to you? Then two long tables juxtaposed side by side can also make for sophisticated styling. [see image]

5. Mix It Up

As the famous late fashion editor Diana Vreeland once said, “the eye has to travel”. She meant this quite literally in a design context, and it’s sound advice for your coffee table project. By using a contrast of textures and objects of different heights, you create a moving visual feast.


Of course, when in doubt, ask a pro. We asked Lisbon-based interior designer Isabel Pires de Lima to sum-up her top tips on coffee-table styling. Here’s what she said: “The central piece of a coffee table is always the stack of books. Use hardcover books with appealing images and themes that reflect your hobbies, lifestyle and personality. I always add high-quality scented candles, and kitsch or humoristic details such as old toys or pop-art sculptures, because life is already too serious. I finalise the creative process by using different sized boxes and a tray. Don't forget to leave some empty space for your wine glass or teacup. And never forget textures – wood, glass and brass materials all mixed, are a must!”

Happy styling.