How to Style Your Coffee Table Like an Interior Designer: 10 Pro Tips

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Kelsey Clark

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Published on August 4, 2022

If there’s one thing we love to style, it’s a coffee table. Much like bookshelves, coffee tables present an opportunity to add both style and functionality to your favorite room in the house.  

With that said, styling a coffee table isn’t always easy, especially when you’re trying to find an aesthetically-pleasing home for three-plus TV remotes, or styling around a toddler. Balancing storage, decorative items, and creature comforts on a relatively small surface is a bit of an art form.

So, we tapped Havenly designer Toussaint Derby for all of her coffee table styling secrets, from color palette to seasonal decor. Keep scrolling for her pro design tips:

1. Create Groups

Rather than letting items accumulate on your coffee table at random, create groupings for a touch of organization. For example, a vase and fresh blooms constitutes one grouping, while a book stack with a candle on top is another. Just be way of adding too much decor — you want it to look curated and functional, rather than a catch-all for clutter. 

2. Play With Height

Like a fireplace mantel or TV stand, always play with height when styling your coffee table. Adding fresh blooms, dried florals, or sculptural branches in a pretty vase is an easy way to go vertical, especially in a TV-free space where the view isn’t a concern. Otherwise, oversized bowls, candle sticks, and stacked books will suffice. You can even bring in nesting tables instead of one flat surface for added visual interest!

3. Get Textural

How to style a coffee table

Don’t stick to one distinct material when styling your coffee table — layered textures will keep your display visually interesting. For example, style wooden beads inside a brass bowl, or a woven tray next to a stack of clean, neutral books. Organic elements work particularly well together — picture a wood bowl paired with soft greenery and a mirrored candle for contrast. Glass, lucite, metal, wicker, wood, linen, and marble are all fair game!

4. Opposites Attract

Styling books and a square tray on top of a standard rectangular coffee table can quickly fall flat. Add dimension and visual interest by peppering in contrasting shapes with your decor. For example, layer angular books on top of a soft, sculptural coffee table. Or, decorate a square table with an oval tray and a few round candles. Balancing different shapes, even in a small way, can make a room that much more interesting.

5. Stick to a Color Scheme

Make your coffee table display feel intentional and curated by sticking to a tight color scheme. Bring in a candle or tapers that match your throw pillows, add a vase that complements your whole home palette, and stick to a distinct theme with your coffee table books. Be mindful when selecting metal finishes, too — mixing matte, satin, antique, and polished metals can feel disjointed (especially on such a small surface).

6. Or, Add a Pop of Color

How to style a coffee table

On the opposite end of the spectrum, adding an accent color or unexpected pop can make your table display stand out. If your home already boasts a more vibrant, maximalist palette, lean into the look with bright florals, colorful coffee table books, and a funky vase or two.

7. Be Realistic

This one is for all the parents out there: be realistic when styling your coffee table. This low surface is easily accessible to cats, dogs, toddlers, and kids of all ages, so it’s important to consider safety, longevity, and functionality. If you have little ones with curious hands, wagging dog tails, or table-surfing cats, opt for faux potted plants, plastic vases, woven trays, and LED candles instead.

8. Prioritize Function

How to style a coffee table

We love a beautifully-styled coffee table, but remember: don’t go overboard with the decorative knick-knacks. If you can barely find a spare square inch to rest your wine glass, it’s time to pare back and prioritize function. Catch-all trays and boxes serve as a practical home for remotes, coasters, matches, snacks, and the like without sacrificing style.

9. Consider Seasonality

How to style a coffee table

Like throw pillows, coffee table decor can easily shift with the seasons for a summery, cozy, or festive touch. Swap fresh blooms for dried florals come fall, and retire your pumpkin spice candle for a crisp evergreen scent when the temperatures drop. Let your coffee table display evolve with your locale and mood. 

10. Take a Bookshelf Approach

If you have a layered coffee table with two to three separate surfaces, style it like you would a bookcase or floating shelves. Alternate colors, heights, and shapes on opposing sides to create contrast and balance. Most importantly, keep the look simple and curated — clutter can easily accumulate on a stacked coffee table!

Looking for a way to overcome your unique home dilemmas? Work one-on-one with our expert interior designers for just $129 per room. Get started today with our style quiz.

Words by Kelsey Clark