Interior Style

11 tips to help you create the perfect coffee table set up

The coffee table occupies a unique place in the heart of a living area. A well-styled set up looks gorgeous and offers a sweet spot for your cuppa

The trusty coffee table is one of the most functional pieces of furniture in the home. It usually takes pride of place in the living room, so how your coffee table is styled can have a significant impact on the look of the room as a whole. With these easy tips you can style your table like a pro and compose an arrangement that is both functional and visually appealing.

Choosing a table

It is really important that the coffee table you choose works with other elements in the room. Its size, shape and colour should be in keeping with your existing decor. If you’re a bit stuck, a round coffee table or side table is a great choice as it softens any space. A round design is also good if you have little kids as there are no sharp corners for them to bang into.

Using a coffee table in conjunction with one or more side tables is a popular device in interior design and works well if you have a large room and a big sofa. In open-plan spaces a small coffee table can look lost, so ‘layering’ two or three tables can help fill the space and create interest. Having a cluster of tables also allows you to move them to useful spots when entertaining, such as by a chair or at the end of the sofa to provide handy surfaces for placing drinks or food.

Styling steps

A beautifully styled coffee table can really bring a room together. While it may be hard to know where to start, stick to our two key guidelines: create layers and use plenty of texture for interest.


We all know how important texture is when styling a space and coffee tables are no exception. Texture instantly adds interest and stops a space from feeling flat. The coffee table is a great area to experiment with mixing wood, shiny metallics, ceramics and glass as all these different finishes look great when combined.


When all the accessories on a coffee table are around the same height, the overall look tends to be a bit dull, so try using a variety of heights to create a dynamic arrangement.

As a general rule, avoid using anything that obstructs your view of people sitting opposite. But some height is desirable so try a vase containing some lovely blooms, a hurricane lantern, candlesticks or a decorative bottle. Too many tall items will look busy so stick to one or a group of items, such as candlesticks.

Books and magazines

Books or magazines are perfect for creating an elevated surface. Keep it simple and add a small pile of two or three books or five or so magazines, then place a single decorative object on top. This not only adds some height to the arrangement but also breaks up the flat surfaces.

Beautiful bowl

A bowl is another useful item when styling coffee tables. If you have a big table, a large, shallow bowl is an ideal receptacle for remote controls, which always look messy when strewn over the table. A bowl is also good for displaying decorative objects such as a bead necklace or shells.


Candles are great for creating ambience in a room. By standing a pretty, scented candle on top of some books or in a tray, you’ll add both interest and fragrance. The only rule is to not have too many – stick to one and change it when you find a new favourite.

Personal space

The final part of the styling puzzle is to choose an object – perhaps something sculptural or quirky – to express your personality. It could be a stunning piece of coral, a glass orb, a metal sculpture, a cube or something that makes sense to you.

Tray bein 

A tray really is a secret weapon when it comes to styling a coffee table. They are great for creating a vignette (a group or collection of items) and also make it easy to move multiple objects at once if you need to clear space. The size of your tray depends on what you have to put on it and also how big your coffee table is. If you want to keep your coffee-table look clean and simple, a tray on one side and a pile of magazines or books on the other always looks good.

Plant life

Adding fresh flowers or plants to your decor instantly perks up the space and makes it feel alive, and the coffee table is a great place for a bit of greenery. A vase filled with your favourite blooms or a pot plant can work wonders but keep in mind the size of the floral arrangement or plant as it should ideally be in proportion to the table.


Once you’ve styled your coffee table, step back and look at it from all directions. You want the table to look balanced from wherever you are in the room; if you aren’t happy, simply edit until you are. Happy styling!

Words by: Vanessa Nouwens. Photography by: Wendy Fenwick

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