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How to Decorate a Coffee Table

A coffee table is one of the most functional pieces of a living or family room. A place to kick up your feet, rest beverages and snacks, set up a board game - the list goes on. In addition to serving an important purpose in the overall design of a room, a coffee table is the perfect backdrop for some fun styling moments.

Coffee Table Styling Recipe

Coffee tables are one of my favorite items to style and over the years I have developed what I call a "coffee table styling recipe". I like to use the example of a recipe, because just like with cooking or baking, the process for decorating a coffee table involves gathering "ingredients" and following a set of steps to create an outcome. Today I am excited to share my tried and true coffee table styling recipe with you!

Gather your Ingredients

When I am styling a coffee table, there are certain objects that I reach for on repeat. Here is my list of favorites:

  • tray (this is an essential ingredient to my "recipe")

  • beautiful books

  • small plant - real or faux

  • vase with stems - real or faux

  • pretty candle

  • coasters

  • decorative objects (like the hands)

  • candle accessories

Start with a Tray

Why use a tray?

Trays are one of the most versatile styling pieces and form the foundation of my coffee table styling recipe. Let me take a moment to explain why I think a tray is an integral component to styling a coffee table. Firstly, a coffee table tray provides a focal point on the table and sets a foundation for the other elements you are going to introduce. Second, it helps to contain the decorative items and functional items on the table (I'm looking at your remotes!). This reduces visual clutter and keeps the table looking tidy. Lastly, a tray makes it really easy to clear the table if you need it to serve food, play a board game or tackle that 5000 piece puzzle you've been wanting to put together.

How to select a tray

When you are shopping for a tray for your coffee table, there are a few things to keep in mind. The first is size, you want to select a tray that is to scale with your coffee a very rough rule of thumb, I like to use a tray that takes up roughly 1/3 rd of the surface area of the coffee table. Another consideration is the shape of the tray. Rectangular, square, round and oval are the common shapes I have seen when shopping for trays. A little trick I use is to mix up shapes, so if your coffee table is a rectangle, try a round or oval tray. The last thing to consider is the color/material of the tray. I think trays really "pop" when they contrast with the table top. For example, a black tray looks great on a wood coffee table. You can see my light colored coffee table works really well with both black and rattan trays.

Style the tray with these 3 items

  1. Greenery or Flowers - in my house I go faux with these items. a medium size plant in a stylish planter or a beautiful vase with some floral stems Use a pretty planter for plants or a beautiful vase for your stems. I like to take up about 1/3 of the tray with this important organic element, as displayed in the image above.

  2. A pretty decorative candle - there are so many options when it comes to candles. Look for one that has a beautiful vessel and smells good!

  3. A set of Decorative Coasters - again, lots of options here. The set I have above are marble hexagons, and were an affordable target find. Not only are coasters decorative but they protect your coffee table against water marks!

Here you can see the same collection but of different items:

Reflect your personality & Tell your story

Once you have styled a coffee table tray with some greenery or flowers, a candle and some coasters, you can stop there and consider your coffee table styled. Or, you can keep going with some additional items if that feels like the right journey for you. Styling is such a personal thing, some people prefer a simple minimal look and others like more visual interest. For me personally, no coffee table is complete without some pretty books on display. I have a gorgeous selection of Interior Design books that I love, and have on display. When it comes to my clients, I try and find books that align with their interests-there are so many options! Travel, photography, fashion, wine...the list goes on!

A stack of books looks really beautiful on a table, but a trick I picked up from Shea McGee is to have a book open on a book stand. The photography is artwork for your table!

Take away tips

I hope this post has inspired you with some ways to style your own coffee table. You can't go wrong with a tray, some flowers or greenery, a candle and some coasters. Here is a collage with some shopping inspiration:


For more styling tips follow me over on Instagram and subscribe to my monthly newsletter by clicking here. You can also check out my similar post over on the Urban Barn website and see all the gorgeous styling options they have over there!

Thanks for reading!



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