How to style a coffee table

How to style a coffee table

We’re just back from a very fun and exciting installation in Paris (stay tuned for more on that soon, with photos), where we had the pleasure of designing a lovely one-bedroom apartment with a killer view of the Eiffel Tower.  We had done most of the heavy lifting in the fall – specifying the floor, hard surfaces, plumbing cabinetry and paint – so our weeklong stay was dedicated to the most fun part of the job: the fluff.

We love styling.  In the Paris apartment, we had a snazzy and sleek 1970s brass and glass coffee table to attend to and it was nice to have a couple rules-of-thumb to follow as we styled for the photo shoot.  We kept these tips in mind:

start with the horizontal pieces

We like to begin with a base for the arrangement so we’ll stack two or three coffee table books as a foundation. We love coffee table books. Not only are they interesting but they’re usually pretty, too. (If you can’t find any that play with your decor, do what our own Sam Jones does: paint them!)  Boxes are a good alternative, too.  We also like using a large tray to keep all the elements corralled nicely.

Barbara Heath used big stacks of coffee table books to lay the foundation on this gorgeous mirrored coffee table.  The abstract painting is by Melissa Payne Baker.  (<a href="" target="_blank">Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles</a>, photos by Erica Dines.)

Atlanta designer June Chamberlain likes to let the table do the talking.  “I let the shape of the table guide me. If the table is round, I like to use a round accessory or two and same goes with a square. I also keep the style of table in mind. If it is more modern, I like to keep accessories sparse.”

Following her own advice, June kept this coffee table nice and simple but added some height with candlesticks and a little wow factor with a red floral arrangement.

<a target="_blank" href="">Suzanne Kasler</a>, who always styles so beautifully, used similar coffee table books to ground this neutral coffee table. <a href="" target="_blank">Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles</a>, photos by Erica Dines.

go for height

To counter-balance the horizontal dimension of the books, we like to add something with some height – candlesticks, a piece of sculpture, a crystal obelisk or an unusually shaped vase.

<a href="" target="_blank">Meridy King</a> used striking wood sculptures for some major drama on this coffee table. (<a href="" target="_blank">Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles</a>. Photos by Erica Dines.)

June Chamberlain adds, “I love to use a small silver tray for a  bit of elegance and I always add a tall element such as a pair of candlesticks or a sculptural piece.”

<a href="" target="_blank">Barbara Westbrook</a> added height with an unusually shaped wooden vase in this sleek condo.  <a href="" target="_blank">Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles</a>. Photos by Erica Dines.

add some greens

Adding a touch of greenery keeps it organic and natural – and besides, is there anything prettier than a vintage bowl bursting with gorgeous, fresh orchids?

We used an pretty orchid on a 1970s French acrylic coffee table for the 2016 <a href="" target="_blank">Cashiers Designers Showhouse</a>.  Photo by Erica Dines.

Kay Douglas pulled in a bright pop of chartreuse with a little arrangement. <a href="" target="_blank">Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles</a>. Photo by Mali Azima.

<a href="" target="_blank">Margaret Bosbyshell</a> added a pretty orchid to this coffee table.  The wooden box acts as the foundation here. <a href="" target="_blank">Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles</a>. Photo by Emily Followill.

add something personal

It was so fun to have the Paris flea market at our fingertips and we literally found dozens of items that would have worked beautifully for us.  In the end, we went with an antique faceted crystal ball on a little brass stand. We loved the way it caught the light and added a little pizazz to our coffee table.  We also like using small paintings on easels – because what’s more personal than art?

We love the touches of crystal here.  <a href="" target="_blank">Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles</a>. Photo: Emily Followil.

And one last tip from our designer friend, June Chamberlain: “Most important, display what you love, as guests and family alike tend to gather around a cocktail table.”

less is more

It’s easy to go overboard and want to fill every spare inch of space with objets and tchotchkes.  We go for restraint whenever we can.

Less is always more.  <a href="" target="_blank">Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles</a>. Photo by Mali Azima.

In a nutshell, we like to think of the coffee table as the little black dress: you can dress it up or dress it down – but always have fun with it.

How do you like to style your coffee table?  Let us know.

Ta ta!

Elements of a copy table: 1. start with a sleek 1970s brass and glass <a href="" target="_blank">coffee table</a>. 2. Add your foundation with <a href="" target="_blank">coffee table books</a>. 3. Go for the green with a pretty floral or orchid arrangement. 4. Add some height with a set of three chunky and cool <a target="_blank" href="">magnifiers.</a> 5. Add the personal touch with a little painting (this one by <a href="" target="_blank">Melissa Payne Baker</a>

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