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How To Decorate A Coffee Table [So It’s Stylish AND Useful]

WRITTEN by CHRISSY, LAST UPDATED ON July 31, 2022

& FILED IN Home Decor 


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Want to know how to decorate a coffee table? These steps will help you get it right every time – no matter what style you want to use. Tips and ideas to make it easy.

How To Decorate A Coffee Table - So It's Stylish AND Practical

A coffee table is among the most essential pieces of furniture. After all, it’s where we set down our drinks and snacks after a long day at work. 

However, a coffee table shouldn’t just be practical in nature. If you learn how to adorn a coffee table effectively, you can transform this item of furniture into a decorative centrepiece for your living room. 

Steps To Decorate Your Coffee Table

#1 – Decide On A Theme

If you don’t decide on a theme before starting to decorate your coffee table, your decoration choices could end up looking messy. It’s perfectly fine to go with an eclectic theme, but again, this should involve some thought as opposed to just placing random ornaments on the table. 

There are a lot of themes to consider, but usually your base theme will match the style and look of the living room.

However – there’s always room for tweaking over the year to go with seasonal themes that will change the look and update the space quickly and easily.

You could have some items that match your style but in different themes to swap in at the right times – such as Easter, Halloween, Christmas etc…

#2 – Pick A Tray For Your Decor

I always recommend adding a tray as the base for any coffee table decor – for a variety of reasons:

  • It can add another layer of decor to the room – you can keep it in style and/or to add more colour/texture to the table.
  • It contains everything into one area on the table so it looks neater and not as much like clutter. It feels deliberate.
  • It’s brilliant if your coffee table is upholstered rather than wooden, because it gives a flat surface for everything.
  • It allows you to move the stuff easily for cleaning, or if you want to use as a tray when you have guests and drinks etc…

Plus – who says you have to only have one tray?! – You could pick more than one tray – one for decor and one for function. You could have them nested so you can pick the smaller one out with cups on when necessary, but it all stays together at other times.

Related: Easy Ottoman Tray Styling Tips That Really Work

Tray with decorative items on coffee table

#3 – Choose A Centrepiece

Regardless of whether you just want one object on your coffee table or a selection of decorative items, you should decide on a centrepiece for the table. 

It will be a centrepiece because it’s larger than anything else on the table so it will act as a focal point for your eyes to rest on.

Some of the best options for this are:

  • A vase of flowers (artificial or real – depending on light in the room). Both the vase AND the flowers can add some decor to the space.
  • A plant in a decorative pot
Coffee table with plant and magazine on top
Coffee table with vase on flowers and plant on

#4 – Add Some Smaller Items

Now it’s time to add a few supporting decor items to the space.

For example, if you have chosen a bowl as your centrepiece, you should decide whether you want to leave it empty or fill it with small objects. Some decorative rocks or pebbles are a classic choice and will give your coffee table a natural, rustic feel. 

Other ideas for supporting decorations include a small glass or china ornament, a small succulent, a couple of little candles, etc…

You could also add some books – a lovely feature for a coffee table in a living room as it gives something for guests to read and talk about.

Usually these items are smaller and lower than the main centrepiece – as you want to get a variety of texture, shapes and sizes for your decor.

TIP – Another thing to add into the decor is some practical storage. For example – you could get a small lidded container to hide away remote controls but keep them easy to grab.

Leather Coffee Table with tray on

#5 – Arrange In Odd Numbers

Most items when displayed look better when grouped in 3’s or 5’s – and on a coffee table it’s exactly the same.

You may well have one main item such as a vase, and then a candle and a small container for your remote controls – for example. This means that you have a variety of items of differing heights and textures – and they are grouped in a set of 3.

Or maybe you have a large candle in a lantern, with a set of 3 books with a heavy ornament on top of them. This would make a gorgeous group of 5 items that work well to form a display.

Keep the odd rule in mind and you won’t go far wrong!

3 decorative urns on coffee table

#6 – Arrange Items With All Angles In Mind

Once you’ve picked the items – you’ll want to make sure that wherever you are in the room it looks nice.

People may be walking around or sitting in different areas – so keep tweaking until most angles look pretty good.

Think about stacking a few things vertically for height – adding different heights, colours and textures as well so that there is interest.

Don’t stack objects so high that they might tip over, but stacking items on your table can make it more interesting to look at without taking up too much space – remember, you still need room for your coffee!

A stack of books, for example, maybe with a decorative paperweight on top, will give your coffee table (and the room as a whole) a classy, academic look.

Stacking objects also means that you can control the different heights in your coffee table display. If you have a vase of flowers and an ashtray on your table, for example, you can stack other objects to a perfect in-between height, creating different levels to your decor.

TIP – When thinking about how things look at different angles – don’t forget to check that you can see the TV from any seats you normally use. Often forgotten is to check whether things are in the way of the TV – especially if you tend to lie down on a sofa. If you have to keep moving things out of the way this will get tired very fast. This is also important when placing candles – because they can be very bright if they fall in line with your viewing angle.

#7 – Leave Some Empty Space

A coffee table still needs to be used for it’s main purpose which is to add a flat surface for drinks and other things that you use on a day to day basis.

As such, if you overfill your table with stuff – you won’t have any room for those things – and that means it will become a frustration rather than a focal point. 

One way of remembering space for drinks is to incorporate decorative coasters in the space.

These can add some decor, but will also protect either the tray or the table itself from stains and heat damage. 

The good news is that coasters don’t have to be exclusively functional. They can also be decorative, and if you choose the right coasters, you can make them a visually pleasing part of your coffee table decor. 

Coffee table with wooden tray and coffee cup

Coffee Table Decorating Essentials

To make decorating your coffee table even easier, here’s a curated collection I’ve put together of items that would look great on most tables. You’re very welcome to use as inspiration!

Note – Clicking on any item below will take you to the store so you can see details and purchase – for your convenience. The links are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission for any purchase you make – at absolutely no cost to you, of course.

How To Decorate A Coffee Table [So It's Stylish AND Useful] - 350

Coffee Table Decor – FAQs

What decorations do you put on a coffee table?

Glass vase and decorative items on a coffee table

You need a variety of things on a coffee table to make it look good. Pick an odd number of items with varying heights, textures and shapes – and always keep in mind the interior design of the rest of the room so it can be in keeping. You can always update with the seasons and to change things up every few months. The best items to consider are some greenery / flowers, a candle, books, decorative objects, and / or a container for small items such as a remote.

How Do You Decorate A Round Coffee Table?

Round wooden coffee table with round tray on it and vase of flowers

Reflect a round table with circular items where possible. If using a tray then a circular tray can work well, along with candles and flowers in a pot or vase. All of these will be viewed from all angles around the room – so if they are all circular then they’ll all look good from wherever they’re seen.

How do you style a bottom shelf on a coffee table?

2 tiered coffee table with decor on both levels

When a coffee table has a shelf you need to consider this as part of the whole when decorating. 2 great options for this space are both considering adding heavier items to the bottom rather than the top. Firstly you could have a pile of books or magazines, and secondly you could have one or two lidded baskets that can hide away those magazines, store a throw etc…

How do you style a 2 tier glass coffee table?

Mirrored coffee table with candles on tray

Consider very carefully what you put under a glass surface on a coffee table – because it will be seen not only from the side but also from above. The best option is usually to keep it as clutter free as possible by having some lidded containers / baskets so you get a more solid looking base from above but keep all the practicality of lots of storage.

How To Decorate A Coffee Table - So It's Stylish AND Practical

Use these ideas to guide you as to how to decorate your own coffee table – but let your creativity flow!

You don’t have to use every single suggestion in this article, but all of these tips can help you to create a coffee table layout that reflects your personal taste and style. 

In addition to thinking about the fun side of things, like what kind of aesthetic to aim for, be sure to consider more practical aspects, like how you’ll protect your table from heat and stains.

Good luck!

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