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Coffee Table Decor Ideas and How to Style Them

6 coffee table decor ideas and how to style items like a pro to make your living room feel purposeful and beautiful.

Coffee table decor is weird. Like… when else in the history of ever would you find yourself staring at an inanimate object for an hour wondering what to do with it?

I mean, coffee tables are the most high maintenance pieces of furniture ever and have some nerve making you second guess every little item you place on it.

There is a formula to it though if you’ve ever wanted a perfectly decorated coffee table vignette but didn’t know how to do it. Here are some of my favorite coffee table decor ideas broken down.

coffee table decor ideas with rattan coffee table trunk, black vase with fall stems, wooden candle, coffee table books, wooden tray, brass bowl, and stone knot sculpture

How to Decorate a Coffee Table

(By the way, if any other places in your house have eluded you too, you can see lots more decorating secrets in this Simplified Decorating series.)

1. Start with a tray as your coffee table decor foundation

I love trays particularly because I have kids, and if they’re getting rough and rowdy, I can just lift the tray away with all the decor on it whenever needed.

But trays also give you a foundation to make all of the items on a coffee table look collected and purposeful. Use one that isn’t too small but still leaves room for you to kick your feet up, if you’d like.

rattan coffee table in a living room with black doors, bust planter, and marble tray

2. Add something natural.

Try using:

  • a potted plant
  • a vase of flowers
  • a bowl of moss
  • an urn of stems

Choose something that brings nature into the mix. It can be as simple as a bundle of flowers from the grocery store, but if you like longevity, fake stems are fine. (These are some of my favorite fake flowers.) This usually creates the focal point of the coffee table.

coastal style coffee table decor with rattan tray, wooden beads, coffee table books, candle and air plant

3. Incorporate a container.

Try using:

  • a wooden box
  • a decorative bowl
  • a small lidded basket
  • a lidded brass canister

I like using a decorative box for storing TV remotes or a decorative bowl for tossing in odds n ends as needed. They’re both beautiful and functional.

Tip: Vary your materials

Pick a container that varies in material from your tray for extra texture.

If you’re using a marble tray, use a wooden bowl. Or if you’re using a brass tray, choose a rattan box, etc. Using items that are all made of one material makes coffee table decor look flat. By adding varying materials, you create a curated look that pops.

marble remote control holder on a coffee table for practical coffee table decor ideas

4. Use a couple of books.

Choose hardcover ones that are interesting and beautiful to you that you’d enjoy picking up and flipping through regularly.

Pick whatever interests you: particular artists, beloved travel destinations, signature fashion styles, a favorite period of history, whatever speaks to your heart.

Pay attention to the color schemes of the book covers as they play a part in the overall look of the room.

These are some of my absolute favorite coffee table books for all interests.

Tip: Use books as risers to elevate the rest of your coffee table decor

The helpful thing about books is they can act as risers too, if you want to vary height of your decor items.

spring coffee table idea - vase of tulips, candle, concrete flower figurine, and basket tray

5. Add a candle.

Lighting a candle in the evening sets the mood for the entire room and helps you relax a little better. Choose one in a scent you love. (Or if you prefer diffusing essential oils instead, opt for a cordless candle diffuser for aromatherapy benefits.)

If you have little ones or pets and you’re concerned about safety issues of a real candle flame, battery operated candles can look convincing as the real thing instead.

decorative chain on a wooden tray with concrete bowl and vase of dried hydrangeas on a coffee table

6. Finish with a decorative object.

Try using:

  • a small bust
  • a paperweight
  • a decorative chain
  • a strand of beads
  • an interesting figurine
  • an abstract sculpture

Have fun with an out-of-the-ordinary object. Maybe an abstract brass knot sculpture, a black and white marble paperweight, or a decorative soapstone chain for added texture. If all of the other items on your table are short, choose an item that will add some height.

I love finding figurines at the thrift store and painting them to look like concrete, granite, or aged brass for just a couple bucks.

coffee table decor essentials

How to Style a Coffee Table After Pulling Together Your Decor

1. Edit.

Don’t go so overboard with your coffee table decor ideas that you can’t actually use your coffee table. Less is more. Pare down items as needed so that you don’t end up with a table full of clutter.

2. Mix Textures.

Mix up different materials like marble, rattan, stone, glass, ceramic, brass. It adds dimension and interest, especially when sticking to a neutral color palette.

3. Use the Decorator’s Triangle.

A good rule is to decorate in odd numbers: 3, 5, or 7. Then, vary the heights of those items to form a triangle. Can you see it?

So keep that in mind as you tweak your coffee table vignette.

the decorator's triangle on a coffee table vignette

Favorite Coffee Tables

These are some of my favorite coffee tables, but really coffee tables are one of my favorite pieces of furniture to makeover, if you keep your eyes peeled at the thrift store or search Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist.

That’s it! Move things around, play with different textures, and you’ll end up with a pretty, collected coffee table.

If you need some different ideas, here are a few more.

Coffee Table Ideas

If you need a bit more inspiration, here are more styling ideas from living rooms’ past.

winter living room coffee table ideas
rec room coffee table decor ideas
christmas coffee table decor ideas
coastal style coffee table ideas
fall coffee table decor ideas with dried hydrangeas and terracotta vase
fall living room coffee table idea with brass tray, leaves in a vase, wooden knot, and candle

Frequently Asked Questions

How big should a coffee table tray be?

The size of the tray you need will depend on the size of your coffee table and table designs, but you want to choose a tray that won’t hang off of the edge. An appropriate sized coffee table tray would be around 20 inches.

Which way should coffee table books face?

Stack the books and face the spines toward where most traffic would flow into the room. When you walk into the room, you should be able to see the book spines on the coffee table.

More Living Room Decorating Ideas from the Simplified Decorating Series

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7 Comments

  1. Love the triangle example! Can’t wait to tackle my table now. With a round table do you recommend a a square or rectangular tray?

    1. I currently have a round tray on a rectangle table. I suggest only that you use what you like whether it is the same shape or not.

  2. I love all these ideas but I’m stumped with how to style mine. The entire top of mine IS a big rectangular tray sitting in a woven base so adding a tray doesn’t look right. Do I just style it the same way but use larger scale objects? Not sure why this is so hard for me 😫😫😫

    1. Hi, Paula! I think your solution would be a great start. You can certainly join the facebook group I host for budget decorating. You can share pictures and get suggestions from all the very talented minds in the group.

  3. This is perfect timing for me, because I’ve been trying to decorate our coffee table. I love your style, so I know I am in for a gorgeous, decorative coffee table. I love the wicker coffee table, but it’s not in the budget for now. I also am in love with these ideas.

  4. Sitting on my couch looking,at my coffee table as I read your blog. I have a large wicker tray on one side with a bouquet of peonies and hostas leaves from my garden, a small book on gardening and a round chinese bowl. In the middle of my table is a large glass cloche with a faux candle inside and on the other side is my oriental wooden box for the remote ect and a square wicker,container with coasters in it. My antique pine coffee table is a large rectangle shape and has plenty of room for my coffee cup ,a book and put my feet up. I love decorating this table for each season and would never part with it. I think I paid $15 for it in a thrift shop😁