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Simplified Decorating: End Table Decor Ideas

5 rules for perfect end table decor ideas in a living room + the best items to include to make it pretty as well as functional.

A couple of weeks ago I asked a bunch of y’all Instagram and in the Bless’er House Decorating Group what YOU needed help with and wanted to see here on the blog this year, and a chunk of you said you were stumped on end table decor ideas, how to style shelves, how to choose the right size rug…

Basically, I got a huge response about how to simplify decorating.

Because it definitely isn’t simple if it’s not one of those things that comes to you naturally. (I get stuck a lot too, really.)

end table decor ideas in a living room

Simplified Decorating

So I’m breaking down the steps to make each little part of decorating your home as easy as it can possibly be and hopefully take out the guesswork for you.

Every week or two, I plan to focus on one area of the home and span it out into an entire series. I’m SO excited, and I hope it helps! Because I sorta geek out about this stuff.

Since I did a little living room winter refresh the other day, I thought I’d break down how to style end tables because they seem like the perfect starting point.

how to decorate an end table

The Challenge with End Table Decor

How do you make end tables pretty but still functional?

What is too much or too little?

How do you make them look put together and not cluttered?

I’m by no means a certified interior designer, but I’ve studied every resource I could find for YEARS, so I’m just sharing what I know. (And over holiday break, while I was visiting the NC mountains with my mom, I found these end tables that I couldn’t wait to decorate anyway so…)

End Table Decor Ideas:

1. Less is more

When in doubt, use only 3, 4, or 5 items on your end tables maximum.

(Did you know that 3 is the “magic decorating number”? It creates the best symmetry. Seriously, try that number of items on anything: a mantel, a dresser top, a shelf. It works. It’s not a number you have to stick to, but it helps, if you’re feeling lost when styling something.)

That number works for “groupings” as well. In the photo above, the frame sitting on top of the book stack counts as one grouping.

2. Consider what items you usually need within reach.

I usually need just a set of coasters and a table lamp as my essentials, and then the other pieces can be just pretty decor that don’t have to necessarily serve a functional purpose.

items to always use for end table decor

3. Incorporate an item from nature.

I like to include a potted plant or a vase with flowers to add color, texture, and “life” to what could otherwise be a flat looking vignette on a side table.

4. Use books to create height. 

If you have two items on your table that are exactly the same height, raise one up so that they are staggered. Stacks of books or coffee table books make great risers.

how to style end tables - using picture frames and books as risers

5. Create a “visual triangle”.

Whenever styling shelves or tabletops or any sort of vignette, place items into a triangle shape. The “visual triangle” is a stylist’s best secret.

Can you see it?

the visual triangle and how to style end tables

What home decor items to include on an end table

6 decor essentials for end table decor ideas

Table Lamp

I really like the Philips Hue White bulbs. They’re not too yellow but not too stark white, and they work with Alexa and Google Assistant, if you want to make your lamps “smart”.

Coaster Set

Planter/Vase/Plant/Flowers

Picture Frame

Trinket Dish / Bowl

I like having one of these to hold small odd ‘n ends that end up on our tables like loose change, jewelry, etc.

Candle

Go with non-seasonal-specific scents so that you have the flexibility to use them year-round and don’t have to worry about storing them when out of season. Capsule decor tip. 😉

End Table Options

Anything else you like to add to your end tables?

We usually have extra pacifiers and naked Barbie dolls flung onto ours, but that’s only if you want your decor to look very sophisticated, of course. 😉 Ahhh… mom life.

If you want to save this post for later, you can pin it here:

how to decorate end tables in a living room

signoff

How do you style an end table without a lamp?

Use a tall plant that adds height instead!

Do end tables need to match?

Not at all. It’s fine to match your living room furniture if you would like to, but eclectic end tables in a space add that feeling of curated furniture.

How close should an end table be to a couch?

The table should be within two inches of the sofa arm’s height, no taller or shorter than two inches.

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31 Comments

  1. So many great tips, thank you Lauren, excited for this series also. I have a silly question, I have an end table that is not near an outlet so I don’t have a lamp. Any suggestions on what to place there to complete the visual triangle?

    1. Hmm, I would say something with height. You might try a couple thick pillar candlestick holders. I know not everyone has the luxury of having an outlet nearby.

  2. Great post. Very informative. 🥰 I have question. What is the combined height of the end table and lamp shown in this post. Thank you so much!