How your coffee table can become the star of your living room

Green living room with coffee table and plants
Jennifer Morgan,-Interiors Editor

Transforming your coffee table from practical piece of furniture to style hero can make all the difference to your living space

Often at the centre of your living room, your coffee table can all too easily be overlooked as a practical, everyday item rather than a creative styling opportunity. We say it’s time to think again. Follow our few simple style tips and make yours shine.

Pink living room with round coffee tables

Size matters

Start by measuring the floor area – you need enough space to walk around the table and, with your practical head on, vacuum or clean easily. Think about shape too: a round or oval table will mean less sharp corners to bump into, which can be particularly advantageous if you have young children; while a low, square design can echo the lines of a contemporary modular sofa perfectly. Looking for something a bit different? Why not use an upholstered footstool instead of a table.

When arranging accessories on your coffee table, avoid anything that’s too high, obscuring the view of anyone sitting opposite (or that of the TV). Think low – small piles of books, short vases and planters rather than tall ones, and votives rather than candlesticks.

Keep it balanced

One of the easiest styling tricks for your coffee table is to make it symmetrical, with a central object – like a gorgeous glass or ceramic bowl – flanked by a pair of vases or lanterns. You can also create balance using similar materials, choosing just glass or metallic finishes for decorative pieces rather than mixing, which creates a more eclectic vibe.

Red living room with round coffee tables

Show off your personality

Treat your coffee table as a snapshot of your home. If you love reading interiors books, then choose a table with a lovely deep shelf below on which you can stack up your favourites – a glass version works well, as it still helps the space to flow.

If you have a pretty garden, then display seasonal foliage and blooms in small votives or vases. If you are proud of your family, then arrange your favourite photos in picture frames – odd numbers often work best. Whatever you choose to place on your coffee table, make sure it can still be utilised when needed, with coasters or an empty tray ready to put drinks on, and of course, somewhere to pop the remote control.

If you’re still struggling with your coffee table, then strip it back – choose just three items, such as a vase (for height), an inspiring coffee-table book and a decorative piece you love (such as a bowl or photo frame).

Living room with purple sofa and blue footstool

Arrange on a tray

When styling your coffee table, a tray is your best friend. It will help contain smaller bits and pieces, making it easy to bring your look together. Choose one that’s in proportion to your table, but don’t be afraid to introduce a new shape, such as a square tray on a rectangular or round table. Working within the confines of your tray will also help prevent your space becoming cluttered – if something doesn’t fit on the tray, then find somewhere else to display it.

Edit frequently

Before you add something to your coffee table, think if you need to take anything away. The prime culprits are scented candles past their best with any fragrance long gone, plants in need of a little TLC, or piles of old newspapers and magazines. Get in the habit of doing a living-room sweep first thing, focusing on your coffee table – it will only take a few moments but will help restore a sense of order.

Shake things up

If your coffee table still isn’t working, then perhaps it’s the table itself that’s wrong for the space. Try a nest of three smaller tables grouped together to make an interesting yet flexible centrepoint, swapping a heavy wood piece for something lighter, such as a glass table, or adding more storage by choosing a table with a shelf or drawers below.

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