Get the remotes off this surface—a coffee table is the perfect area to display some of your gorgeous finds.
Living Room with Coffee Table and Chairs
Credit: Jessica Antola

When it comes to decorating the living room, many people forget about the coffee table—but they shouldn't. The coffee table is not only a focal point, but also a natural gathering place in most spaces, meaning this is one area you really can't afford to ignore stylistically. Even if you know it's important to style this part of the space, choosing the right mix of elements that will appear both intentional and effortless can be a challenge. We spoke to Athena Calderone, interior designer, entertaining expert, and creative force behind lifestyle site EyeSwoon, to get her top tips for successfully styling a coffee table.

Start with the Basics

Before you begin, gather the pieces that you want to display. "Low bowls, vessels like small boxes, bud vases, and catchalls in textures different than the table surface are good to start with," says Calderone, who loves using vintage marble or stone ashtrays as catchalls. Pretty books, trays in varying sizes, and candles are all good to have on hand, as well.

Play with Height

When styling your coffee table you don't want everything on the same plane, so create surfaces at different heights for groups of objects to live on. "Stacking books is always a great starting point—and uneven stacks are best," Calderone says. This also creates natural grouping spaces for vignettes, which is key. "Play with scale and a variety of height levels. Place a taller object directly on the table surface, or a lower vessel on a stack of books," she suggests. When in doubt, Calderone says to use the golden design ratio and organize objects together in groups of three.

Add in a Bit of Nature

Once you've created height and started grouping together vessels, it's time to layer in personality and charm. Calderone suggests adding a natural element for a bit of texture: "I love including an interesting rock, a bit of driftwood, or an oversized dried leaf," she says.  Or try something earthy and fragrant like a sage bundle or palo santo holder. While a vase filled with flowers is always gorgeous, Calderone says consider something that will last a bit longer, like an aloe plant or succulent.

Create Interest Through Opposition

Creating visual interest on your coffee table is all about the unexpected.  "It's what draws the eye and creates curiosity," says Calderone. "If your table is rounded, add elements that are sharp-lined, for instance, and if your table is square or angular be sure to bring in objects with a curve." Creating this kind of contrast with textures, colors, and shapes will help make your coffee table styling feel sophisticated and nuanced.

Check Every Angle

Keep in mind your coffee table is probably not going to be Pinterest-ready on the first shot. One of Calderone's biggest pieces of advice is to just make sure you're playing and moving things around until you're happy with the composition. "Once you're done, walk around the table to make sure everything is well aligned, and looks good from different angles," she says. "Remember that you're styling all 360 degrees!"


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