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3 Tips for Styling Your Coffee Table (In The Real World)

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3 Tips for Styling Your Coffee Table (In the Real World): Have you seen all those amazing pictures in magazines of perfectly styled coffee tables? I mean who are those people? Don’t they  need a place to put their feet when they watch tv? Or room to eat dinner while they catch up on all the latest episodes of their favorite tv show? The truth is on an everyday basis their tables probably look a little less neat and tidy than they do in the magazines.  And you don’t have to have a house that is magazine worthy to be able to put together a stylish coffee table arrangement. You just need these 3 easy tips for styling the “perfect” coffee table and making it work in the real world.

3 Tips for Styling Your Coffee Table

#1 Start With The Best Table For Your Space

If you have an open concept living space with cathedral ceilings you need a bigger coffee table than if you live in a small apartment.  Make sure that your coffee table fits your space. At my house, we need storage.  A coffee table with a shelf that allows me to put a basket or tray like this one is essential. (Bonus Tip: Adding baskets and trays under your coffee table is a great real world solution to containing clutter.)

tray under coffee table

Make your coffee table fit your style and lifestyle.  With 2 boys running around, a glass topped table with sharp corners would give me nightmares. And being Chic California, I’m all about “Shabby Chic” meets “California Cool”.  So when I found the Aiden Coffee Table from Cost Plus World Market, I knew it was the perfect fit for my space, style and budget.

Aiden Coffee Table

(Bonus Tip: A coffee table on wheels is an awesome feature if you have children who want to use the space as a play area. Just roll that coffee table out of the way when it’s time to build the most epic lego structure of all time!) If you are a numbers person the general rule of thumb is that your coffee table should be no lower than 1-2 inches below your couch cushion. And it should be about 1/2 -2/3 the length of your couch.


#2 Gather Your Supplies

Think Color, Texture, Shine and Pattern and gather items from around your house that fit those requirements.

objects to use on a coffee table

Colorful books and magazines are probably the easiest to find around the house. A vase with colorful flowers or a preserved boxwood topiary ( a great choice if you tend to neglect plants) is a great way to add pops of color. My favorite way to add texture is with sea shells and corals. They are easy to stack on top items and add to groupings and they never need to be watered.  They also add some natural elements to your design. Shine can be a silver or gold tray that you use to gather your items. Or even a candle will work.

#3 Create Groupings

This is probably the hardest part for most people. How many groupings? What goes in each grouping? If you are just getting started with styling your coffee table then try to divide your coffee table into 4 equal sections. And put a grouping of objects in each section.

how to style a coffee table

Start with groupings of 3 objects of varying heights in each section. Once you master the groupings you can change it up and break all the rules. But that’s a lesson for another time! I created different groupings on the same table just to give you a few different ideas to use when you style your own table.

coffee table styling

coffee table arrangement

coffee table arrangement

Keep in mind, you are styling your table for the real world so you don’t have to fill every section unless Better Homes and Gardens is coming to do a photo shoot. I like to have a little space available where I can put my computer or put my feet up without having to move everything off the table. And I like to use trays for the same reason. If you need to clear the table for family game night then you only have to move one tray out of the way.

real life coffee table styling

Hopefully, these 3 Tips to Style Your Coffee Table will get you off to a great start. For more tutorials and design tips come and visit me at Chic California.

Oh PS: If you love that coffee table or anything else from Cost Plus World Market you can get Free Shipping on orders of $150 or more! CODE: WM150  Awesome!!!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Previous author of Over the Big Moon. I shared my passion for home and family life! I love graphic design, DIY projects, cooking, and working in my garden! My favorite role is taking care of my husband and our 3 amazing and busy boys!

Comments (6)

  • Here’s a handy tip if you want to keep your magazines on your coffee table, but not on top – this is what my grandparents always did: Take a flat cookie tray and two small metal towel racks. Screw the towel racks into the bottom of the coffee table and put the cookie tray through them to make a shelf. Your magazines are neat and tidy and right where you want them; but you can keep the top free for other things.

  • I love the ideas you shared here. I agree that coffee tables need to be practical as well as stylish and that yes, you need somewhere for your feet!

    My weekly Say G’day Saturday link up has just started and I’d be thrilled if you could join in and share this post-it would be a fabulous addition!

    Best wishes for a lovely weekend,

    Natasha in Oz

  • Adrienne! You rock lady! This is a great post! Thank you so much for taking my need to heart 🙂 Now I need to find a coffee table. I am loving yours!

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