Coffee table chic
Make yours stylish and functional
In the quest to create a beautiful and thoughtfully decorated home, don’t overlook your living room’s coffee table. While utilitarian, the coffee table — or a unique alternative, as the case may be — can make a stunning style statement while maintaining function.
Flip through any shelter magazine or scroll down any number of design blogs and you’ll find aspirational coffee table displays, perfectly styled and alluring. Get a customized, magazine-worthy coffee table arrangement of your own by following a couple of local designers’ leads.
Survey your seating
First off, it’s vital for your coffee table to be appropriately paired with your couch or seating arrangement. Jennifer Ford, of Choice Designs, Inc. and Jennifer Ford Art, said proportions are most important when shopping for a coffee table. “First, you need to make sure there’s enough room in your living area to accommodate a good amount of space between the sofa and the table. In addition, the coffee table should be slightly lower than the cushions of your seating area. For the most harmonious look, plan for a table that is half to two-thirds the length of your couch,” she said.
Sara Kruger, of Sarabella Home Staging and Redesign, said, “A coffee table that features good design demands attention and can even have the starring role in the room, or at least best supporting actor. A coffee table is a practical item that serves a purpose, but even the most practical items can, and in my opinion, should be beautiful. Too often, a table is simply four legs and a top.”
Set up and swap out
Once you’re confident you’ve got the right coffee table in place, it’s time for some adventures in decorating. One of the most important things to remember is that nothing has to be permanent. Play around and have fun, mixing it up often until you find a winning combination you love and want to stick around for a while. Instead of focusing on high dollar, high commitment items, think of the accessories on the table as seasonal adornments, echoing each season by swapping out the elements.
“If you have a bowl or tray with flowers, make sure they reflect the time of year in which they bloom. Books or magazine should also be switched out regularly to make sure they reflect your current style and interests,'” Ford said.
“Coffee table books have not gone out of style, but they should truly reflect your interests and say something about your personality. Do you have a gorgeous cookbook you love, an artist you admire or fashion lookbooks you collect? These books can serve as decor and conversation pieces.
“I also try to incorporate florals in a bowl or tray and decorative coasters. There are so many options now that look beautiful, but remain affordable. Also make sure the objects on the coffee table have a low profile, so you can see around or above it,” she said.
Choice Designs just launched its online shop, which stocks plenty of decorative objects, including trays, botanicals and small vases. Take note of their local pickup option during checkout if you don’t need shipping.
“Coffee tables have become the new ‘catch-all’ in the home, for drinks, snacks, keys, magazines and even homework,” Ford said. “Coffee tables are the perfect place to add color and decor, but they also have to be functional enough to accommodate those other items that eventually make their way there.”
Childproof and child-safe
For a home with small children, Ford advises to prioritize durability in both table choice and decorative pieces. “No one wants to be nervous about breaking a precious glass vase or beautiful antique. I would suggest a coffee table with storage, such as hidden drawers and compartments, so you can quickly hide a mess when company comes over. There are also beautiful coffee tables with soft tops and rounded edges that are stylish and safe for children.”
Kruger suggests age-appropriate items that are both beautiful and can be explored by young ones. “Beautiful, expensive art books and toddlers don’t necessarily mix but a piece of driftwood, for example, is nice to look at and adds a touch of nature while being creative and interesting, to children and adults alike,” she said.
Corral the remotes
Regardless of the presence of children, remotes and other random items tend to permanently live on coffee tables, often interfering with the aesthetic. Kruger advises using lidded baskets or boxes, carved bowls or metal crates, depending on decor style, to hide these items while keeping them in reach. “First know what you need, in terms of size and look and function, then find something you love to hold them. Form follows function — if you love it, it will work.”
A natural touch
To Kruger, the idea of coffee table styling comes down to answering the question, “How can I be creative and move beyond the simple four legs and a top?” She also advises to include each of the following: “Something natural, something inspirational/creative/artistic and something useful. The natural piece is an easy one to change out and keep fresh — think flowers, branches or even grass. Yes, I tell clients to fill a 2-inch dish or tray, ceramic or metal, something nice to look at but that’s watertight. Fill two-thirds with soil and plant grass seed. Water daily, and in a week or so, you’ll have fresh grass sprouting up. It’s a really fun and unexpected way to bring nature inside and if you start now, you can even have some on your coffee table in time for Easter!”
General tips for coffee table styling success:
• Think in threes. Odd numbers of items typically make for a more interesting combination.
• One large-scale item may be all that’s needed. Try an oversized floral arrangement or objet d’art. Just be sure it doesn’t block a significant view.
• Corral a few smaller items on a large tray for a cohesive and organized look.
• If the surface area of the coffee table is generous, arrange a few different stacks of artistic or meaningful books. Top off a few of the stacks with a small decorative element.
• Go for an asymmetrical look by placing a small object or collection diagonally from a bigger item or flower arrangement.