Best Tips for How to Decorate Side and Accent Table Ideas

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Looking for the best end table decor ideas and how to decorate a side and accent table?  Find an easy way with this step-by-step tutorial and my favorite decorative accents.  Whether you’re decorating a small space or a large living room, end table decor ideas and coffee table styling  are the perfect way to elevate your home’s own personal style!

One of the most common decorating questions that I get is how to create coffee table decor and end table decor ideas.  It is a great question and one that I love to chat about.

In any living space, you can give your room a quick and budget-friendly refresh simply by giving an accent table a quick decor update!  I love playing around with favorite items in decorating.  When it comes time to decorate side and accent table ideas, the most important thing is to make it your own.  Even if your own personal style differs from mine or you’re working with different sizes of tables, these basic principles are always a great idea to get started.

How do you spruce up a side table?

When you want to know how to decorate side and accent table ideas, these decorating basics will take you a long way toward not only visual appeal, but a functional space that can become the focal point of your living room.

  1. Choose the correct size, scale, and style.
  2. Focus on function as the priority.
  3. Add visual appeal with decorative items.
  4. Pay attention to the height of your items and the number of items you’re using to decorate
  5. Style a vignette.
  6. Add a personal touch.
  7. Use natural elements like fresh flowers or faux flowers.
Living room coffee table styled with large dough bowl with an antler inside

What to decorate side tables with?

There are so many different sizes and kinds of decorative pieces you can use for coffee table styling or to decorate even a small table in a sitting room.  I like to focus on some general basics that can carry me from season to season.  In other words, I enjoy investing in decorative pieces that I can use year round.  Then, I can easily change small decorative objects and seasonal decor without having to redecorate the entire table and rest of the room.

​Here are some basics I keep on hand to decorate the perfect side table:

Once these large items are in place, you can quickly and easily swap out smaller items for different seasons or just for a fresh look.  Keep reading for my favorite tips on how to decorate side and accent table ideas!


unique vintage golden horse trophy underneath a glass cloche on a chippy wooden base

Best Tips for How to Decorate Side and Accent Table Ideas

How to Choose the Perfect Side Table

When it comes to end table decor ideas, you want to first be sure that you have chosen the best accent table to go with the rest of the room.  Consider room layout, style, scale, material, and color  for a perfect side table.

Whether you’re choosing a small side table or even something as specific as a white oak side table, set your budget.  Then, do your research.  Lastly, have fun choosing the piece that is the best thing for you.  Once you find a perfect spot for your new accent table, you’ll be so glad you were patient and found just the perfect side table!

Here are some good questions to consider when choosing the perfect side table:

  1. What function does my table need to have everyday for myself and my family?
  2. What style, shape, and color works best with the rest of the room?
  3. Do I have a specific budget?
  4. Am I looking for a fun project or a piece that is ready to style with my favorite items?
  5. Can this piece be used in multiple places around my home?  As a small bedside table, in a family room, in a sitting area perhaps?
  6. What kinds of decorative objects am I imagining?  Will this be a minimalist side table or a space to add personal touches and a cup of coffee in the morning?
  7. Should I plan for a table lamp, depending on the location of the side table in the room?
wooden side table styled with golden candlesticks, a cozy candle, and a vintage gold horse trophy under a glass cloche

​How to Choose the Right Coffee Table

A coffee table is a big decision because it’s almost always a focal point in your living room.  Especially if you have a smaller space, like a small apartment or even a small living room, your coffee table needs to be multi-functional as well as hold your favorite decorative elements.

Good news: Coffee table decor and side table decor, also, can be functional and have visual appeal too!

As you choose your coffee table, it is important to consider these questions:

  1. Do you like to change furniture often?  If so, a coffee table can be a perfect opportunity for a budget-friendly swap.
  2. Would you rather make a big investment on a permanent piece?  (If so, can you still save some money by finding a similar coffee table?  There are a lot of great options out there, including a DIY or even refinishing a thrifted piece!)
  3. Will a round coffee table or rectangle shape fit the best in your space?
  4. What material goes best with the rest of your room?  Is a wooden table a good option or would a glass coffee table be a good idea to break up the space and add a varied material?
  5. What style suits your home the best?  Something traditional or a more modern coffee table?
  6. In your space, is this going to be the center table of the room?  What will you use it for besides decor?
coffee table vignette styled with candlesticks, a candle, and a glass cloche above a mortar and pestle filled with faux artichokes

Ideas to Decorate a Side and Accent Table

When you start styling any accent table, like a coffee table, there are a few basic “rules” interior designers like to use.  However, when you are decorating with your own personal style, it is a good idea to start with some basic rules and then throw them out the window!  I definitely do not always (or even nearly always) follow rules of interior designers.  I have a lot more fun creating my own personal style.

That being said, there are some basics that can help you get started.  Over on THIS post, you can find my easy 4-step, fail-proof formula for decorating a coffee table which is part of my simple decor series!

​The best way to get started with a coffee table arrangement is with a large tray.  Next, you’ll add decorative objects.  Usually, I like to use odd numbers.  Equally important is using different sizes.  For example, I may use a vase of flowers and two candle sticks.  However, I would make sure that each of the three items were different sizes from one another.  We will chat more about the height of items in this post!

I also have some favorite coffee table books that I enjoy using.  Most of mine are vintage, thrifted books.  They are perfect to use as a short stack of books to give my decorative objects different heights!

Over on my storefront, you can shop my favorite NEW coffee table books too!

THIS blog post gives a lot more detail and specific ideas for styling fall coffee tables too!

overhead view of a coffee table vignette styled with vintage books, gourds, and a glass cloche

Consider Function First to Decorate a Side and Accent Table

As much as I love pretty home decorations, function comes first for me.  Even if you also love a beautiful home, you won’t be able to create a restful, cozy space if it isn’t functional first.  An accent table, even if it is just a small side table, is the perfect place to add necessary function to your living space.

When I am considering my end table decor ideas, I want to first think about how I need this table to function for our family room.  For example, what do we do in this room?  Are there necessary things that we use on a regular basis that we need easy access to?

Most likely, you also have things like remote controls that need a spot to hide.  At the same time, they are easily accessible.

Perhaps your family room doesn’t have a lot of natural light.  Do you need a tall lamp or surface space to add a cozy table lamp?

What should you display on a side table?

Here are a few more questions to consider when thinking about what you are going to display on a side table.

Is this a room where the scent really matters?  If you want it to be a cozy space, the scents definitely are a priority!  Then, a pretty scented candle or essential oil diffusers are a priority.  You will need a surface area included in your end table decor ideas that allows for these necessary items.

​Do you have a seating area in the dining room with a small side table?  What function does it need to serve?  Maybe it is just a pretty spot and that is okay!  However, if you need storage in your dining room, an accent table with drawers could be a great place to store table linens and napkin rings, for example!

As you can see, the function of a room plays a huge role in your decorative elements.  Once you have identified the functional needs, then you can figure out how to try and work them in with your pretty decorative pieces.

Here are a few simple ideas that I like to use:

view of living room styled with cowhide pillows, a chess set, and a large architectural window.

Use Visual Appeal to Decorate a Side and Accent Table

Of course!  At the end of the day, you also want your accent table to have visual appeal that also ties in with the rest of the room!  There are two key components to decorate a side and accent table that are almost always true for me when I’m decorating.  However, notice that I say “almost always”.  Even if these components are always a good idea for decorating, you’re allowed to break the rules and create whatever style you want for your own home!

First of all, it is a good idea to consider the height of your items.  Interior designers often refer to the decor triangle.  Over on THIS POST, I go into detail about that with some visual aides.  Basically, though, a decor triangle just means styling your decorative objects in a group of three (or odd numbers) and having 3 different heights for the items also.  This creates a triangle effect that typically holds a curated visual appeal.

Tip: Usually, my small item is a seasonal accent!

THIS blog post is really detailed about how to do that.  I even include lists of decorative items that are perfect for large items and smaller items too.  It is always helpful to have basic decor pieces on hand that you can work with year round, no matter the season.

How to decorate a side table in a living room?

Secondly, if if the height of your items is NOT different, it is the perfect opportunity to layer your decor.  My go-to way to make my favorite items have different sizes is to use stacks of books.  A short stack of books can be the perfect way to give decorative objects enough height variation.  At the same time, it is a great idea to add more texture and character to your own personal style.

Over on THIS blog post, I share over 21 ways to style thrifted and vintage books.  A lot of these suggestions involve accent tables, including a console table and coffee table styling.  I even have some ideas there for using vintage books on a dining table!  Hopefully that will be a really helpful resource and inspiration guide for you also.

What can you put on an accent table?

Thirdly, it’s often a good idea to use an odd number of items when you create a vignette.  That triangle kind of pattern allows each object to be seen.  At the same time, however, the decorative items can really work together as a singular focal point of your living room.

Also, odd numbers are a great way to create a kind of “imperfect”, lived-in decor style.  When nothing is buttoned up too tightly or too perfect in a living room space, family and guests can feel more relaxed and at ease.  There is something psychological about asymmetry that helps create that casual, inviting look.  Working with odd numbers is a great way to focus on a relaxed style of decorating.

On my mantel, for example, I used a short stack of books and odd numbers of brass candlesticks.  While it feels simple and easy, the stacked items give more variation to the height of your items.  At the same time, using three candlesticks on one side and two on the other provides some asymmetry that feels more curated and a little less “decorated.”

neutral fall mantel styled with vintage gold and wooden frames, candlesticks, and vintage books

Use Decorative Objects to Style a Side and Accent Table

How can I decorate my side table?

The second key component that I think is usually very helpful when styling an accent table is to start with a base.  Even if you’re decorating a small table, a base can really help you get started and create a cohesive vignette.

I like to start with a large tray.  This could be a rectangular or round tray, depending on the size and shape of your table.  A square tray can also work for a round table.

For example, on the round table in our living room, I started with a large, square architectural salvage piece as a base.  Next, I added decorative items from my favorite collection of vintage mortar and pestles.  Lastly, I finished the simple look with a large glass cloche.

Even though this isn’t a typical decor triangle like interior designers may suggest, I still have key components:

  1. Base (architectural salvage)
  2. Cohesive color scheme (wood and white)
  3. Odd numbers of decorative items (base + large mortar and pestle + cloche)

At the same time, featuring a collection of a grouping of items really turns it into a fun piece of art with a personal touch too!

What should you display on a side table?

On the small side table in the family room, I had a perfect opportunity to stack items with an architectural salvage piece again.  Even though it is styled completely differently and is in a different room of our home, details like this add a flow and cohesive feeling to the living spaces of a home.

Again, I have the salvage piece as a base.  Next, the the vintage horse trophy makes a great sculptural object.  Lastly, the glass cloche helps it become a statement piece.

Also styled on the table is another grouping of an odd number of items.  I love having my favorite scented candle burning in this room.  However, I wanted it to feel more part of a vignette.  So, I added two thrifted brass candlesticks.  These have a leaf shape, making them perfect for a little fall accent.  There is still plenty of room for a coffee cup and space to put my feet up and…write a blog post!  Haha!

Tip: You have permission to have more than one vignette on your accent table if that makes sense for the space!  

Here are some other small items that are great decorative pieces for an accent table vignette:

round wooden side table styled with a mortar filled with small pestles under a glass cloche on a white chippy base

Use Natural Items to Decorate a Side and Accent Table

Natural items are a beautiful way to decorate any accent table, console table, or dining table.  You may consider using one or more of the following kinds of natural items as one of the decorative objects in your number of odd items that you use to create a vignette.  Natural items can really soften an entire room and also make the space feel fresh and alive.

Here are some favorite natural items that I frequently use in my decorating:

entryway cabinet with brown basket holding dried leaves, styled alongside a white concrete bust and white crocks

Now You Are Ready to Decorate!

Even though my fall decor has a limited color palette, this cozy living room is a favorite place in our home.  The end table decor and coffee table decorating really makes the details that help this room feel welcoming.

At the same time, paying attention to the details helps it be cohesive with our dining rooms, kitchen, and music room.  The only thing missing now is a good movie and time to get cozy on a Friday night!

I hope this gives you lot of inspiration as well as practical ideas and tips you can use to decorate your end table, side table, console table, and coffee table for the fall season!

vignette styled with a wooden bread board and a mortar and pestle filled with artichokes under a glass cloche
wooden side table styled with golden candlesticks, a cozy candle, and a vintage gold horse trophy under a glass cloche
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