Coffee Table Ideas for Small Spaces + How to Decorate

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Working with a small living room arrangement?  Try over 30 coffee table options for cozy, functional style in tight spaces!  Plus, get easy ideas for decorating coffee table vignettes with a small coffee table. 

I remember our first “real” house.  It was so tiny, under 1,000 square feet and I thought it was the cutest thing ever.  In the small living space, there was just enough room for the sofa we had purchased at a scratch and dent warehouse sale along with a coordinating chair.  A hand-me-down rocking chair fit in the other corner.  That was really all there was space for.  However, when I came across an antique sea captain’s trunk at a yard sale, I decided the vintage trunk would add so much cozy style that it would be worth taking up a little floor space in the already cramped living room.  Today, we are going to chat about coffee table ideas for small spaces because you definitely CAN add accent tables to make even small living spaces extra cozy!

beautiful view of a winter music room

Coffee Table Ideas for Small Spaces + How to Decorate

Can you put a coffee table in a small living room?

While there are pros and cons to adding any size furniture to an already small living space, there are so many alternative coffee table ideas for a small space that are functional and charming.

At the same time, the perfect piece is still a great way to help your living space look and feel extra cozy.  Even if you have to get creative with your seating arrangement or shape of your coffee table with limited space, a great coffee table can become a beautiful statement in a room.

large French basket used as a coffee table

What can I use if I don’t have a space table for coffee?

Here are some ideas that make a great alternative to a traditional coffee table:
large crate with a large basket stacked on top to use as a side table

Coffee Table Ideas for Small Spaces: Size and Scale

How big should your coffee table be compared to your couch?

A good rule of thumb is to divide the length of your sofa in thirds.  Two-thirds is considered a great length for your coffee table.  However, if you come into our home, you may notice that in both our living room and family room, we enjoy extra large coffee tables.  I ditched the two-thirds rule when choosing the right coffee table for very specific reasons.

First of all, in our family room, the longer length of our rectangular coffee table allows whomever is seated around the entire seating area to use it.  The large coffee table can be used for a makeshift dining table when we have a lot of guests, is perfect for family games, and is also a footstool for anyone sitting on the sectional sofa or adjoining chair.

In our backing living room area, our coffee table is especially large for the seating arrangement.  However, this is where we most often gather to play family games.

This antique library table was an easy DIY project to cut down to coffee table height.  It is a great addition to our living room area because the surface area is nice and large for playing games.  Often, whenever we have are entertaining, family and friends will sit both on the couch and love seat as well as large floor cushions around the long coffee table.  With its large surface area, it is another great option for overflow dining for a casual gathering.

The other thing that makes this table work especially well is that the room is long and narrow.  Therefore, a long and narrow table doesn’t feel out of place or awkward.

How tall should a coffee table be compared to couch height?

The standard height for a coffee table is usually about 14-18 inches tall.  More modern pieces tend to be a bit lower to allow the room to feel more open.  However, you’ll want to consider all of the possibilities for how your coffee table will actually function for the people who use the space and plan accordingly.

spring vignette with a large mortar and pestle holding a plant with a bowl holding wooden eggs

Where should a coffee table be placed in a room?

Traditionally, a coffee table is best placed about 14-18 inches from the sofa cushions.  However, if you are working with a small floor space, you can definitely get away with having your coffee table 12-14 inches away from the sofa.  This will still allow room for people to maneuver around the sofa while making use of every available inch of a small living room area.

large view of a white apothecary styled for spring

Coffee Table Ideas for Small Spaces: Decorative Accents

How do you make a small table look nice?

The first thing I like to start with when I’m decorating small coffee tables is a tray.  You can use either a traditional tray or think outside the box for something that can serve the same purpose.

Some of my favorite “trays” really aren’t trays at all.  Instead, I often use a really large hardback book or a vintage breadboard.  I also like to use baskets or a shallow wooden bowl with a flat surface on the bottom.

Whatever item you choose for a tray is a great opportunity to tie in a beautiful accent and add texture, character, and interest to your living room decorating.

close up of wire basket holding books and a plant on top of a basket for a coffee table

​What do you put on a small coffee table tray?

​Now it is time to style your tray!  Over on THIS blog post, I share how to decorate a coffee table in four simple steps.  The formula is the same no matter what size or shape of coffee table you are using.

Here are the four elements I almost always use to decorate a coffee table:

  • Base (this is your tray that we already chatted about)
  • Tall item
  • Medium item
  • Shorter object
coffee table tray holding a bowl with a plant inside as part of a winter/spring vignette

Coffee Table Ideas for Small Spaces: Create a Vignette

​This is the process I follow almost every time I want to create a vignette on a coffee table:

  • Start with a base.
  • Add the tallest item, scaled correctly to your specific space.
  • Add a medium item.
  • Use a seasonal item for the 3rd element.
  • Include greenery or florals.
  • Use commonality in some accessories for a cohesive look.
  • Use layers to create a curated style.

Lanterns, buckets/plantersvintage pitchers, and tall vases are all natural choices for the first item you’ll choose for your coffee table vignette.  Depending on how you use the space, you’ll want to determine the height for your tallest item.

Next, you’ll add the medium height to your vignette.  Candlesticksclochepot with plantironstone compote, lanternjar, or vase…they all make great medium items for your vignette.  Often, my tall and medium items might be a tiered pair of something, like candlesticks or lanterns.

Pro Tip: If you have two items that you want to use together but they are the same height, put one on a stack of vintage books  to create your tall and medium items.  

The books will add even more of a layered, curated look to your vignette, as well as more texture!

Lastly, I often use a seasonal element for the smallest decor accessory.  For example, with spring coming up, I may add one of THESE cute bunnies.  When summer rolls around, I could make the entire vignette look fresh by swapping the bunny out for a pretty conch shell.

You get the idea!  A cute pumpkin or brass quail in the fall, brass deer in the winter, or a pretty bell for Christmas are all perfect accents for the smallest item in your coffee table vignette.

However, sometimes you need non-seasonal elements to use also.

Here are some go-to decorative items that I like to keep on hand to use in my own home:

decor triangle shown with swans

Coffee Table Ideas for Small Spaces: The Finishing Touch

How do you make a coffee table look cute?

I think the best coffee tables often have some kind of greenery or florals as part of the vignette.  Greenery and flowers add some life to the decor and also break up the straight, hard surface of the furniture.

They can also add a little whimsy for a cozy, lived-in style that is thoughtful and intentional.  At the same time, a plant or vase of flowers is another opportunity to bring in pretty decorative items!

I like to invest in wonderful vessels that I can use for plants, greenery, and flowers all throughout our home!

You can browse some of my favorite decorative items HERE on my storefront!

The greenery or florals could be the tallest item in your vignette or you could add a small plant as the smallest third item in your vignette.  There isn’t really a right or wrong way to do it as long as you are layering your decorative items with cohesive style.

Pro Tip:  For a small coffee table, consider a vignette with smaller items OR a single larger item.

​To avoid having your vignette look cluttered, make sure the objects are contained on a tray.  Then, balance the size and scale of the decorative objects with the size of the smaller coffee table.

At the same time, you could also use a single larger item like I did with this antique swan decoy.  I love that it adds a statement piece to this space without feeling cluttered.

large wooden swan styled on a coffee table in front of a large white apothecary

Here are a few favorite decor combinations that I love as easy coffee table ideas for small spaces:

  1. Tray with pair of candlesticks and small plant.  Use THESE flameless candles for a cozy glow!
  2. Stack of pretty coffee table books with a favorite candle.
  3. Single glass cloche with flameless pillar candles and greenery underneath.
  4. Tall glass cloche with season object underneath.  Then, add two brass candlesticks to complete the decor triangle.
  5. Large book as a tray with a seasonal object on top, such as the antique swan or a pair of cute rabbits for spring.
spring music room styled with lots of greenery, wicker baskets, and a swan

If you’re looking for ways to make your small living room cozy, definitely consider some of these ways to add in accent furniture and simple decor.  A coffee table can help your room feel more curated and intentional.  

Small spaces can be amazingly beautiful and they are a great opportunity to be creative with unique pieces! 

I hope this post gives you some ideas, inspiration, and gets your creative wheels spinning as you work on making your small living room the coziest place to be!

spring vignette with a bowl of wooden eggs and a small bunny as well as a plany

I’d love for you to follow me on social media!  You can find my home decor inspiration on Instagram, Pinterestand Facebook!  











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