How to Decorate a Coffee Table in 4 Easy, Budget-Friendly Steps
Check out my four, fail-proof, simple steps to decorate a coffee table like a pro! These easy tips work no matter the season or decor style!
Have you ever wanted to switch up your décor…without changing the entire room? Or have you ever tried to decorate something and just got so frustrated that you gave up and left it the same…again? I have felt this way more than once when I set out to decorate a coffee table.
I hope you answered yes so I’m not alone in this!!!
How do I make my room feel refreshed?
Especially in our fast-paced culture with the world at our fingertips, we can easily catch the feeling that we should always be making big changes, doing the next best thing, renovating, improving, even house shopping every few years…you name it. While I love a good project, I am a huge fan of small, simple changes that help us continue loving our own homes, as imperfect as they are.
If you’ve been around for awhile, you have probably heard me talk about this before. If you are new, (welcome!) and hopefully you’ll quickly find out that I am really passionate about HOME. But if you’re at all like me, I can get a little tired of looking at the same thing over and over. Before I know it, I can have myself talked into “maybe we should just look for a “better” home”, when all I really need is to just fall in love again with the home I have.
It’s kind of like marriage…dating your spouse is a real thing! We are coming up on our 18th wedding anniversary and I’m pretty sure that my hubby “gets tired of seeing the same thing” sometimes. But you stick with it…you find ways to continue falling in love…right?
But I digress. Haha!
How can I update my house without spending any money?
So what does that have to do with coffee table styling? Well, sometimes just a simple switch of your coffee table arrangement can help the entire room feel fresh, give you something new to look at, and you might just love that room again!
While I am also a big fan of the concept that home décor should be whatever YOU want it to be for YOUR home, I also understand that sometimes we want to refresh things a little but feel stuck. My goal for this blog post is to give you the basic tips and ideas for coffee table styling…some rules of thumb, so to speak…and then let you fill in the blanks with what makes you smile!
So let’s get started!
Four Essential Elements of Coffee Table Styling
What should I decorate my coffee table with?
- Tall item
- Medium item
- Shorter object
Let’s break this down into details so that you can start hunting for pieces that will definitely work for your coffee table vignette!
How do I style my coffee table like a pro?
I am going to get really specific with each step. Hopefully, by the end of the post, you’ll have so many ideas you can use to decorate a coffee table, no matter the season.
Here are the basics we will consider in this post:
- 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.
We will also answer these common questions and more:
- What do you decorate a coffee table with?
- What do you put on a decorative tray on a coffee table?
- How can I decorate my table cheaply?
- What can I put on my coffee table as a centerpiece?
- What should you display on a coffee table?
- How do I choose the right decorations?
- Where can I find home decor deals?
How to Decorate a Coffee Table Like a Pro in 4 Easy, Budget-Friendly Steps
How to Decorate a Coffee Table Essential #1: Choose a base
Essential #1: How do I make my coffee table look nice?
First, you need to choose a base to decorate a coffee table. To me, it’s the first essential thing and I really just can’t seem to put together any coffee table decor without a base! The base corrals the decor accessories and makes it all look more cohesive.
There are a number of different items that make a great base to decorate a coffee table vignette. I’ll list my favorites below. My coffee tables are both quite large, but you’ll want to choose a scale that feels right for your coffee table.
Pro Tip: I like to think of my base as being about one third to one half of the table size.
Here are some of my favorite bases to decorate a coffee table:
- Large vintage breadboard, either round or rectangle
- Large round, white tray
- Rectangle sea grass basket
- Round rattan tray with handles
- Flat fruit baskets
- Large, flat trencher dough bowl
- Oval dough bowl with flat bottom
- 31″ long flat wooden tray in vintage style
- Gold, round metal tray
What should I put on my table decor?
Having a base for your vignette helps any décor for your coffee table to feel grounded and intentional. I also love the practical reasons of making it easier to move around for cleaning and especially to slide it over for playing family games!
Pro Tip: Your home décor should always feel like it enhances your family life, not be in the way of it.
I listed several great options for coffee table decor bases. However, my favorite bases for coffee table vignette styling are vintage cutting boards.
I love that they add a lot of character and patina to my décor. They are also flat, easy to maneuver, and easy to store. You can even store them in plain sight by stacking them, leaning them in a corner, or against your kitchen backsplash!
How do I choose a base to decorate a coffee table?
Another thing to keep in mind when choosing your coffee table vignette base is to choose something that contrasts with your coffee table.
If you have a wood-toned coffee table, consider a base that is either an opposite, yet complementary, wood tone or perhaps white or metal.
My family room coffee table is wood with chippy white paint, so with a table like that, you can really use woods or whites!
Pro Tip: The important thing is to have a bit of contrast so that it doesn’t seem like you were trying too hard to make them “match”.
How do I choose the right decorations?
Most of all, have fun with your coffee table vignette base!
Pro Tip: Consider investing in a vintage piece that you really love.
This will be a piece you can be used year-round in your décor. It’s a great chance to add character, interest, texture, and even history to your home decor.
By doing this, you’re sure to love the styling much more for a longer period of time, have less “extra décor” to store away, and can easily switch the smaller décor items that go on the base.
Decorate a Coffee Table Styling Essential #2: Tallest item
What should you display on a coffee table?
Next, you will choose the tallest item to decorate your coffee table.
Lanterns, buckets/planters, vintage 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.
If you have a TV on the opposite wall, for example, you’ll want to make sure you don’t block the view. Play around with some different options to settle on a final scale, as the tallest item sets the scale for the rest of your coffee table vignette.
What can I put on my coffee table as a centerpiece?
Pro Tip: You are going to want to focus on three things: a tall item, a medium item, and a smaller item. Each of these accessories will be scaled to fit your coffee table and the layout of your room.
In our back living room, there is no TV and there are not chairs directly opposite the coffee table. This gives me a lot of freedom with the height of my vignette. I love making a dramatic statement with these kinds of vignettes, so taller branches, such as these palm branches, are really fun for that.
You could even consider if there are ways to rearrange your furniture to give you more freedom with your vignettes. But if not, don’t worry! There are lots of fun ways to style smaller vignettes!
Pro Tip: Focus on lots of texture and layers for a curated look or simple, clean lines for a more minimalist look!
I often use my taller item to hold some kind of greenery (These tall branches are a favorite of mine!) Greenery (or flowers) is a key essential for me in a coffee table vignette. It brings a lot of life to the vignette as well as adding an additional texture. You can use real or faux (another favorite here!).
If you choose to put greenery in your tallest item, have some fun with the vessel.
Pro Tip: Invest in vintage vessels or pretty vases that you can use year round.
Additionally, a simple switch of flowers or greenery can help your vignette transition from season to season…or just switch things up for the fun of it!
Pro Tip: Simply change the florals or greenery in your vessel to change the entire look of the coffee table!
Decorate a Coffee Table Styling Essential #3: Add a medium sized accessory
What do you put on a decorative tray on a coffee table?
Candlesticks, cloche, pot with plant, ironstone compote, lantern, jar, 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!
A large book, like this vintage dictionary, standing up also makes a great medium item. I often use some of my larger books to create the medium item in my grouping.
Books go with any style, despite the season, and add a lot of texture and character to a vignette.
I often use architectural salvage pieces for my vignette base. Then, I like to layer a salvage piece on my base for extra texture. You can even use an architectural salvage base to add height to a smaller item in order to make it your medium item!
Pro Tip: Stacking elements like salvage or books adds a lot of character and interest to your vignette.
Decorate a Coffee Table Styling Essential #4: Add the smallest item
What should I decorate my coffee table with?
I like to think of the smallest item as my “seasonal” touch, whether it’s a piece of coral for summer, a little pumpkin in the fall, a reindeer figure in the winter, or a cute cement bunny in the spring! Keeping those seasonal items in smaller sizes can be super helpful with your storage.
How to update table decor in one minute:
Additionally, if you have a coffee table vignette that you love and don’t want to change, just switch out that seasonal item and you have a brand new look in 1 minute’s time! Simple, easy, budget-friendly, and time-conscious too!
Here are some ideas of seasonal items to switch out:
- Wooden houses
- Cozy candle
- Brass swan
- Bird statue
- Large conch shell
- Brass quail
- Small pumpkin
- Bottle brush trees
- Brass deer figure
- Nutcracker figure
Other non-seasonal items that work great for the small item can include:
- Ironstone jelly mold with a baby plant
- Small vintage clock
- Jar with old paintbrushes
- Mortar and pestle
- Vintage brass swan
- Wood or resin chain link
- Favorite candle
- Small vase with fresh flowers
- Small cloche with seasonal object underneath
- Favorite collection item
- Small faux plant
- Pottery or stoneware vessel/bowl
- Small picture frame with a favorite family snapshot
These are just a few of MANY, many possibilities! Get creative with your smallest item and look around your vintage collections to see what you could use!
How can I decorate my table cheaply?
If you decide to do a little shopping for this smaller item, there is good news! You can usually switch out these smaller pieces for budget-friendly accessories, especially if you’re doing so with seasonal items.
(That’s not to say that you might spend more on a pretty vintage clock or ironstone jelly mold than you do on your tall and medium items combined. I consider these items great investments because I can use them year round and switch them around in different areas of my home.)
My main point is that to change your vignette, you don’t always have to change all of the essentials at once! Remember…we are looking for simple, easy changes that make you smile when you walk through the room!
Pro Tip: You can change the entire look of the room by swapping out just one or two things on your coffee table.
Other Tips to Consider When Styling Your Coffee Table Decor:
Use Greenery in Your Coffee Table Décor
Almost every coffee table vignette I create will have some kind of greenery or flowers mixed in! Whether fresh or faux, I think they add so much life to the vignette.
Where can I find home decor deals?
I get most of my vintage pieces from favorite vintage shops and vintage markets. However, I can often find some of the smaller decor items, especially, at thrift stores and flea markets.
Also, don’t discount the big box chain stores for cute pieces as well. While much of my decor is vintage, I definitely mix in new pieces as well. Seasonal decor is something I specifically shop for at places like Walmart, Target, and Homegoods.
This picture is from a favorite antiquing and thrifting haul. You can find my favorite tips for vintage hunting HERE.
How to get a cohesive look when you decorate a coffee table:
This is not a hard and fast rule because if it were, I break it often! However, I do like to keep some common elements in each vignette.
For example, in this vignette with the zinc basket, you’ll find several common elements.
- The two bases I layer have a similar wood tone.
- The bucket with the olive tree is zinc, tying in with the zinc basket.
- While the book is a stand-alone element, the blue-gray tones of the cover and the tan tones of the pages flow nicely with the wood cutting boards and zinc pieces.
- The sponge is another unique element, though it’s coloring has a common color tone to the bread boards.
Pro Tip: If you’re not loving a decor vignette, step back and consider the details.
Just because each piece is beautiful does not necessarily mean that they are tied together with common elements. The details matter a lot!
For example, in this spring/summer vignette, you see different elements. However, the colors tie them together.
Pro Tip: You could find common elements through material, texture, color, and pattern.
Use layers to add texture when you decorate a coffee table:
Layer, layer, layer! Layering is a great way to add texture and character to your coffee table vignette.
For example, let’s look again at this summer vignette I created for our back living room. I could have used the zinc basket as my base and put all of the same tall, medium and small items. However, I used an extra-large bread board under the basket and a small bread board inside the basket.
Essentially stacking three bases for my vignette, I was able to bring in a contrasting tone (since the coffee table has a zinc top). Also, I added a color that would connect with the book pages and sponge, and add some extra patina. Then, because of the location of this vignette, I don’t have to worry too much about height. So, I could add those layers with no concern of hindering the view.
Pro Tip: Look for ways to layer multiples of an item so the vignette looks layered, yet still uncluttered and cohesive.
Consider layering some of these kinds of vintage items when you decorate a coffee table:
However, even on a space where you need to keep a lower height and a direct line of sight to another piece of furniture or TV, you can add layers with thin things such as:
Are you ready to decorate a coffee table?
The answer is YES! This post has the tools you need to confidently decorate and style your coffee table. You will get more comfortable and creative the more you do it, so grab a few favorite items and experiment!
As I was writing the post over time, I reminded myself of some ways that I have enjoyed decorating my coffee table and want to try these ideas again too!
Remember to save this post so you can easily refer back to it when you’re in a decorating rut.
What Do I Do Next?
Create! Go have fun with your décor!
Experiment! Gather many more items than you could possibly use and try lots of options until you find the one that makes you smile! Walk away if you get frustrated and come back to it later (works like a charm!)
I hope this has given you lots of ideas to work with simple vignettes throughout your home! There are so many fun ways to decorate and the possibilities are truly limitless!