How to style a coffee table

A coffee table is the heart of every living room and deserves some special attention. Everything on it should be a good mix of functional and decorative.
Whether you’re styling a round, oval, square or rectangular coffee table, the overall styling basics are the same.

So let’s have a look at this easy step-by-step guide about how to style a coffee table.

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Hi, I’m Nadine

Interior design expert, globetrotter and the creative mind behind this blog and NH.DESIGN.

I’m originally from Germany but have been living abroad for over 10 years, from Canada and the UK to Sweden.

So I ask myself the question what “home” means every day.
I have made it my mission to help as many people as possible to find their own answer to this.

Join my creative world on Instagram @nhdotdesign or find out more about me

Start with a focal point

Start off your coffee table styling by choosing a focal point or centrepiece. That can be a large vase with greenery, a sculpture or another special object.

Create a triangle

A triangular shape creates interest while still being harmonious and pleasing to look at. Especially when you’re styling a round coffee table, a triangular structure to style your pieces is the best solution.


Collecting things in small groups of odd numbers (I always use 3) is another way to create interest and make a space look calmer and less cluttered. Styling your coffee table using groups of smaller items will look more curated and intentional.

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    Anchor the bottom

    Especially when having that collection, or grouping, of smaller pieces it’s important to have something that grounds the look, like an anchor. Trays or books are great for that. You can even use them to curate more functional pieces that always end up on a coffee table, like a remote or glasses.
    Coffee table books are not only decorative and beautiful to look at, they can also be great conversation starters or make you pause and flip through. That’s why I’d always recommend choosing books you’d actually like to read rather than just going for ones with a beautiful cover.

    Take a step back & edit

    Don’t rush the styling project and always take a step back to have a final look. If you’re not happy with the result, editing is key. Sometimes it’s just about moving a piece from one side to another or choosing a different item altogether.

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    Step-by-step coffee table styling guide

    Step 1 - Create a base

    This first step is key to styling a coffee table. But don’t overthink it, just choose your focal point piece and go from there. This can be a large vase, decorative object or a beautiful tray. Place it slightly off-centre for an interesting yet balanced look.

    Step 2 - Add books

    With a round coffee table and styling it in a triangular structure, stack 2 books next to your focal point piece. The same goes for square or rectangular coffee tables, and depending on size you can even do multiple stacks of books.

    Step 3 - Levels

    Creating different levels is important when styling a coffee table. Of course your pieces shouldn’t be so high that you can’t watch TV over them and the whole arrangement becomes dysfunctional. So test it out before committing to a tall(er) piece.
    You can also create levels by stacking books or boxes, which are not only beautiful but also functional, for example for storing all those random things that always seem to end up on a coffee table, like remotes or glasses.

    Step 4 - Decorative objects

    Layer in decorative objects like small sculptures or a beautiful candle holder. These pieces should either be grouped or displayed on the base layers like books or trays. Keep it simple with decorative objects, you want it to look curated and intentional rather than messy.

    Step 5 - Add a touch of cozyness with a candle

    Finally, add a touch of cosiness with a beautiful candle. It’s a nice piece to make the whole coffee table styling look more homey.

    Nadine, founder of Malmö-based interior design studio NH.DESIGN.

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    With these design tips it’s easy to style your coffee table like a pro.

    Thanks for reading!
    If you enjoyed this post, follow along for more interior design tips and inspiration on my Instagram @nhdotdesign and sign up for my Welcome Home Letter.

    Take care, Nadine

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