3 Coffee Table Styling Tips You Should Steal from Professional Home Stagers

published Feb 1, 2021
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A modern, stylish and bright living room
Credit: Oscar Wong | Getty Images

Coffee tables, much like comfy couches, are a living room staple. Though they offer both form and function, the latter tends to outdo the former in everyday life, giving rise to coffee rings, crumbs, and clutter. Fortunately, tabletops are an easy space to refresh.

In addition to being an unofficial footrest and a hangout spot for remotes, chargers, and that $7 candle from Target that smells like Harry Styles, your coffee table should elevate the look and feel of your living room. To that end, I asked four home stagers how to cut the clutter and style a coffee table like a pro.

Make it personal

The coffee table is often the focal point of the living room. Given its centrality, it should be styled in a way that not only compliments the rest of the room, but resonates with the people in the home. While home stagers tend to de-personalize coffee tables ahead of open houses, it’s important to add elements of yourself to your own table.

Anthony Dunning, founder of Traders Haven Design, suggests incorporating items that are of personal significance. “Displaying items that have meaning to you can help tell a story of who you are,” he says. Plus, it’s a great way to appreciate and enjoy items that “spark joy” on the daily.

This could be anything from your favorite books to a family photo to a treasured flea market find. You also can’t go wrong by going green, says Dunning. Think a bright bouquet of flowers or a low-maintenance succulent or two.

Think in threes

Though there’s no hard and fast rule for how many items you should display on your table, too many things can look cluttered and impede on functionality. 

For a look that’s not too busy, Mei-Lin Young, of Designs by Mei Selene, recommends clustering items in groups of three. “My go-to items to use are a floral arrangement or greenery to add a pop of color, a candle, two to three books, some sort of decorative object, and a tray if you want extra oomph,” she says.

Add dimension

The key to a good coffee table is a visual variety, which can be achieved by including items of various sizes. Tall items in particular can draw the eye upward to other decorative elements in the room.

One way Joanna Lane, owner of Staged for Upsell, adds dimension to her designs is by layering items. “When styling a coffee table, I try to create different sections, using stacked books and trays to help define these groupings,” she says. “I pull in objects of varying heights and shapes and top it off with an organic pottery vase with greenery, branches, or floral.”

Meanwhile, Laura Sampson of Happy Home Stager recommends introducing a textural element into the mix. This will lend your display visual weight and a natural focal point. “It can be greenery or a small carved item placed on top of larger flat items,” she says. “It adds dimension and can be a conversation starter.”