Coffee Table Styling: Demystified

Our blog on styling built-ins was so popular, that a request for coffee table styling came up too.
Here are our top tips for coffee tables of all shapes as well as a shopping list to get you started.

Brittany Bromley & Cote de Texas

You see them all the time, perhaps in so many Pinterest, Instagram photos and magazines that you don’t even stop to take in each. Unbeknownst to you, every aspect on that coffee table has been thoughtfully placed to create a sense of balance and beauty.
The household staple coffee table has been elevated in status in recent years and the amount of décor purely for decor’s sake has also made a tremendous statement as of late, allowing homeowners to purchase from a variety of brands, handmade and artisanal, reflective of their travels, taste and style.

Yet let’s also note that anything I (Brittany) design for Bleu Bee clients has to pass through my own lens of design: beauty, function and thoughtfulness. That may mean your coffee table has to pull double duty (dinners on the sofa, feet up for relaxation, the occasional laptop workstation, and so on) and I simply cannot make it only a surface for beauty, but also function. And thoughtful function means that you don’t have to dismantle your entire décor anytime the tabletop needs to be used. Therefore my staple suggestion is to start with a fabulous tray, which serves as an anchoring point for your vignette and is easily moved when the table is working.

Selecting the Right Tray

Round coffee tables work best with square trays, as rectangular tables work well with rectangular or round trays, and square coffee tables offer the flexibility or a round or square tray. Select a tray that offers a bit of glam while also being a sizeable workhorse for your pretty objet’s.
Here are some of my favorite trays that span a range of styles and colors. Consider taking a bold move and using a bright colored tray to really bring the eye towards your coffee table when one walks into the room.

The Round Coffee Table

If you have a round coffee table, a tray is going to be imperative to maximizing functional space on your table. Below are two easy ways to style a round coffee table, but also don’t be afraid to load up your tray with all the beautiful accessories.

  • Cardinal Direction Styling – this styling encourages you to place bookstacks in 4 places on your table, evenly spread out with a variety of color in your book spines and covers. The books should be in the same location as the four cardinal directions on a compass.
  • Triangular Styling – this styling creates a visual triangle on your table, allowing for the tallest item to be the “top” point of the triangle, and using bookstacks and boxes to bring a varied height to the “bottom” two points.

Driven by Décor

The Rectangular Coffee Table

Probably the most versatile and my personal favorite is the rectangular coffee table, this shape offers a variety of possibilities when it comes to creating tabletop vignettes. Here are my top three ways to try on your rectangle table.

  • Four Corners Styling – This styling set-up mimics the shape of your table, encouraging 4 individual vignettes to come together. I suggest you begin with a tall vase or floral arrangement in one of the corners near the back, next to that a bookstack with a visually interesting bowl on top (I love keeping my cocktail napkins or coasters in a cereal-size antique bowl). In the front two corners of your table, consider another bookstack diagonally placed from the other, with a candle inside a shallow dish, and finally a unique decorative box on the remaining front corner. I like functional boxes to hide pens, notepads, remotes, and so on.
  • The Triad Styling – Similar to the visual triangle on the round table, use a variety of items and florals or greenery to create a vignette varied in height and texture.
  • The Backwards Triad- You can also flip the point of the triangle to be the front of the table and then use items that create height in the back two corners.

The Square Coffee Table
In our own home, a giant square coffee table anchors our living room and I have truly enjoyed the oversized table when it comes to a variety of styling. Easily incorporate any of the round or rectangle styling tips on your square table, even adding a tall centerpiece into the middle of the cardinal direction layout.

Think Maximalist with your Tray (or entire tabletop)

Have a lot of accessories you want to display? Thank goodness that the maximalist trend isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Think stacks on stacks, nestle items together with minimal spacing and add in a variety of textures and materials plus color to really make the tray a statement.

The Shopping List

  • cachepots (these are my favorite, although a bit on the pricier side, totally worth it! I suggest the antelope print for fall!)
  • trays (please leave a comment if you’d like the link to any of the trays on our “Favorite Trays” photo)
  • candles (have you gotten our Signature candle yet? Shipping is free through October 31!)
  • pretty matches (these are in such a cute little pharmacy bottle!)
  • low, shallow glass, ceramic or stoneware bowls (I love using one-off antique bowls I find with great designs on the inside)
  • trinkets & boxes (every room needs a pop of stark contrast, this is the perfect remote box)
  • unique vases or jars, all sizes (perfect for a single bloom or large enough for an arrangement)
  • hardcover books (check out my current favorite coffee table books here, but any beautiful colored book will do!)
  • faux florals or greenery (love this faux arrangement for fall from Amazon!)
  • and as always, add in items that are personally meaningful to you – the magic is in the mix!


Brittany “Bee” Zimmerman

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