How to choose & style a coffee table
Nothing ties a living room together quite like a central coffee table. Coffee tables provide an opportunity for having a lovely piece of furniture in your home that is useful as a surface for displaying things as well.
Choosing the right coffee table for your living room can be tricky - not only do you have to pick a material and style, but what on earth do you put on top of it? Not to worry - we have created this guide to help answer all these questions and more! Read on to discover our full guide on coffee table décor and everything to do with coffee table styling.
Coffee table materials & how they work for coffee table styling
Coffee tables are commonly made in three types of material - wood, metal and glass. What you choose should depend on how durable you want your table to be and how much you are willing to do to maintain it.
Wood coffee tables
Wood is a timeless material that, if properly cared for, can last a very long time. Wooden coffee tables are no exception!
Wooden coffee tables can come in a range of natural colours, from pale cream to a deep, rich brown. You can stain, varnish, sand or carve a wooden coffee table if you want to change up the look, or even paint it your favourite colour to match your living room.
And if you want that colour changed, simply sand it back and paint again! Wooden coffee tables are versatile pieces that you can continually refresh to match your home's changing style.
Wooden coffee tables need to be cleaned carefully if you plan on placing food and drinks directly onto them - you don't want the dreaded coffee-cup stain remaining on your table for long. Messes must be cleaned up quickly, as wood is an absorbent material and will remember every stain if it's not dealt with. Make sure not to place very hot things on it without a barrier, otherwise it can discolour your table as well.
Wood can also be chipped and scratched by wayward cutlery, pets and children, so make sure it is properly varnished to protect its surface.
Metal coffee tables
While metal furniture brings to mind a more industrial look, its versatility means it can be styled to suit any living room if needed. Metal is easy to colour, so finding a coffee table in your favourite shade will be easier than with wood or glass. It is also resistant to scratches and is all but impossible to chip, making it an excellent choice in households where durability is key. Metal coffee tables are a great way to highlight your coffee table styling, as they provide a stable surface that won't overpower your accessories with its own design.
It is important to make sure your metal coffee table is made from quality metal that is strong enough to hold multiple things without denting. Avoid tin and any metal coffee tables that are hollow.
Metal coffee tables can also rust and tarnish if they are left outside or if they are not cleaned properly inside - ensure you are keeping them dry and out of harsh, direct sunlight.
Metal coffee tables can also be heavy! If you plan on moving your coffee table a lot, make sure it is an appropriate weight that you won't strain yourself lifting.
Glass coffee tables
Classy and clean, glass coffee tables can suit almost any living room due to their transparency. They are a good choice when you have lots of other exciting furniture you want to show off, as they won't obscure the view of anything. This see-through quality can also help a small room look bigger! Glass coffee tables usually come with a metal or wooden frame, so you can use them to compliment larger pieces of furniture in your room.
Unfortunately glass is quite fragile, no matter how thick or tempered it is. Scratches, chips and outright breakages can all happen if you aren't careful with your glass coffee table, so accessories like coasters or a table runner are helpful here.
Glass coffee tables must also be cleaned regularly, as liquids from drinks will cloud the glass if left there over time. Fingerprints and oils can also linger if you don't clean your glass table religiously, so overall, they're a fairly high-maintenance piece of furniture!
Coffee table shapes
The shape of your coffee table should depend on what kind of lounge setup you have - a traditional straight sofa, an L shape or a sectional style are all suited to different shaped tables. When choosing a size for your coffee table, make sure it is no more than ? the length of your sofa - any more and you will have trouble moving around it.
Square coffee tables
A square coffee table is well suited if you have a lounge setup that is L shaped or sectional, as they will fill the empty space there while giving you plenty of room to move around it. If you have a more traditional lounge setup, two square tables next to each may be a better choice, as one square coffee table on its own will look small and lonely.
Rectangle coffee tables
Rectangular coffee tables are a safe choice for any lounge setup, as they fill the space nicely and provide plenty of room for any coffee table décor you wish to display. If you're really not sure what shape coffee table to use, a rectangle should be your go-to choice!
Circle coffee tables
Similar to square coffee tables, circular ones are a lovely way to fill the space in a sectional lounge setup. Their smooth shape makes them a great choice if you have children (or if your spatial awareness isn't that great!), as you don't need to worry about hitting any sharp corners. Again, multiple tables are a smart choice if you have a long, singular sofa, but circular tables give you a bit more versatility than square ones. You can place two of the same tables side by side for sure, but you can also layer circular coffee tables of differing heights, or even buy joining circular tables that slot together.
Oval coffee tables
With more surface area than a circular coffee table, the oval shape is a great choice if you have a long couch and want a little visual interest with your coffee table styling - or worry about sharp corners! Don't feel pressured to have a perfectly oval-shaped table either - egg-shaped tables are a stylish choice that is handy for areas with less space.
Abstract coffee tables
If you want a coffee table that will get your guests talking, an abstract shape is the choice for you! There are no hard and fast rules for abstract tables due to their unique shape, so go with your gut or just choose a shape you really love! Common shapes include a triangle, geometric shape or a wooden tree cross-section.
What height should my coffee table be?
Height may seem less important than shape, colour and make, but if you get it wrong it can make your whole living room look awkward! The general rule for coffee table height is that the top of the table should be at the same height as your seat cushion. You want to be able to comfortably reach out to pick up or put down anything on your coffee table, like a full drink or a thick book, without straining.
Keep in mind what kinds of coffee table décor ideas you plan to use as well. If you have a large houseplant or statue that you plan on showing off, make sure it isn't going to block your view across the room or up to a TV. In this case, you may want a lower coffee table height than normal.
Where should I place my coffee table?
As a general rule, you want your coffee table to be in the centre of your lounge room as it brings the space together. But if you have other furniture or low-hanging lights that prevent this, bring it towards your lounge setup but make sure you have plenty of room to walk around it. If you will be using your coffee table to hold drinks and snacks, think about how far forward you can comfortably reach from your lounge to your coffee table - you don't want to have to get up every time you want to take a sip of your drink!
How to style a coffee table
Now that you've picked a coffee table, you've come to the fun part - accessorising it! Coffee tables are a lovely way to show off plants, books and other knick-knacks, but here are a few rules to coffee table décor you should follow.
No matter if you have two things or six, having objects of differing heights is a must. It creates visual interest and takes the eye on a journey - if everything is the same height, it will feel flat and bland.
Separate your items
If you have a circular or oval table, divide your display items into three separate areas so they aren't clustered. For rectangular or square tables, divide them into four. This will help your coffee table styling feel organised, but the variation in items will still make it interesting.
Use a tray
Serving trays are handy for keeping small pieces organised when styling a coffee table, where they might feel out of place otherwise. Use a circular tray for a rectangular table and vice-versa, as using a similar shape will feel too samey.
Coffee table tray styling tips - choose a neutral coloured tray that won't take away from the accessories inside it, and find one with handles for easy moving if needed. Make sure there is some negative space in your finished tray to keep it from looking cluttered.
Common things for displaying on coffee tables include books (piled high!), candles, faux plants, coral and crystals, small statuettes and decorative vases. If you have a small collection you are proud of or cool holiday mementos, these can make some fantastic coffee table decor ideas - not only will they look interesting, but they'll provide great conversation starters as well!
Final tips and tricks for coffee table styling
- When styling a coffee table, keep some space free. While it might be tempting to cover the surface in your favourite treasures, you'll want space for mundane things like cups, TV remotes and phones.
- Need some extra storage? Some coffee tables come with built-in drawers, which are perfect for storing remotes, manuals and game controllers. This will keep the top surface free for any extra coffee table décor you might have.
- Love playing board games with friends? Make sure there is enough room around your coffee table for people to sit, and have some comfy cushions available as well.
Style your coffee table at Spotlight
On the hunt for accessories that you can display on your coffee table? Spotlight has a huge range of home décor for you to choose from, with everything you need for vintage, minimalist, cute and modern coffee table décor.
See the range in person by visiting your closest Spotlight store, where our friendly team can help you pick the perfect adornments for your coffee table.