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How to Make Your Coffee Table Shine

Styling a Coffee Table

A coffee table is a delightful and functional addition to any living space. It helps create a space where people can gather and connect, usually over drinks or snacks.

You might be wondering how to decorate a coffee table or have questions about coffee table styling. After all, a small table by the sofa doesn’t have much life without a little intention. Let San Francisco Design help you bring a room to life with your coffee table.

Contemporary wood coffee table with glass top next to matching sofa table.

Choosing the Right Coffee Table

Coffee tables come in various materials and styles. Materials can include glass, wood, metal, and plastic. Styles reflect a coffee table’s shape, such as square, rectangle, round, oval, and free-form. Any mixture of shapes and materials will vary depending on the manufacturer. Some may come preassembled, or others may require some assembly at home.

Before you choose what coffee table suits your room best, you’ll need to measure the area in question. Ensure sufficient walking room between the seats and the table. Additionally, measure the seats near the coffee table, including the height from the ground to the seating surfaces. You won’t want a surface that is too high or too low while sitting down.

Understanding the Basics of Coffee Table Styling

Once you’ve selected a coffee table, it’s time to style it. This is where the fun begins. These ideas for coffee table decor should help you decide what fits your style and what will look best in your living space.

You might want to consider one of these themes as you choose your style and decorations:

  • Minimalist – Simple shapes, a monochromatic color scheme, an uncluttered feeling
  • Rustic – Earthy, organic, strong, inspired by the great outdoors
  • Contemporary – Clean lines, neutral colors, implements art, follows current trends
  • Modern – Environmentally-friendly, neutral textures, embraces practicality and function
  • Mid-century – Contradicting materials and textures, curved shapes, bold colors, focus on function over form

Decorative Items

These items will bring a splash of wow to your coffee table. Decorative items include books, vases, candles, and plates. It’s not just limited to these, however. Consider decorating with a vintage board game for a dash of fun or a sculpture to reflect your class.

Personal Touches

Your coffee table is a canvas to show your guests parts of your life, so it’s also an opportunity to put items like pictures and souvenirs on display. When selecting a picture frame, pick a material that matches or contrasts well with the coffee table’s color and construction. This could mean picking a white frame if you have a black coffee table or a gold frame if you have a dark wooded table.

When it comes to souvenirs, be sure it’s an item that matches the rest of the room. You won’t want your plastic bubble wand from the happiest place on earth sitting alone on a rustic steel table. The souvenir should feel harmonious with the coffee table and the rest of the room.


A splash of green breathes life into any room. If you don’t have a green thumb, consider an easy-to-manage plant like a succulent, pathos, or spider plant. As with other decorations, you’ll want to consider the material and color of the planter and how it’ll look on the table. Lastly, be sure to place something between the planter and the table to avoid water marks.

Practical Items

These items have not just a decorative use but a practical one. This would include items like coasters and trays. Trays for coffee tables have become incredibly popular because they are a neat way of containing and organizing decorative elements. You can also use them to create a sense of separation and balance from other elements on the table.


When placing the items on your coffee table, strike a sense of balance and motion. A helpful guide is the Rule of Thirds—visually separate your coffee table into three sections and use your items to accentuate them.

You might also want to consider creating a sense of motion by placing items of varying heights near each other. For example, you could have candles resting on three candlesticks that get progressively higher. Don’t just utilize breadth, utilize height as well.

Modern Coffee Table With Glass and Ceramic Tabletops in Contemporary Living Room at SFD Salt Lake City furniture store

Coffee Table Styling Mistakes to Avoid

Be intentional. Ask yourself if the decorations or styles you want to implement add or detract from the feeling of the room. If it detracts, avoid it.

Avoid leaving mail and remote controls on the coffee table. It can deflate the room’s energy. Items that are disproportionately large or small on the coffee table can also call unwanted attention to themselves.

Lastly, we advise you not to decorate your coffee table with highly valuable items. It may be tempting to showcase an expensive statue or vase, but leaving it in a place like a coffee table could leave it prone to accidents, resulting in damage. Don’t leave anything on your coffee table that isn’t ultimately replaceable.

Visit San Francisco Design

Ultimately, your coffee table design should reflect your personality. If you’d like help from our experts on coffee table decor, visit our furniture stores in Salt Lake City or Park City. If you’d like to stay home, shop coffee tables on our website to find a style and material that works for you.