These decorating tips — from how to lay out a tray to arranging a personal collection — show you how to get a chic, stylish look for your coffee table.
In the living room of this West Hollywood house, designer Mark D. Sikes displayed his passions: boxes, books,and art from China and Paris flea markets. "When I see an empty table, I shudder a bit," he says. "There are times when minimalism can be the right thing. A table with one vase of flowers and one little accessory is thoughtful, while a gorgeous table with copies of Us and People magazines just looks neglectful."
Shop a similar look: decorative box ($55, ), glass vase ($45, )
In the master suite seating area in this Kenya home, designer Suzanne Kasler arranged armchairs in a vintage floral around the fireplace and an ottoman draped with an Indian throw, which gave the space "an English feeling." It's the perfect balance of cultures. "I was definitely inspired by that weaving of African and British traditions and aesthetics — marrying a sense of place with familiar comforts and luxuries," she says.
Shop a similar look: throw blanket ($37, )
In a Lattingtown, New York, house, designer Meg Braff added a tray to a coffee table in the den. Large coffee tables "don't feel so massive when you layer on a tray. It breaks up the surface," she says.
Shop a similar look: wicker tray ($62, )
The living room in a Nantucket cottage designed by T. Keller Donovan has a fresh, contemporary look. An oversize lantern — a favorite design accessory — stays accessible on the wicker coffee table. "It's an easy way to have a party — you just light the candle in there and whoopee! it's a party. My mother was forever asking, 'Where are the candles?' It was always such a process."
Shop a similar look: lanterns ($155 for a 2-pack, )
Designer Robert Stilin likes objects that are elemental and natural, like these antique wooden bowls and the horn magnifying glass on a family room coffee table. "They add history to a room but can also be functional," he says. "I look at them and they make me feel good." The decor adds another dimension to the strong furniture silhouettes and soothing neutrals in the space. "The art and objects can take it in any direction — they can totally change a room," Stilin says. "And you don't have to spend tons of money. You can remix what you already have from one room to another."
Shop a similar look: hurricane candle holder ($49 and more, ), vintage magnifying glass ($105, )
Elegant flowers are easy to pull off, such as this arrangement in a San Francisco house by designer Orlando Diaz-Azcuy. The homeowner recommends choosing a monochromatic arrangement and displaying it a plain glass cylinder. Lancaster sofa and club chairs, Lyonnaise chair, and Rateau coffee table by .
Shop a similar look: abstract painting ($28, ), pillow cover ($28, ), vintage book collection ($21, )
"I like old furniture to look old and new furniture to look new. And since there is no such thing as an antique coffee table, I tend to like coffee tables that are modern," designer Barbara Westbrook says. On a screened porch in a South Carolina lake cottage, glass bottles — all the same material, and in a similar colorway, but with different shapes — catch the filtered light.
Shop a similar look: coffee table ($399, )
"Compositions matter to me," designer Barbara Barry says. "Artfully arranged, anything can become a thing of beauty." A coffee table and end table underscore her philosophy of "high, medium, low" in this Corona del Mar, California house. The glass-topped Cabochon table was done for .
Shop a similar look: coffee table (price upon request, ), silver bowl ($103, ), round vase ($40, )
Two African drum tables take the place of one big coffee table in front of the Ralph Lauren sofa in Ken Fulk's Napa Valley living room. "They're better for traffic flow than one of those huge knee-knockers, and easily moved to wherever we need them," says Fulk. The galvanized steel French bistro chairs around the vintage dining table are from the Sundance catalog.
Shop a similar look: pillow cover ($64, ), globe ($105, ), aluminum vase ($29, )
Instead of a big coffee table in his Miami living room, designer Robert Passal used four cylinders, estate sale finds, which can be easily moved around. He added colorful accents like flowers and books to stand out with the white tables.
Shop a similar look: blue vase ($67, )