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Styling a Coffee Table

Updated: Apr 17, 2020

We’re starting this blog for you -- whether you’re interested in our projects or you’re looking for some inspiration yourself. We will be posting on a variety of topics, ranging from project spotlights to design tips and tricks to Neylan Design team member profiles. Follow along with us every other week!

We will be rotating authors for our posts so you can get to know our team and our varying perspectives on all things design, life and style. First up: Caroline Harding, director of marketing and design assistant for Neylan!

Hospitality design, interior design, birmingham, alabama, styling, tips, coffee table
Graham Yelton Photography

Hi everyone, I’m Caroline. I’m Mississippi-born, North Carolina-raised and very happy to now call myself an Alabamian!

For my first blog post, I want to address one of the tricks of the trade: styling a coffee table.

Some of you might be thinking to yourself, ‘that sounds pretty easy...’ while others might feel relieved to have a tutorial for a decorating task that is deceptively difficult. Whichever boat you’re in, I hope you choose to follow along as I take you through what I’ve learned and show you examples of some envy-worthy coffee table styling.

I’m not a trained designer. I grew up in High Point, North Carolina -- the furniture capital of the world, for those who don’t know! -- surrounded by all things furniture and design, but it took me a few years out of college to realize that I wanted to work in the industry I have followed for so long.

So, fast-forward, and I’m at Neylan Design's sister company Set to Sell, bright-eyed and excited to complete my first solo stage. It had been going well. The rug was down, the furniture was placed and the artwork was hung. I was feeling very confident about it all... until I opened the box of accessories. I looked at the box...then the empty coffee table... then the box...

I suddenly realized I wasn’t quite sure exactly how to how to take a flat, empty surface in the middle of the room and create a perfectly-styled vignette. It should be easy, right? All I had to do was pick 5-6 items from the box, then put them together in a nice way. It sounds simple enough, but as I began to break out in a cold sweat, I realized that coffee table styling is actually pretty challenging.

The coffee table usually sits in a prominent place in the living room, making it the prime location to create an impact. It needs to look good, especially for listing photos (and your everyday Instagram shots, too, of course).

Luckily, I had a great team of stylists and designers to help me complete the styling on that first stage. Since then, I’ve done some intense research online, studied the work of other Neylan designers and have had plenty of practice in the field myself. I’m here, on the other side, ready to share my findings.


Hospitality design, interior design, birmingham, alabama, styling, tips, coffee table, living room, style
Graham Yelton Photogrpahy

1) Use a tray.

aYou don’t always have to use a tray, but I highly recommend it. The tray makes styling a little less daunting. It grounds your objects and adds structure to an otherwise blank space. When styling the tray, try to abide by the same principles as the coffee table in general. Keep it neat, decluttered and purposeful.

Hospitality design, interior design, birmingham, alabama, styling, tips, coffee table
Graham Yelton Photography

2) Vary your heights.

When all of your items are the same size and height, they get overlooked. If you’re using a low stack of books on one side of the table, pair it with a tall vase or sculptural object on the other side.

Hospitality design, interior design, birmingham, alabama, styling, tips, coffee table
Graham Yelton Photography

3) Odd numbers are your best friends.

We love using groups of three. I’m not sure why our brains tend to find odd-numbered groups of things more visually appealing, but it is definitely a thing. To be clear, not everything you do on the coffee table has to be done in an odd-numbered group, but ensure to include some groups of three or five in your styling (especially when layering or stacking).

Hospitality design, interior design, birmingham, alabama, styling, tips, coffee table, local business
Photo styled in collaboration with Collected for the Home

4) Think outside of the box.

a) My #1 top for taking your styling to the next level is to use at least one

unexpected object. Take, for example, this strand of wooden beads. It is not particularly useful and it definitely isn’t the first thing you’re going for on a Target run. BUT it creates visual interest -- it elevates the styling of the coffee table because it is unique and clearly meant for the purpose of design.

If you’re looking for some of these pieces to spice up your table, we recommend Regina Andrew’s line of sculptural objects. If you’re not ready to commit to piece from Regina Andrew, try TJ Maxx or Tuesday Morning! Locally, Collected for the Home has great products as well.

5) Be selective.

a) It can be easy to over-accessorize. Instead of using the coffee table as a show space for every cute accessory in the house, pick 5-6 objects that 1) complement each other and 2) have some significance. If you’re really into travel, place a coffee table book from your favorite vacation on the table. Not only will it bring you joy, it’ll be a conversation starter. The coffee table is a gathering place -- fill it with a few of your most treasured items.

Show us your styled coffee tables by tagging @neylandesign on social media! We would love to see our tips put into action.

Remember, you can follow along with all of our work on social media. Find us @neylandesign on Instagram and Facebook.

Thanks for reading our first blog. Join us next week for blog #2!


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