Living Room

20 coffee table ideas to pull your whole living room together

Take yours from zero to hero.
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The coffee table is the unsung hero of your living room; a style anchor. The ultimate in furniture multi-tasking, its job is to unify the room visually, whilst acting as a footstool, dining table, display surface and storage centre.

It follows that choosing the right one for your living room is not a task to be underestimated. If you’re stuck for coffee table styling ideas, take cues from its age, material, size and springboard other decorating details from there – get the style right and everything else will follow.

Want more inspiration? We’ve called in the experts to give their best coffee table styling tips to take your coffee table from zero to the hero of your living room.

coffee table styling ideas
It’s all in the details. Like the carefully curated display in this classic living room. (Credit: Photography: Mindi Cooke / Styling: Tahn Scoon)

The perfect coffee table size

Coffee table styling starts with a great base so before you begin, consider the perfect coffee table size for your space. “While the styling items are important, the coffee table itself should be the feature in the room not what is on top of it,” says Alice McMullin, Founder & Creative Director at McMullin & co. “Take time to search for a quality, seasonless and contemporary design. It’s always worth the investment.”

It’s all about the right proportions. “Your coffee table has the potential to really finish off a living room so it should make sense in the space, practically and stylistically,” says Don Garvan, Founder of Totem Road. “A good rule of thumb is to choose a table roughly two-thirds of your sofa’s width. A table too small can get lost, while something too big can overpower the other elements of the room.” 

“It’s also important to take note of the height of the table, there’s nothing more awkward than one that’s too high or low,” Alice suggests.

coffee table styling ideas
Reflect the shape and proportion of other furnishings, as seen in this mid-century modern living room. (Credit: Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Lisa Hilton)

The best shape for your coffee table

If you’re trying to work out why your living room design is not what it should be, start with your coffee table shape. “Rectangle coffee tables are a great choice if you have a narrow space with minimal walk-around clearance and are best paired with standard or L-shape sofas,” says Don. “Round Coffee Tables are the most popular choice for family living areas given they don’t have sharp edges.”

“Round coffee tables soften your space and create a gentle flow,” says Ty Symonds, Head Of Design at Country Road. “However you can lose essential surface area depending on how much you actively use your coffee table. Rectangle coffee tables create more usable surface area and often have great storage capacity too, but they are not great for small spaces.”

coffee table styling ideas for the living room
Lean lines and a monochrome glass-topped coffee table in this contemporary family living room allows space for styling and storage. (Credit: Photography: Nat Spadavecchia / Stylist: Fiona Gould)

Where to place your coffee table

Consider your living room layout – how your move around your living room is vital when choosing your coffee table shape. “Make sure to lead with functionality and then decorate with this in mind to ensure you get the most out of your coffee table,” says Ty. “Storage, ease of cleaning and usable surface area play an important role in how you will live with your coffee table and get the most out of it.

“If your area allows for a sofa to be placed across from two chairs, opt for a Square Coffee Table as this creates a symmetrical focal point in the room,” says Don. “Due to the larger surface area, square styles are great if you’re wanting to style further with coffee table books and still have room for your daily necessities.”

coffee table styling ideas
Ticking all the styling boxes on this rectangular coffee table in this converted cottage in Leura. (Credit: Photography: Helen Ward / Stylist: Jessica Bellef)

The must-have items for coffee table styling

Where to start when styling your coffee table? “Coffee tables can be a small window into your personality; taste; and interests,” says Alice. “While there’s no doubt they’ve become a regular feature in our Instagram, they can be over-styled. They should strike the balance of feeling uncluttered and filled with no more than three – or four – styling pieces.”

coffee table styling ideas
“A curious selection of conversation-starting hardcover books – the more diverse and unusual the better. If you’re struggling for inspiration, try digging through your thrift store for atlases or biographies,” Alice suggests. (Credit: Photographer: Eve Wilson / Stylist: Beck Simon)

Essential coffee table items


“Decorative vases are the must-have item for styling your coffee table,” says Ty. “A vase that looks just as good as a decorative object with or without flowers is best. We’re talking vases that aren’t hidden in the cupboard when not in use!”

“Remember to not pick a vase that’s too large that it will obstruct your view when sitting down,” Fiona warns. “Save those for your sideboards or side tables.”
Tip: “Foliage plucked from your yard is a great free styling trick for your favourite vase, it adds a great pop of freshness to any room,” says Fiona.

Coffee table books

“A must for styling most spaces, but especially a coffee table,” says Fiona Gould, Interior stylist and founder of Chelon Design. “They help to ground your other accessories and add varying layers of heights to your styling, but also I like to think of books as art for the table – they’re a great way to introduce certain character and colour to your table.”

“Stack your favourite coffee table books, layer on a vase, a candle and a decorative dish,” Ty suggests. “Try to group in odd numbers like 3 and allow for varying heights for a harmonious vignette. Avoid decorative objects that become dust collectors and try to be as purposeful and functional with the items you choose.”


Scented candles are a great way to combine fragrance and style in your living room. With an ever-changing offering of decorative shapes and gorgeous vessels hitting shelves, there’s something to indulge every decorating style.


Functional and beautiful, coasters do double duty on the coffee table. “Often we forget the primary purpose of coffee tables lies squarely in its name,” says Ty, who is working on launching and developing a limited selection of sculptural chrome coasters – watch this space.
living room coffee table Hamptons styling ideas
Classic Hamptons coffee table styling in blue and white around the glass-and-chrome coffee table in this harbourside home. (Credit: Photography: Brigid Arnott / Styling: Lisa Hilton)

How much space should styling take up?

Don’t get carried away with your coffee table styling – remember to allow room for practical use and consider all members of your household when choosing objects. “As a general rule, make sure the shapes are bottom-weighted, coffee tables are notorious for being knocked and bumped so ensure items aren’t top-heavy,” says Ty. “They are definitely not the spot to have your most precious belongings.”

“I find that covering no more than 1/3 of the table is a good balance for me,” says Fiona. “But there are absolutely no rules. If you love a more layered look in your home then go for it – using a couple of trays and books to ground your pieces will help if going with a more is more look.”

modern living room coffee table styling ideas
Cushions play with a pop of colour in the upholstered ottoman that doubles as a coffee table in this renovated heritage cottage. (Credit: Photography: Armelle Habib / Styling: Julia Green)

How to work with colour on your coffee table

Here’s where the fun begins. Accent with pops of bright colour or keep things nice and neutral – either way, there are a few key tricks to remember. “Keep colour simple. Pick up the base colours in your environment and don’t be afraid to layer with different textures, materials and finishes,” says Ty. “Allow a highlight colour, but remember less is more and if you have a vase, using flowers to change up colour to your mood is a great way to play with the highlight colour.”

Elegant coffee table styling ideas
Elegant neutrals dress the formal living room of this renovated California bungalow. (Credit: Photography: Kristina Soljo / Stylist: Lisa Burden)

Of course, the need for a coffee table is not always paramount to your living room – functionality has a part to play.

If neutral is your thing, don’t feel you need to go overboard with colour. “Less is always more,” says Alice. “I would lean towards a muted or neutral colour pallet that doesn’t command the attention of the room but compliments its surroundings. Look for a coffee table that has a light wood grain or a simple dark stain and try to subtly contrast with styling items.”

Nordic coffee table styling ideas
A clean and neutral palette is seen in this Nordic new build in Melbourne. (Credit: Photography: Alex Reinders / Styling: Sarah Elshaug)

Shape and form of your coffee table vignette

Use a mixture of shapes and sizes of objects for your coffee table and when in doubt, stick to the magic number. “You can never go wrong with the rule of threes when styling your table,” says Fiona. “Three objects, at varying heights, ideally in varying materials to keep it interesting. I love to place 1-2 coffee table books under 1 or 2 of the smaller objects to help ground the look – you could also do this with a tray.”

Hamptons beach house coffee table styling ideas
Collected pieces bring coastal style to the living room of this all-white beach house. (Credit: Photography: Sue Stubbs / Stylist: Bree Oliver)

“Remember the role of the coffee table, make sure to not over decorate and allow enough surface space for daily use such as serving morning and afternoon tea, resting a novel or a notebook,” says Ty.

modern coffee table styling ideas
This coastal home brings a little luxe into the space with relaxed textures in rattan and a subtle ceramic vase. (Credit: Photography: Louise Roche / Stylist: Kylie Jackes)

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