Coffee Table Ideas

Curating Your Coffee Table – A Chance To Give Your Home A Bit of Your Own Personality

August 25, 2020
top coffee table ideas

“Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.”

Rachel Zoe

Be a Curator Without Even Going To Art School

Thanks to COVID19, we are spending A LOT more time in our homes these days. My store has been so incredibly busy, in part, I think, because people are taking a long hard look at their spaces, and trying to make them more functional, lovely and enjoyable.
One easy style change to make is curating your coffee table. To curate is basically defined as” to acquire, care for and develop a collection” – and you are simply going to to do this on a micro scale. It’s a small spot, relative to the entire house, but it’s a place to let your personality and style shine. Read on for a quick how-to…

Curated coffee table

The First Step… Start With a Great Tray

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you know that I am a BIG lover of trays. (see my previous blog: Trays: The Workhorse of Design). The tray, in my opinion,is the absolute best place to start in curating your coffee table – the reason being, when you need the entire surface of your coffee table for another purpose, like doing a puzzle, or putting out some great hors d’oeuvres , it can simply be whisked away, If you have lots of piles of this and that, it may look nice, and the styling might be great, but it is way too impractical. Pick a tray that harmonizing with your decor. If using metal, perhaps choose something in the same family as the metals of your lighting. If Coastal is your thing, maybe a basket-type. Pick a tray that takes up about half the surface area of your coffee table, but no more. You can use books to achieve this, as well, but the books need to act as a tray.

Tray to design coffee table

Then, Add a Natural Element

Remember our definition of curate – you are “acquiring and developing a collection.” First up in building your collection for your tray is a natural element – think shells, a vase for fresh cut flowers or a fern leaf, a succulent house plant, or, if you must, a fake plant- but make sure it’s a fairly believable one. The beauty of the vase (my favorite choice for your natural element, is that it can be changed with the seasons of your garden and your mood. Plus, I never need an excuse, whilst doing my grocery shopping, to buy myself some fresh flowers.

small plants on coffee table

Next, Add Books… For A Couple Of Reasons

A small stack of beautiful books is an inviting thing on your coffee table tray – they add color because of their lovely jackets and they add personality, based on their topics. People get a glimpse into what you care about. On one of my coffee tables I have three, leather-bound Shakespearean plays. On another, I have books by three of my favorite interior designers. You get the idea.
The other thing that books do for your coffee table style is help you add height to the pieces on the tray. More on that in our next section….

Now Add Something With A Little Height

In any curated display, height differential is important. If everything on your tray is the same height, it’s not interesting to the eye – and with our little coffee table vignette, that’s what we are going for – personality and interest. You may be able to achieve height with your natural element that you’ve already added – your vase, for example, -or you may get a good height differential in one of the next categories – the candle…. or with our final element, the personality piece, Just make sure your tray has something tall, We aren’t talking Wilt Chamberlain tall here, just taller than the other elements. Use the books to give a boost, as well.

Candles on the coffee table

Add A Candle Or Candle-Like Element To Light Up Your World

The soft glow of candlelight, who doesn’t like that? Well. maybe there’s someone out there, but I haven’t met them yet. Anyway, by adding a candle to your tray, or a battery-operated candle if you are fearful of the open flame, you add a lovely mood element, that can be pressed in to service at a moment’s notice. Consider, also, adding a decorative container with matches, so everything you need is right there when the mood strikes (pun actually intended).

Fun objects beautify your coffee table

Finally… And Here’s The Fun Part… Add Something Quirky and/or Personal

Boring… Blah… Milk Toast… NO THANK YOU! The final element on your curated tray is the spark for conversion, the loved object you want to see every day or maybe a memento from your travels… it’s quirky… it’s personal… from the skull (nope, not me) above to the binoculars below. It’s something fun, and, in my opinion, that’s what personal style and decorating are all about.

White table for living room

So What Else Is Good About Curating Your Coffee Table?

Your home… your way. So much of our lives is determined by others. In your home, it’s your style that matters. Why not start to express that style… right there in the middle of everything! Have fun!

Fully curated coffee table

One Final Thought…

A lot, and I mean A LOT, has been written on curating a coffee table. And most of what’s written, I personally disagree with. I think, if you cover the whole surface, like the above picture, it is not only impracticable for when you actually need the surface of your coffee table, but it’s also jarring to the eye. There’s no way to appreciate what’s been collected, because it just looks like a dumping ground for stuff. So tread lightly as you curate. Your little inside voice will let you know when you’ve achieved the right balance.

And now for a little music before we go…

“It’s beauty that captures your attention; personality which captures your heart.”


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