How to style your coffee table like a pro
Display a favorite collection
In the living room of a West Hollywood house, the mantel and coffee table display designer Mark D. Sikes's 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."
Put a throw on it
In the master suite seating area in a 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.
Layer with a tray
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.
Light a lantern
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."
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."
A simple arrangement
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 DessinFournir.
"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.
Vary object heights
"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 a Corona del Mar, California, house. The glass-topped Cabochon table was done for Henredon. Walls are covered in Fromental silk.