Remember that song with the line "...if you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with"? It's a good thing to keep in mind when styling a less-than-perfect corner of your home. The vignette above is my coffee table. Or rather, the camouflaged top of my scarred and ancient coffee table, which so happens to be THE perfect size, shape and height for the living room. But scarred and ancient. So it stays. And I style it to distract from its general shabbiness. I used to have this idea that people who hired decorators and designers had big budgets and bought everything new all at once. Uh uh. That might be true of the homes featured in magazines like House and Home, but most decorating clients come with couches, tables, collections and artwork. A design pro earns their pay when they blend new with old and make everything look intentional and pulled together.
So back to your coffee table. It's a perch for feet and a landing pad for drinks, but it is also a primo display surface to show off interesting books and pretty objects. Here are some ideas to try out.
Image via Pinterest
A cloche turns anything into an "objet" worthy of a closer look. I really like the chunk of amethyst shown here, but you could put just about anything under that glass: a piece of coral, beach pebbles or shells in summer, a quirky gourd, antique clock, small sculpture, a vintage Christmas ornament. See what I mean? You can find glass cloches in garden centres, West Elm has some nice ones with wooden bases and Ikea has something (intended for cheese I think) in the kitchen department that would work.
Image via Pinterest
If you have a grouping of smaller items corral them on a tray. I have picked up patinized silver trays like the one shown here at Value Village (Good Will! I miss you) for $3 a piece, but lately I'm enjoying woven and tribal trays.
Image via Elle Decor
Varying the height of things adds interest and books are an effortless way to accomplish this. See how this coffee table has three height footprints? The coasters are the lowest, the bowl is the largest object but not the highest, and the terrarium sits above everything else. Variety is good.
Image via Pinterest
Something green and living is so luxurious, so grown-up and you will love how it lifts your room and your mood. Flower arrangements are a fine splurge once and a while but budget-friendly stems like tulips, succulents, foraged bouquets, branches (dogwood, pussy willow, forsythia) and evergreens are delightful.
Image via Studio McGee
This one is a bit of a rule breaker. First, the super symmetrical arrangement. You're probably familiar with the old decorator's rule about grouping things in odd numbers: 3 or 5 but not 2 or 4. This arrangement works though, so if you like the orderliness of this look, go for it. But let's think about those over-scaled greens for a moment. They look terrific in the photo but they would absolutely get in the way of conversation. I did something similar over the holidays with a huge vase of branches and my people rebelled about two days in because it blocked sight lines to the TV. Don't forsake function for form (unless it's for a photo!).
Image via The Glitter Guide
Go ahead and colour-coordinate if that's your thing. I've seen beautiful black and white coffee tables, and this pink one is a stunner. Check out the cloche! Once you've got your books, your flowers or greens you might want to add a sculptural object or two. Candles or candlesticks are good, a decorative bowl might be nice. The market at Aberfoyle is a gold mine for this kind of thing, and I also love hitting HomeSense for finishing touches. They always, always have shelves of ornamental goodies and everything is in the $20 range. I move decorative stuff around my own home from room to room and when I tire of something, it goes to the Singing Lady Consignment shop on The Queensway.