This how to is akin to my How to Set a Table (Thanksgiving edition); the end result is going to look different depending on your personality, style, and what you have available.
Styling a coffee table will largely be determined by the room it’s in. A formal living room will look best with a table that’s more artistic, less utilitarian (unless of course your style is minimalist, in which case the second coffee table I show you would fit better). The family room coffee table is going to be a work horse (it’s just the nature of the room) so you’re going to want something that’s functional. You’re not going to want to have to clear the space every time you go in to use the room.
So let me talk about picking a coffee table first. As I mentioned earlier, your table will need to fit the needs of the room you’re putting it in. So while the living room coffee table need not be large, you’re going to want something more heavy duty for the family room, since that’s the room you’ll be doing the most things in (like board games, crafts, etc.).
I’ll share my living room coffee table first:
As you can see, it’s a more flowery table. The sides are actually drop leafs, and can be put down if there’s going to be a large crowd, so it’s very functional, but overall, the style is not utilitarian.
I’ve also practically covered the table, but that’s fine, because I’ve still left space for cups and plates, should I serve any food to my guests (which trust me, happens frequently). The main goal for the living room coffee table is to look pretty.
So go ahead and put a whole bowl of pinecones and a pretty frame on there. Be creative.
The second table is the one in our family room. It is one solid table, and I like it that way, because this is the table the kids play on, sometimes literally on top of. You want this table to be large and sturdy.
You’ll notice that I’ve put my “decorations” on one side. This allows me to have part of the table already cleared for play. You are more than welcome to center your tray/basket, but be prepared to move it a lot.
A quick word about your tray: keep it useful. I like to put the books/magazines I’m currently reading, or books that the kids find interesting in mine. You could keep your coasters in it too. It’s purpose is to store all those things that tend to be transient, those items that need to stay out because you use them frequently.
In each table you’ll notice that I practice one rule: the rule of three. For some reason, three items together is really pleasing to the human eye. So try and keep your decorations down to three main items (this is where the tray is really useful, because even if you have multiple items in it, I still only counts as one visually). I’ve also tried to have the items staggered in size: one low, one medium, one high. They’re also small, medium, and large, respectively. Keep these tricks in mind, and you’ll be styling in no time.