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Coffee Table Style

Make your coffee table both striking and practical

Home-styling magazines, websites, and programs show coffee tables as the beautiful focal point of a room. In reality, they can often become the catch-all for all kinds of not-so-stylish items—remote controls, mail, snacks, toys, hair ties, and nail clippers. How can you make a coffee table both striking and practical?

“Coffee tables are sometimes the center of our home and where we receive guests," says Summer Wedermyer, owner of Arch and Gable Home Design. "They should be personal and meaningful, if not also useful."

Wedermyer has owned Arch and Gable since 2019. She graduated from the University of Kansas Art and Design School with a degree in interior design. She worked in various aspects of home design, renovation, and the construction industry for fifteen years. Her passion is restoring old homes by honoring their character while incorporating modern conveniences.

For styling a coffee table, Wedermyer offers these guidelines to get started:
1. Begin with the shape of your table. She says, "Use square objects on round tables and oval or round objects on square or rectangular tables."
2. Keep it at an odd number of items or groupings.
3. Balance visual weight with actual weight. For example, if the table is light colored choose darker-colored items. If it's glass or metal, pick wood, pottery, or natural fibers. Add a balance of tall and short pieces.
4. "The entire top of the table doesn't have to be covered, "she says." I generally consider one-third coverage to create the visual tension required for appealing arrangement."

Wedermyer also has a list of don'ts:

  • Don't use items that make it difficult to see around.
  • Don't use irreplaceable pieces, which can make people uncomfortable.
  • Don't display grooming items. You might be surprised I have to say this, but no nail clippers, toothpicks, or Q-tips.

When choosing actual items to display on a coffee table, Wedermyer recommends showcasing your interests, hobbies, and favorite things to make the look personal and meaningful. These items could be memorabilia from past vacations and events or pieces from your unique collections. She also suggests adding an interesting container or lidded box to hold useful items such as matches for candles, dog brushes, notepads, pencils, thank you cards, stamps, and snacks.

Books are perhaps the most popular display items. Stack two or three from large to small, and leave one open to a favorite page if there's room. However, these don't have to be expensive coffee table books. Pick ones that fit your interests and are likely available in your bookcase. The custom-made photograph books of weddings, vacations, and family celebrations are also lovely to display and make great conversation starters.

Most of these are budget-friendly suggestions since you already own the items. Garage sales are also great places to find display items on the cheap. Wedermyer notes, "Don't have a big budget? Nothing is more trendy right now than granny chic or coastal granny, so it's time to raid your mom and grandma's closets, attics, and basements! Look for small-ish items not bigger than twelve to fifteen inches tall or wide." 

Then you can fill the remaining space with plants or items from a home décor store. Wedermyer suggests including a tray or shallow bowl to ground your items. She also recommends mixing textures for visual interest and incorporating ceramic and unglazed pottery, a trend for 2023.

Need something in a hurry? "Grab a tray, three books, a large glass or ceramic container, branches from your yard, and a candle, and you've just created a designer look," Wedermyer says. "My go-to is a simple look. Take a big low bowl, either pottery or wood bowls also work well, and then fill it with all the same thing. Those moss-covered balls provide a green pop and make a room look fresh."

To learn more about Wedermyer and Arch and Gable, plus view photos of her work, visit archandgable.com.

Special thanks to Hedgeapple/Layla Grace for supplying the coffee tables for the photoshoot. Visit hedgeapple.com & laylagrayce.com or 644 Locust St. for showroom.

“Coffee tables are sometimes the center of our home and where we receive guests," says Summer Wedermyer. "They should be personal and meaningful, if not also useful."

  • Summer Wedermyer Owner of Arch and Gable Home Design