Coffee table decor ideas – 9 design rules for coffee table layouts and trends

Make your coffee table decor ideas the star of the show in any space they reside

Coffee table decor ideas
(Image credit: Lucie Ayres / Jamie Haller / Margaret Ash Design)

Getting the furniture right in a living room is one of the biggest challenges in design. This needs to be a practical space, whether for watching TV or creating good conversation. What you choose needs to be stylish and contribute to the personality and harmony of the space. This is where the coffee table truly shines – usually the central piece of furniture in a living or sitting room, the humble coffee table has a vital part to play in this family space. 

Coffee table styling is the finishing touch a living space. Often the last piece of furniture to be bought – after the sofa and storage – coffee tables are often, even unintentionally, the focal point of a living room, so finding the perfect coffee table décor ideas are a must.  

Coffee table decor ideas

In terms of size and height, let your living room furniture and existing living room layout be your guide. 

'Light and scale are other key ingredients to make a space feel good. If the furniture is too large, the whole place will feel cramped; while small pieces in a large room will make everything feel out of proportion,' says interior designer Minnie Kemp. 'The height of the furniture has to be just right. A coffee table should be no higher than 46cm – you shouldn’t feel as though you are making an effort to put your feet up!'

1. Think dynamically in a small space

White living room with storage coffee table, and tv unit with shelving against the wall

(Image credit: Margaret Ash Design / Julie Sperling)

'The key to making a small apartment living room comfortable is flexibility,' says Nathan Cuttle, interior designer and founder, Studio Nato. 'We like furniture arrangements that can be rearranged. Today, spaces are less static and furniture layouts should reflect this. Think ottomans that double up as coffee tables or lift-up designs that function as beautiful living room storage ideas.'

However, small living rooms should not be defunct of style. 'Be bold with your chosen coffee table and invest in a large-scale design to give the illusion that the room is grander than it is,’ says Mike Fisher, creative director and founder, Studio Indigo.

When planning a compact space, storage ideas should be a top priority. Whether you create built-in solutions or source freestanding designs. In this family room, designer Margaret Ash has included a central coffee table-cum-storage unit, making it the perfect addition for a small family room setup.

2. Invest in a solid wood design

Living room with wood frame windows and coving, blue painted walls and wood trim furniture

(Image credit: Jamie Haller / Lauren Moore)

Wood is, and has always been, a popular choice for coffee tables and other living room furniture ideas. However, now more than ever, wood coffee tables have come to the fore, with modern technologies enabling a plethora of patterns, textures and designs that weren't readily available before. 

Wood furniture is one of the most popular options for the home, with designers looking for a combination of durability and beauty for this busy, hardworking space. Heritage styles have also seen a huge revival in popularity, adding inviting, rustic texture and appealing intricate patterns to family and living rooms alike.

Strong and durable, solid wood is not the cheapest option, however, investing in a solid wood design can establish a timeless permanence to your space, as shown here in this design by Heidi Callier, where the wood furniture, baseboard and crown moldings were chosen to match the homes original millwork.

3. Go for a plush ottoman

Living room with twin sofas, fireplace and TV

(Image credit: Kathrn MacDonald / Liz Daly)

A coffee table doesn't always need to have a hard surface, in fact, investing a padded or upholstered design, also known as an ottoman, will add warmth, softness and texture to your decorating scheme.

One of the most common mistakes made when specifying an ottoman is to do with size, says interior decorator and fabric designer Susan Deliss. ‘If you are not sure about the size of the ottoman, fold an old sheet to the size you think might work and lay it on the floor in front of your furniture,’ recommends Susan. ‘Ask yourself, can you walk comfortably between it and your sofa or chair? Can your legs reach it if you sit on your sofa and want to put your feet on it?’

4. Keep it simple

White living room with minimalist furniture and blue couch

(Image credit: Genna Margolis / Amy Bartlam)

Minimalist living rooms can be tricky to get right, especially when it comes to choosing the right furniture. 

To maximize the feeling of space in a minimalist schemes, furnishings are usually limited to a handful of essential pieces and living room wall ideas are pared right back. Let your furniture take the lead, and remember that less is more when it comes to the furniture.

When choosing a coffee table, opt for striking forms and iconic designs to create a focal point, as demonstrated in this mid-century modern living room idea, designed by Genna Margolis, interior designer and founder of Shapeside.

To style a minimalist coffee table, consider using the coffee table books trend for functional, yet sophisticated decor. 

5. Introduce texture 

Living room with glass doors and woven coffee table

(Image credit: Lucie Ayres / Noah Webb)

Using texture in interior design is essential, and is, quite literally, woven into the fabric of a designer's vocabulary and practice. Creating texture is not simply just about how furnishings feel, but it's also about 'visual texture' – using different materials to add interest and breathe life into a room. 

However, when we think about textural elements, we don't usually correlate them to our furniture, but we should. In this light and bright space, designed by Lucie Ayres, principal designer at 22 Interiors, a textural coffee table takes center stage. 

'Quite simply, without texture, a space will fall flat,' says Lucie. 'It's crucial to look at the room as a whole and bring an area together with mixed materials for warmth and interest. It's a way of adding depth and dimension to a room as well as comfort.'

6. Think about positioning and layout

Living room with large coffee table and sofa

(Image credit: Margaret Ash Design / Tim D Coy)

Small room ideas may be limited on size but they can be big on style. Though tiny living rooms can present many interior design challenges, there are several benefits to compact living.

In a bijou space, the height of your furniture is key. ‘Furniture plays an essential role in how a space is received,' says James Thurstan, founder, Thurstan. 'When working with less spacious living room layouts, we recommend a considered curation of essential pieces. A central coffee table can create a focal point in a smaller room, best framed by inward-facing armchairs which help create depth and volume.’ 

7. Double up for maximum impact

Living room ideas TV, open shelving either side and white walls

(Image credit: J Patryce Design / Christian Harder)

If space allows, double up with dual coffee tables. In this formal living room, curated by Joan Enger, principal designer at J. Patryce Design, the nest of coffee tables are wide-reaching enough for every guest to use in comfort.

To avoid the room from feeling overcrowded or chaotic, Joan has kept the color scheme in tune with the rest of the space for a design that is neat, seamless and perfectly tailored.

8. Opt for a cylindrical design

Living room with large pendant, round coffee table and l sofa

(Image credit: Mary Jo Fiorella / Joy Coakley)

Full-on voluptuous or gently rounded, a cylindrical coffee table will lift the layout and soften the overall look of your room, adding a gentle touch of shaping to your living room décor.

In this space, designed by Mary Jo Fiorella, her use of gentle curves offer that touch of individuality that everyone is searching for, softening the lines in the interior to create a much more welcoming space. 

9. Invite a natural aesthetic into your home

Design tips, The Expert, Living room

(Image credit: Katie Charlotte Photography/Cortney Bishop)

If you desire a space inspired by the natural beauty of the planet, then look no further than a raw wood coffee table. There is just something oh-so wonderful about working with wood. The joy of designing with wood is that it’s flexible, versatile and will help you stamp your style on your lounge, whether it is a homage to modern living or a nostalgic nod to the past.

There is nothing more beautiful than the natural grains of different woods, especially when paired with the enduring appeal of steel, as seen in this serene space, designed by Cortney Bishop. Elegant, understated and effortlessly chic, a combination of raw wood, woven materials and natural textures is a timeless choice that will you will love for years and years.

Woven materials, solid wood, creative color and curvaceous design is set is currently trending for coffee tables.

The growing focus in design on products made from wood and stone is not just to do with a revival of interest in craft; in a world increasingly dominated by synthetic materials and virtual reality, natural materials add a human dimension to our environment that may have beneficial effects on our health and happiness. 

We are also seeing a new requisite for coffee tables that brings texture to a scheme, sparking a revival in woven forms, from sculptural bamboo to Seventies-inspired cane coffee and side tables.  

Jennifer Ebert

Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.