Marie Flanigan's key to an elevated coffee table is all about vignettes – these are her simple steps for a 'curated' look

Follow these expert tips for a design-led coffee table display

living room with gray sofas and stone coffee table
(Image credit: Marie Flanigan Interiors/Photography Julie Soefer)

Coffee tables are often the focal part of a living room. While serving as a functional space to hold practical items, they also add design interest to a space when styled intentionally with decorative objects.

But knowing exactly where to start with your coffee table styling can be tricky: there's a fine line between looking curated and cluttered. Interior designer Marie Flanigan helps demystify the process, sharing simple steps she uses to ensure a considered and stylish coffee table decor display, and it's all about using vignettes.

Vignettes, a term used often in the interior design world, simply refers to where decorative items are intentionally grouped on any surface in a room, with the aim of adding design interest to a space. 

'A coffee table can be one of the most visual and styled aspects of a living room,' Marie tells H&G. 'I love styling coffee tables because they are a true reflection of their inhabitants.'

Marie continues to share some simple steps you can follow to help you on your way to achieving a curated look. To begin, she recommends grouping your table into sections according to its shape: 'Think of your table in sections. For a square table, you might delineate the surface into four sections. For a slimmer, rectangular table, it might be two.'

living room white white coffee table with vase of flowers and books

(Image credit: Marie Flanigan Interiors/Photography Julie Soefer)

The next step is choosing which items to incorporate. There should be a balance between practical items you reach for daily, as well as added decor items that enhance visual appeal: 'When looking at your table, figure out what components serve your home while adding visual appeal.' 

You can then focus on displaying your selected items on each of the divided sections: 'Use the styling pieces to fill each section or vignette. For a lot of clients, they incorporate a small floral arrangement or bud vase, a tray for organizing remote controls or coasters, coffee table books for height topped with a small bowl, a large ceramic for texture, and even a décor piece like glass beads. Creating separate vignettes gives the table a thoughtful and curated look that won’t feel cluttered.'

Marie Flanigan
Marie Flanigan

Marie Flanigan is an award-winning interior designer whose passion and achievements in design have positioned her as one of the nation’s best. She is classically trained and practiced architect, and her trademark style is evident through the sophisticated use of color, texture, and light. Every home she designs receives her personal signature of timeless elegance and innovative simplicity.

As Marie implies above, make sure to consider height when choosing items for your coffee table. If everything is of the same height, it can end up looking flat, whereas experimenting with layering items of different heights creates a more visually balanced look. 

Below, we've rounded up some decor items for you to shop which would make for stylish additions to your coffee table display. If you're not sure where to start, think about items that are meaningful to you, as a coffee table should always reflect the interests of the homeowner. 

Paint & Color Editor

Emily is H&G's Paint & Color Editor, covering all things color across interior design and home decor. She joined the team in the summer of 2023, having studied Fashion Communication at university before working in various creative roles ahead of making the leap into interiors. She lives in Glasgow where she loves admiring the city's architecture, frequenting her favorite coffee spots, and sourcing vintage furniture for her tenement apartment. Emily's interior style is inspired by the simplicity of midcentury design, mixed with more playful modern pieces that inject small (but bold) doses of color.