07 October 2009

How to Decorate a Coffee Table

Are you the type of person who instinctively knows how to arrange your bits and baubles on a coffee table (or bookshelf, or sideboard, or whatever) in a way that looks beautiful? Or are you the type of person who arranges a bunch of junk on your table and it looks like, well, a bunch of junk?

Country Living

I would say that I'm somewhere in the middle. Over time, I've learned how to arrange my junk in a way that looks pretty and doesn't scream "Thrift store junk for sale!!!!"

I know. I'm deep. I could have been working on world peace and instead I was arranging tsotchkes.

One of the ways to get better at the art of arranging is to copy displays by people who know what they're doing. I'm not suggesting that you go to Pottery Barn and buy everything in their beautiful display. But it is helpful to find a picture from a catalog and look at the size, scale and type of things in the display and try to create something similar with stuff you already have.

For example, here the Pottery Barn version:

Let's see...big tray, stacked books, small flower arrangement and some other little junk. Got it.

Here's my version...

  • Big rattan tray from the thrift store (I honestly have no idea why I bought this. I think I was planning to turn it into a table but it's just been sitting in the basement.)
  • Lots of pretty books from my grandpap
  • Lid from a funky green urn...Somehow I managed to lose the urn but I still have the lid. How does that happen?
  • Glass vase filled with beach pebbles and fake flowers. I'm not usually a huge fan of fake flowers, but these sunflowers aren't too bad. And mixed with some nice fake leaves, they're totally tolerable.
  • Pinecone and candles

See how the size, shape and scale of the things in my display are similar to the PB picture? I didn't buy anything new. I just scrounged around through what I already had.

Next one...Ballard coffee table

Hmmmmm...Ceramic urn with sunflowers, some kind of basket and a wooden bowl. OK, let's try this...

My version...

  • Galvanized metal ice bucket stuffed with faux leaves
  • Wooden dough bowl filled with pinecones
  • Bronze bowl/urn thing from Nester's Swap Meet

Again, the size and scale are similar even though the actual stuff is totally different.

Last one...Pottery Barn table


This one's easy...Wooden tray and metal bowl filled with apples. Stack of magazines with a rock. You gotta love it when PB starts decorating with rocks. Recession anyone?

My version:

  • Wooden tray from TJ Maxx...I grabbed it for $7.99 a couple of months back.
  • Bread basket filled with pinecones...That silly basket is precious to me because it came home with me from our honeymoon.
  • Stack of magazines
  • Rock from the backyard

I think this last one is my favorite. Mostly because it stands that greatest chance of surviving my boys and because it allows me to claim that my stacks of magazines are display worthy.

Now go arrange something.

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91 comments {Click here to leave a comment}:

Gina @ The Shabby Chic Cottage said...

You rock out loud like a llama! (Which is the ultimate compliment says my 16 year old daughter.)

I have PB catalogs. I have Pier 1 catalogs. I can be a copy cat (just ask Sarah at A Beach Cottage). I can do this.... as soon as I get home.

Melissa Miller said...

I LOVE the tray idea! I'm totally inspired today. Thank you kimabe!

Many Blessings and Happy Fall!
~Melissa :)

Melissa Miller said...

Kimba! Oops...:)

Living With Lindsay said...

Awesome job, Kimba!

Amber B. said...

Great post!!! Love your versions. And you are too funny about the recession and the rock. :-D

Erin said...

nicely done! sadly, i can't have ANYTHING on my coffee table. my 11 month old will destroy it all. someday...

southerninspiration said...

Simple and sweet....I can copy!! :)

Suzanne

Laura Ingalls Gunn said...

Take a moment to pat yourself on the back. This was a clever post that will empower many! Well done.

Tammy@InStitches said...

Your versions are dead on.... You go girl !

Jennifer said...

I look at arrangements all the time and never think about recreating them with things I have on hand. What wonderful inspiration you have shared. Thank you for sparking my creativity. Now I will be off to "copy" a look for my mantle!

Pam said...

OK, Kimba, I really loved this post. Actually, I love this so much that words fail me. Now I just to get a coffee table....

Summer said...

Really inspiring. It's amazing what one can dig up in the basement.

linda @ Craftaholics Anonymous said...

Looks terrific!

Susan said...

Great ideas. Now why didn't I think of that? Can't wait to try it out myself.

Suzan said...

Boys and a rock? You are a brave woman! :)

Amy Thue said...

Love this post. I am out of town. I can't wait to get home and rearrange some things.

shelly said...

I was wondering how you did it w/ boys in the house?!? I'd have to either decorate w/ things made out of rubber or dose them w/ benadryl all day!

Kathy C. said...

LOL - I'm sitting here in a hotel room thinking, hmmm...when I get home tonight I want to do my coffee table.

kimmcl said...

You didn't mention anything about rearranging your coffee table 1000 times a month....is this normal or do I have a problem? Oh and much thanks for the proper spelling of chachkies - darn, I should've written that down.

Flower Patch Farmgirl said...

I love it! I always wonder if PB and BD mind that I use their catalogs to scam ideas, rather than to order things. :)

Grami's girls said...

I love the ideas of the baskets on the coffee table. Thanks for sharing!

northern cottage said...

oh my word - how fabulous is this? What tricks you teach us - THANK YOU - beautiful!

Rose said...

It looks great!

randee said...

what a timely post!

i've been really struggling with how to decorate my coffee table so that it's attractive and kid friendly, both. with little hands banging on it every day, i needed help!

and, once again, kimba to the rescue!

thanks -

Amanda said...

great job, my favorite is the 7.99 tray. looks better than the PB version.

Love the Decor! said...

I love trays and I love your ideas!!
Have a wonderful day and thanks for inspiring us!!

AnNicole @ OurSuburbanCottage said...

Love this post! I'm pretty good at the big elements in a room, but I sometimes get stuck on the small stuff. In fact, I'm so bad that once I find an arrangement that works I keep it that way for a looong time. Bad decorator...bad...

Thanks again for the inspiration!

Jenny@ L.O.T.s of Love said...

Thanks for that! Exactly what I needed!

Miss Mustard Seed said...

I smiled at this post because decorating my coffee tables right now means to putting anything on them. I have two toddlers and anything within reach becomes a to or gets shoved on the floor. Maybe in a few years I can decorate below 3 feet again!

Aura said...

This motivates me to redecorate my coffee table! I've had the same basket of candles sitting on it for over a year!

Beth Peele said...

Love all those pictures. I love that your's is so clean and crisp. well done!

Anna said...

great ideas, and I think easy enough maybe I can decorate my coffee table, yay!

Julia @ Hooked on Houses said...

Love this post, Kimba. You gave some great examples of easy ways to copy a professional look at home.

Tamera said...

I love the Ballard table the best:)
These are great ideas and tips! You're right....just look around the house. You're sure to find something!
Tamera@doubledelight

melifaif said...

LOVE the funky green urn top! Glad you kept it. Very nice tips. Thank you!

duchess said...

They all look great but I think my fav is the first one. I'm off to scrounge for stuff.

Mimi@Life At Mimi's House said...

Kimba,

I love coming to your blog; I always leave inspired! Could you show us some ideas for table tops. I have an entry table that is getting out of control with "stuff" and it is really starting to show. Now I'm off to go rearrange the top of my coffee table right now!

Mimi

Rachel said...

I really like this! I wish I could do more with my coffee table, but I have a two-year-old and well, enough said! Thanks for your daily inspiration!

Jennifer Poppy said...

The one that can survive the boys is my fave, too, because we have 2 boys. Although right now our 1 year old wouldn't allow anything to survive within reach. So for now, I'll just look at everyone else's coffee table decor:) And I'm okay with that!

Carol in Indian Springs Village said...

A rock! I can totally handle that! That might be just the thing to keep the cat from knocking the magazines in the floor all the time. Great ideas...I'll be shopping at home tonight to put my coffee tables together.

Brittany said...

Thank you so much for this post! I'm currently sanding/staining/varnishing a coffee table that I got at Goodwill for $6.99, and I'm terrible at knowing what to put on it.
Then again, anything that I do put on it, my kids throw it around the room anyways =P
Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Great arrangements--I like your versions ten times more than PB!

cottagewish said...

I love your freshened up coffee table. I love your couch even better- looks so comfy. I just bought a new one last night and hope its a cozy as yours looks. I like the neutral pillows, blankets, etc you used.

Lynn from For Love or Funny said...

LOVE the coffee table photos, and LOVED seeing how you tried to mimic the results at home!!

Amanda @ Serenity Now said...

Ooooo---I like this post. I am SO NT GOOD with little arrangements and vignettes. But I am good at reading catalogs. ;)

There's a lot I can't do with a nosy toddler who is into everything...but I'll get there eventually. ;)

Maggie Whitley said...

Ohhh, beautiful! And I love your white walls, did you and hubbs do them together ;)

Gussy

heidi @ Wonder Woman Wannabe said...

Great tid-bits!! Thanks for sharing with photos - now, "I think I can, I think I can!!" ;)

Brittney said...

way to be inspiring :). I immensely enjoyed this post. I love the random uses for things like trays and baskets. I now really love my .49 black metal tray from goodwill. :)

Anonymous said...

You may not be deep but you are pure awesomeness! I love that you get to the point and put it in simplified laymens terms.

Designs on 47th Street said...

Fabulous post! You really did a great job mimicing pictures.

Ah hummm, I think your faux sunflowers are very nice! ;;)))

Any extra hints for a round coffee table?

Astrid said...

Funny!

I don't have a coffee table...Too many things for little kids to knock down and break or just bump into and hurt themselves. I think some day soon we'll invest (ie thrift store or CL) in another. Those are such lovely tablescapes but I wonder how long they'd last with kids running around???
LOL!

Maya@Completely Coastal said...

I love the idea of simply using a tray..., which I can remove too when my feet go on the table!

Craig, Blair and Turbo Skousen said...

Totally cute! I love all of them, but I agree, the last one is the coolest. I have to find me a nice rock! ...ohhhh and a coffee table!

Dianna said...

Good idea! I like to save photos from decor magazines in folders. They have come in handy giving me ideas when needed.

Melissa said...

Thanks for posting this! it's perfect timing, since just this week I was thinking how tired I was of looking at my coffee table the way it is!
I think a big hand carved walnut bowl would be awesome on a table too- i've been on the hunt for one.

Melissa said...

Thanks for posting this! it's perfect timing, since just this week I was thinking how tired I was of looking at my coffee table the way it is!
I think a big hand carved walnut bowl would be awesome on a table too- i've been on the hunt for one.

Southern Fried Gal said...

Awesome idea for a post. Great job on your displays and of course I love your wit, too!

Julie said...

I am a true stalker on your blog and this is ONE of my FAVS! Thanks for being so super smart and spot on! I am gidding decorating this table and even made a new side table based on one of the pics. Love you to pieces!

janet said...

My little piece of advice...Beware the tall decorative item that gets in the way of the TV...it will get kicked to the curb by any men in the house ;-) I learned the hard way!

TidyMom said...

Thanks for the "tip" for some reason I have the hardest time with our coffee table!

~TidyMom

Pamela said...

I guess now I may be inspired enough to finish painting the living room and do a display on our coffee table. I use to all the time until Oldest and Littliest were born. I guess now since they are older I can play again!:) As for the chandy at Home Depot ours did not even have anymore. It was the last one in display. I was trying to see how good of a deal I really got but I guess sometimes ya just have to let the bargain hunter step aside and get it if ya love it.

Cara said...

You make it look so easy! I love all the ideas! Now if I could just get my 2 year old son on board, we'd be set. The coffee table is currently truck central, which is not exactly the look I had in mind.

grannyann said...

Those are some neat arrangements. Thanks for so many ideas. I liked yours best.

Sharon said...

Great examples. It's like the "High" / "Low" examples you see in the magazines. Thanks.

Sparta Savings said...

Wow! this is great! Now I just need a coffee table!! I can't seem to find one anywhere for cheap! I've been on a mission. I have an old trunk that I may make my husband drag back upstairs, but with putting our house on the market, it takes up a lot of room! I did try the magazine stack next to my bed though! So glad I have an excuse for al my magazines now!!

Sweet Pea Kisses said...

Do you have any advice for decorating a coffee table with a little one around? My coffee table used to be so adorable and now there is nothing, I repeat NOTHING on it!

Lana said...

This post was just what I needed!!! I have always had the hardest time decorating my coffee table!! This helps me so much...thanks!

Beckie said...

Kimba - You did a great job! I'm usually one of those people who can just arrange things, so I wasn't sure I would enjoy this one. But you quickly showed me that I have a few things to learn! You did such a good job of replicating the "look" without copying it exactly.

Kimm at Reinvented said...

Such awesome advice, Kimba! I'm lovin' the rock too. A wise woman once told me to just tie some twine around my magazines and they become art. I loved that wise woman...

Sherri S said...

I LOVE all the ideas! I think I need to get a PB catalog! LOL

Abbie said...

Nice! That's really fun idea to look at something in a magazine and try to copy the idea or colors or size/shape! I've never thought of doing that, but now I'm going to surf the internet until I find something I like enough to copy - isn't imitation the sincerest form of flattery? (Did I get that right?)

glenda said...

Thanks for the tip.

About the rock though.. I could see that quickly crashing through a glass or a vase or a window in my house of boys.

Jen R. said...

Your rock comment made me laugh!

Amy {The Red Chair Blog} said...

What a great post! Your first copy cat tray is my favorite--love the mix of colors!

MM's typo in the comments(calling you "Kimabe" instead of Kimba) made me smile because at first I thought that she was trying to make a Karate Kid reference--you are the master teaching Daniel-San about decorating :)

jenjen said...

I love using trays on coffee tables. It makes everything look so organized and neat. I go crazy if there are piles all over the place.

Great tips!

XOXO
Jen

Wendy @ The Shabby Nest said...

My favorite line in the whole post...recession anyone? Love it. Yeah, when PB starts using rocks, you KNOW times are bad. HA ha!

Meredith said...

Kimba, this is one of your best posts yet!

Terri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Centsational Girl said...

You are a coffee table decorating queen ! And I LOL at the "recession anyone?" comment. Now if you could find a way to mix the lid from the urn (my fav) with the rock, that would be fab. Unfortunately, I cannot keep a large rock in my house on my coffee table. I have a three year old boy. Nuff said.

You are too cute,
xoxo
Kate

prashant said...

I LOVE the tray idea! I'm totally inspired today. Thank you kimabe!
Work From Home

Atelier de Charo said...

Great ideas for a coffe table!!!
Saludos
Charo

Merrie said...

These are great ideas! I have an ottoman with a tray on it, but nothing great on the tray. I now have a goal! If I get inspired, I'll post about it this weekend. :) Thanks Kimba!

Tubo Family said...

Great breakdown of the detail and love your comment on PB and recession!

Together We Save said...

Great coffee tables....if you could only see mine you would know how much I need this post!!

Tracey said...

Oh Sweet Kimba, THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

I will never forget going to my sister-in-laws house 5 years ago and seeing empty coffee and end tables. She has 3 kids and they used every table as a play table. As I was folding laundry yesterday, I realized, I have become my sister in law! Our 2 little ones have enjoyed free reign of our coffee and end tables, but it's time to take them back!

DakerMom said...

I love seeing how-to ideas for matching insanely expensive PB stuff with real, way more reasonable stuff that looks just as good! Funny, I actually did that very same idea in a post today too! Great ideas!!

jodi @ Pleasant Home said...

Very cool post Kimba!

Lisa @ Stop and Smell the Chocolates said...

Totally loving all of these ideas!!! You are so good! Hmmm...I need to go look at some catalogues! :)

Traci said...

I love it. I love all of them. I think the rock from the Pottery Barn idea is great mostly because with a four year old boy in the house, I always have rocks on hand, lol!

Those Magic Slippers Will Take You Home said...

i LOVE your Ideas! and i love the fact you are helping others in there decorating style! And Thank you for your help on decorating my soon to be new house!

Fiddle1 said...

I get how decorating a coffee table makes things sell or gives everyone a feeling of...whatever. But I fail to see the functionality of it. The Pottery Barn catalogues always make me laugh. You are right..your boys may tolerate the third one best. And it is the most functional b/c at least you can browse through your magazines. Seriously, why do people and magazines do this? It implies that a coffee table really isn't needed if you can put so much useless, space-taking stuff on it. Guaranteed these things will get pushed out of the way to make room for cups, current books being read, reading glasses, etc. And the fake flowers, pinecones and bowls will just gather dust eventually. I think these displays are best on shelves that people don't use often.