The Effortless Way to Style a Coffee Table

It’s easy for designers and home stagers to do it. Here’s how designers and home stagers do it. It will draw attention, regardless of whether you want it to. So don’t overlook its decorative potential.ImageStudio AK uses light-colored accessories on dark tabletops to create contrast.Credit…David Mitchell”In the same way that walls feel empty without art, coffee tables feel empty without anything on them,” said Anna Baraness, a founder of Studio AK, an interior design firm in New York. A well-designed coffee table makes a home feel complete and works in a larger context. Your coffee table should not be used as a place to store remote controls, mail, and other items that don’t belong in your home. Home stagers and interior designers manage to find the perfect balance between function and decoration, styling coffee tables in a way almost effortless. How do they do it? ImageLeia T. Ward of LTW Design said that it’s important to include a natural element into your coffee table design. In addition to plant cuttings, Ms. Ward sometimes fills bowls with hunks of moss-laden earth for a burst of green.Credit…Andrea CarsonPlay With ScaleWhen you’re adding accessories to a coffee table, “it’s important to have different heights,” said Leia T. Ward, the founder of LTW Design, an interior design and staging firm in Ridgefield, Conn. “That brings the eye in and creates interest.”To ensure some variation is present, “we always start with the tallest item,” Ms. Ward said, “which, if not a big sculpture, tends to be a tall vase or a medium-size vase with oversized branches.”Mr. Mazzarini explains how the viewer’s eyes will move between the objects. He said, “Some people see it as a still-life, but I think it more like typography.” I think of things as a series of objets that are arranged in a way that the eye can rest. You should choose books that reflect your interests, such as favorite artists, places, and designers. On a larger table or in a room with a maximalist design, many designers will create a few low stacks, “with the biggest on the bottom and smallest on top, like a pyramid,” Mr. Mazzarini said.Image”Chop and drop”: for a casual look, Jonathan Rachman recommends filling individual vases with a single type of flower.Credit…Suzanna ScottFor each stack, “two books are great, and three books are fine,” he said, but he advised against going much higher. He uses these stacks often to elevate bowls, vase or other sculptural objects. He also removes the dust jackets from the stacks to reveal the textured covers beneath. She said that she usually puts the books I am most interested in on the table. It’s almost like I have another painting in the room. It’s almost as if there is another painting in the room. BHDM has used wooden eggs and woven baskets. ImageMr. Rachman has used trays to display collections of interesting objects.Credit…David Duncan LivingstonThe best choices, however, are pieces that mean something to you personally.”A coffee table represents who you are as a host and a homeowner,” said Jonathan Rachman, an interior designer based in San Francisco, whose book, “Currently Classic,” will be published in September. “Your style, your spirit and your story.” Or if my coffee table is a tufted oval ottoman I would bring in a brass metal.Studio AK uses darker accessories such as candleholders and trays on light tables and vice versa. Kristin Tarsi is a partner in the firm. “High contrast is very important to me.” “We want to see variety, interesting textures and the light and dark.” Mr. Mazzarini explained that coffee table accessories are a low-risk way to experiment in color. They can be used in the same way as throw pillows. You can also use a tray to hold small items like coasters or remote controls. Kristin Tarsi of Studio AK said that a tray can also be used to store water-filled vases, which could cause damage to wood tables. “You want something organic, something naturally.” A potted plant, a bowl full of succulents, or large-sized branches from a tree can all bring nature indoors to warm up a table. Ms. Ward often fills bowls with moss-laden soil to add a splash of color. It’s important to allow for some movement. “I was given an art-glass collection by my mother. I used to have the entire collection on the coffee table organized by height and color. After a while, I enjoyed it. Then I realized that I had been there and done that. She suggested that you will enjoy creating different coffee table vignettes. She said that if you love design, “you can keep things moving all of the time and enjoy it.” Subscribe to receive weekly email updates about residential real estate news. Follow us on Twitter at @nytrealestate