A reader wrote in asking for help with styling her living room. In this first of three posts to address her questions, I address her round coffee table.

Round tables can be tricky to style and seem to stump a lot of people. The goal is to create a display that is pleasing from all angles. We’ve broken down what we do into steps for you.

Step 1: Visually divide up the area into thirds:

You can divide it into quarters but I find thirds easier to make an arrangement that is pleasing from all directions.

Step two:

Place the first item. I start with a large bowl or flowers or other decorative object to repeat the round shape.

Step three:

Add a low flat grouping of items item to break up the “round-ness”. Start with large coffee table books or a tray (or both), and add a layer of texture.

Step 4: Add a third element

This is the time to vary the height and add interest with a pair or set of objects. Candlesticks will work quite nicely, or any smaller decorative or sculptural objects that please you. This is the time to balance out heights. Be sure to look at your arrangement from both sitting and standing height to see whether it needs height in this third placement or a mid-height element.

Here’s a round coffee table we styled a while back. A round tray was what the homeowner had for this coffee table below so we worked with it. Books help to break up the round-ness here, and mid-height objects add variety and break up the flatness. Seeing it now, I would like to add a plant to add some full-ness and a bit of height closer to the sofa. A maiden hair fern would work nicely here.

Old Mill coffee table styling
Old Mill coffee table styling

Another round coffee table example:

Cape Cod style, coffee table styling
Cape Cod style, coffee table styling

Notice there is still open space to place a drink or small plate. Even in a more formal room like this, it still needs to provide a functional surface.

Our reader’s coffee table has two tiers which presents a new challenge. Generally, we like to keep the detail and interest on the top surface, add balance on the bottom with simple larger pieces. We suggest she place either one large object on the lower shelf like a large flat bowl, or two simpler groupings to contrast with the three above.  They shouldn’t compete, but quietly stand alone.

The reader has done a really nice job here. I would just suggest a third candle in the grouping below (there may be one hidden behind, we can’t tell from this photo). Items are usually most pleasing when grouped in 3’s and 5’s unless it is clearly a matched pair. Here, 3 works better for a circular composition.

So here is a sketch of suggestions for my reader, if her table is big enough. A small round table like hers may not be able to accommodate that many pieces on top and still function as a place to put drinks. In that case it is okay to have a single statement bowl on top just like she has. Create interest in the lower shelf with a stack of coffee table books, a bowl, and three small orbs or candles.

Here are a few great trays, coffee table books, and other accessories to dress up your coffee table. You can order any of them by simply clicking on the picture of the item.

*** My standard disclaimer: Please note, some of these items may be offered through affiliate links which means I could get a small commission if you order. That will never influence what I find lovely and want to share with you. I always offer suggestions I would buy for my home or recommend to a client. Also, rest assured it won’t affect the price you would otherwise pay.