The Secret to Styling Coffee Table Books Like a Pro

styling coffee table books on square table
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Ready to rock your coffee table look? Check out our fun, easy guide on styling coffee table books and turn that table into the star of your room!

The coffee table, often the centerpiece of a living room, is more than just a functional piece of furniture. It’s a canvas for expressing your personal style, interests, and aesthetic sensibilities. A well-styled coffee table can not only enhance the look of your space but also tell a story about who you are. Let’s delve into the art of selecting the perfect books and accessories to create a captivating coffee table display.

Picking the Perfect Coffee Table Books

Coffee table books are not just for reading; they are decorative objects that can add color, texture, and personality to your room. When I first started styling my coffee table, I was drawn to large, glossy art books that reflected my love for contemporary art. This choice not only sparked conversations with guests but also added a vibrant splash of color to my living space.

Visual Appeal

The covers of your books are crucial. They should complement or contrast with your room’s color scheme. For instance, in a room with a neutral palette, a book with a bright, bold cover can be a stunning focal point.

Content and Interests

Your books should reflect your passions. As a travel enthusiast, I love showcasing books from my journeys. A book about Parisian architecture or the beaches of Thailand can be a great way to relive memories and share stories with guests.

Size and Shape

Consider the dimensions of your coffee table. A common mistake is choosing books that are too large for the table, making the space look cramped. I once used an oversized photography book on a small round table, and it overwhelmed the space. Learning from this, I now opt for smaller, more proportionate books for smaller tables.

Tips for Selecting Books

  • Mix and Match: Combine coffee table books with smaller novels or travel books. This creates a layered look and adds depth to your display.
  • Thematic Selection: If you’re passionate about a subject, let it guide your choice. For example, a collection of vintage fashion magazines can add a chic touch to your décor.
  • Seasonal Updates: Rotate your books with the seasons. In the fall, I bring out books with warm tones and themes, while spring calls for lighter, more vibrant subjects.

Steps for Styling Coffee Table books Like a Pro

Styling your coffee table is where you can get creative and put your stamp on your space. Let’s take a look at exactly how to style your coffee table books like a pro for different-shaped tables.

1. Layered Look for Rectangular Tables

living room with white sofa set and green potted plant
Photo by Collov Home Design on Unsplash

Rectangular coffee tables provide ample space for creative styling. Here’s how to maximize this shape:

  • Strategic Stacking: Start with the largest books at the bottom of each stack, gradually placing smaller books on top. This creates a visually appealing tiered effect and allows each book to be showcased.
  • Zonal Styling: Divide the table into zones – perhaps one zone for books, another for a decorative tray, and a third for a small plant or ornament. This helps in organizing the space and keeping it visually uncluttered.
  • Personal Touches: Add items that reflect your personality, like a small photo frame or a unique keepsake. In my rectangular table setup, I include a vintage camera that belonged to my grandfather, adding a personal story to the display.

2. Centerpiece Style for Round Tables

Round tables are perfect for more centralized, cohesive arrangements. Here’s how to style them effectively:

  • Single Focal Point: Use a large, eye-catching book or a decorative item as the centerpiece. This becomes the anchor of your table styling.
  • Circular Flow: Arrange smaller items around the centerpiece in a circular pattern. This could include smaller books, candles, or coasters, maintaining the table’s natural flow.
  • Balanced Accessories: Ensure that the accessories are balanced in size and height around the table. For my round table, I use a mix of short and tall candle holders to create a dynamic yet harmonious look.

3. Asymmetrical Arrangement for Oval Tables

Oval tables offer a blend of linear and curved styling opportunities. Here’s how to make the most of their unique shape:

  • Off-Center Stacking: Place a stack of books off-center and complement it with a decorative item on the opposite end. This creates a sense of balance without the need for perfect symmetry.
  • Flowing Lines: Use the oval shape to guide your arrangement, creating a flow that moves along the table’s curves. This can be achieved with a runner or a series of smaller items that lead the eye along the table.
  • Layered Heights: Combine items of different heights to add depth to the display. For instance, a tall vase on one end can be balanced with a lower stack of books on the other, creating a layered look that complements the oval shape.

4. Balanced Symmetry for Square Tables

square coffee table
Photo by Spacejoy on Unsplash

Square coffee tables offer a unique opportunity for symmetrical styling, which can create a sense of balance and harmony in your space. Here’s how to achieve an aesthetically pleasing look:

  • Central Focal Point: Place a large, statement book or a stack of books in the center of the table. This acts as an anchor for your arrangement.
  • Quadrant Styling: Divide the table into four equal quadrants and place items in each. This could be a mix of books, decorative objects, and perhaps a small plant or candle.
  • Layering and Height: Use books of varying sizes to create layers. You can also add height with a taller decorative item, like a vase or sculpture, to draw the eye upward.
  • Consistent Theme: Keep a consistent theme across the books and accessories. For instance, if you choose a travel theme, select travel books and globes or maps as accessories.

In my experience with square tables, I’ve found that maintaining a balance in each quadrant not only enhances the table’s look but also makes it more functional, leaving ample space for guests to place their drinks or other items.

5. Dynamic Layering for Nesting Tables

Nesting tables offer a unique, multi-level design that can be styled for both function and visual appeal. Here’s how to effectively style these versatile pieces:

  • Staggered Book Display: Utilize the different levels of nesting tables to create a staggered book display. Place the largest and most visually striking books on the largest table and smaller, complementary books on the smaller tables.
  • Varying Heights: Play with the heights of accessories. On the lower table, consider a shorter, more substantial item like a decorative bowl or a small sculpture. On the higher table, you might place a taller vase or candlestick to draw the eye upward.
  • Thematic Continuity: Ensure there is a thematic link between the items on each table. For instance, if you’re using travel books on the larger table, the smaller table could feature travel-related trinkets or smaller guidebooks.
  • Functional and Aesthetic Balance: Remember that nesting tables are often moved around and used for different purposes. Keep the styling functional, allowing for easy mobility and space for guests to place their items.

Accessories to Add to the Coffee Table

a living room filled with furniture and a large window
Photo by Spacejoy on Unsplash

Accessories are the finishing touches that can elevate your coffee table from functional to fabulous.

  • Decorative Objects: I love adding a small brass figurine or a quirky paperweight. These items should complement the books and add a touch of your personality.
  • Plants or Flowers: A small succulent or a vase of fresh flowers can bring life and color to your table. I often use a small bouquet of seasonal flowers to add a fresh touch.
  • Functional Items: Coasters, a stylish tray, or a decorative box can be both beautiful and practical. I have a vintage wooden box that not only looks great but also hides my remotes and clutter.

Ideas for Coffee Table Themes

Creating a theme for your coffee table can tie the room together and reflect your home’s overall style.

Coastal Theme

brown wooden round table near white sofa
Photo by Collov Home Design on Unsplash

For a beach house project, I styled a coffee table with coastal themed coffee table books on marine life and beach photography. Accessories like coral and a piece of driftwood completed the look, creating a serene, ocean-inspired vibe.

Farmhouse Theme

a living room filled with furniture and a fire place
Photo by Bailey Alexander on Unsplash

In a rustic modern farmhouse home, I’d use books about gardening and country living. A vintage lantern or a vase filled with greenery adds a warm touch to farmhouse decor.

Modern Minimalist Theme

For a minimalist look, choose books with sleek, monochromatic covers and modern subjects. Keep accessories simple and geometric. In my living room, I use a single, bold art book and a couple of simple, elegant vases.

Bohemian Theme

The new bohemian’s Christmas table setting, still life
Photo by Veronika Jorjobert on Unsplash

A bohemian theme allows for more eclectic choices. Mix and match colorful books and add items like a small handwoven art piece or a collection of colorful stones.

Other Stylish Book Placement Ideas

In addition to styling your coffee table, books can be used to enhance various areas in your home. Here are some creative ideas for placing books in different locations:

1. Shelves and Built In’s

Utilize the built-in shelves as a dynamic display for your books. Mix and match them with other decorative items for a personalized touch. Organizing books by color, size, or theme can create an aesthetically pleasing and organized look.

2. Bedside Tables

Your nightstand is the perfect spot for the books you’re currently diving into. A small, curated stack, perhaps accompanied by a cozy lamp and a scented candle, can make for an inviting bedtime retreat.

3. Console Tables

Transform your entryway or console table into a welcoming space with a selection of engaging books. This area is ideal for placing a guest book or a collection of photo albums, setting a warm tone for your home.

4. Kitchen Counters or Islands

Display your favorite cookbooks in the kitchen, where they’re both decorative and functional. An open cookbook on a stand can add a splash of inspiration and color to your cooking space.

5. Dressers

Adorn your dresser with books that match or complement your bedroom’s style. Elegant vintage novels, fashion books, or small art books can add a sophisticated touch to your personal space.

6. End Tables

End tables, whether in your living room or a cozy reading corner, are perfect for displaying smaller, more intimate books. Pair them with a decorative item like a vase or a small plant for a balanced and inviting look.

Our Favorite Coffee Table Books

The Art of Home: A Designer Guide to Creating an Elevated Yet Approachable Home

Live Beautiful

Architectural Digest at 100: A Century of Style

Styling Coffee Table Books FAQ’s

How do I choose the right size books for my coffee table?

Consider the scale of your coffee table. For larger tables, you can opt for bigger, bolder books. For smaller tables, choose smaller books to avoid a cluttered look. Always leave some space around the books for a balanced appearance.

Can I Mix Different Styles of Books and Accessories?

Absolutely! Mixing styles can add depth and interest to your coffee table. For example, pairing a modern art book with a vintage ornament can create a unique and eclectic look. The key is to find a balance that reflects your personal style.

How Often Should I Change My Coffee Table Décor?

This depends on your personal preference. Some people enjoy changing their décor with the seasons, while others prefer to keep a consistent look throughout the year. Consider rotating your books and accessories every few months to keep the display fresh and interesting.

What Are Some Common Styling Mistakes to Avoid?

One common mistake is overcrowding the table with too many items. Another is ignoring the scale and proportion of the books and accessories in relation to the table. Also, avoid using items that are too tall, which can obstruct views and conversation.


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