Big Trends Small Spaces: 4 steps to an aesthetically pleasing coffee table

Written by Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a senior digital writer for stylist.co.uk, who enjoys writing about homeware (particularly candles), travel, food trends, restaurants and all the wonderful things London has to offer.

In Big Trends Small Spaces we’ll be recreating the most popular interior design trends on Instagram in rented homes and compact flats. This week, writer Megan Murray tries creating a coffee tablescape in just four steps.

I used to think that doing your coffee table proud meant buying a fancy photography book, laying it next to a coaster and maybe lighting a scented candle.

But since the obsession with homeware has skyrocketed in lockdown and I’ve immersed myself in the ever-increasing examples of beautifully styled homes on Instagram, I’ve noticed that when it comes to an aesthetically pleasing coffee tablescape, layering is key.

Some of my favourite inspiration sources are the accounts of people like Michelle Driscoll, who uses pale colours and glossy objects to create a put-together, sleek and yet characterful look. 

I’m also obsessed with Zeena Shah, who shares ample pictures of her pink-hued home on her interiors-focused account. She leans into a cluttered feel, bursting with colours, creativity and lots of trinkets.

Over the last few months, using items I already owned and accounts like these for inspiration, I’ve found my groove with my coffee table. I’ve developed an aesthetic that’s easy to achieve and takes four simple steps.

Below I’ve explained, step by step, how I dress my coffee table and how you can recreate the look at home.




How to layer a coffee tablescape:

  • Step 1. Books

    Step 1. Books

    A good coffee tablescape is all about creating height in all the right places, and books are the perfect way to do this. 

    We all know the phrase ‘coffee table book’ but it’s in this set-up that this phrase takes on new meaning. You see, coffee table books tend to be big, weighty and hardback, meaning they can add depth and make a good base for other decorative pieces to be layered on top. 

    In this instance I’ve used five books, but you could go for more and cover the entire surface of your table. 

    Top tip: I’ve also opted for a tonal theme and used books that are mostly pink. This is an easy way to make the scape look succinct, but definitely isn’t essential. 

  • Step 2. Candles

    Step 2. Candles

    Candles are one of, if not the, biggest homeware trends to come out of lockdown. Scores of women have, quite inspiringly, set up their own businesses in the face of furlough or redundancy with so many of them being sculptural or hand-painted candles. 

    Personally, this is a trend that I have gone wild for. I’ve purchased both longer dinner candles to present in pretty candle holders, and chunky, sculptural candles that can stand on their own two feet.

    Here, I’ve used a mix to create different levels which makes the scape more interesting to look at. The last thing we want is for the set-up to look flat.

    Top tip: Utilise the small, female-founded candle businesses on Instagram when buying your candles. Some of my favourites are Cocolulu, Bridie and Kenduru.

  • Step 3. Decorative objects

    Step 3. Ornaments

    Decorative objects are an important step as they fill niggly spaces and give your coffee tablescape some personality. 

    Easy ways to do this are with a vase, tray, trinket dish, jug or, as I have, with a huge fake cake. I think this is an opportunity to have some fun and if you’d like a fake cake of your own, scroll down to the shopping gallery at the bottom of this article where you can request your bespoke colourway from Happy [email protected] Cakes. 

    Other great places to pick a decorative object are Oliver Bonas, Goodhood, Kiosk48th or Fabrek. Balance your chosen pieces atop of books or on the table, inbetween other items.

    Top tip: Go maximalist with this step. I’ve aimed for a half-cluttered look but this is just the beginning. Think more is more.

  • Step 4. Flowers

    Step 4. Flowers

    And finally, flowers. A bunch of colourful blooms literally breathes life into a coffee tablescape and in my book is a must. 

    I avoid placing my flowers in the centre of the table as I often find that this can overshadow or crowd the other items. Instead I like to pick a side, usually furthest away from the door, so that you can see smaller pieces.

    Tulips are definitely the flower of the moment, a trend which I’ve seen all over Instagram and is a muse for many homeware brands and indie makers. 

    Top tip: If you don’t have a big, fancy vase just use a cute juice glass instead. I love this one from Anthropologie x Hotel Magique’s collaboration.

Watch it in action:

Be a fly on the wall in Megan’s living room and see how she organises her coffee table from start to finish.

Shop the trend

Hankering for any of the homeware pieces Megan used in her coffee table set-up? Shop her edit below.

Happy [email protected] Cakes / £40

Peach and pink cherry fake cake

Sevenoaks Bookshop / £32

Wes Anderson The Iconic Filmmaker and His Work

Los Objetos Decorativos / £56

Seashell box

Studio Arhoj / £17

Ceramic ghost

Anthropologie / £32

Starry glass taper candle holder

Hero Creates / £27

Trio of candles

Studio Dine / £12

Marbled candle

Char Concept / £26

Ophelia curvy candle holder

Anthropologie x Hotel Magique / £10

Cou Cou juice glass

Luke Edward Hall / £45

Greco Disco The Art & Design

originALStudio / £19.99

Pink vintage teacup candle

Rosily / £8

Cosmos candle

Images: Megan Murray / courtesy of brands

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