Photography courtesy of K. Butler Interiors.
It’s surprising what a little rearranging can do to change the way you experience your interiors, and as we enter the warm-weather season, now is an excellent time to update areas of the home where we spend a significant amount of time and that present an opportunity to reflect our current mindset. Since the coffee table is a prime place to start, we reached out to four interior designers for advice on how to style the surface in a way that feels fresh and inspiring. Here, they share tips for putting a spring in your step through some thoughtful elements and updates.
Don’t overthink it. Changing your coffee table decor—or any decor—seasonally keeps your home feeling fresh and intentional. “You’ll be surprised at how changing out your accessories and re-styling a space can change the whole feel of a room,” Lea Burton, principal and lead designer at Lea Honour Interiors in Charleston, South Carolina, says. “It’s a great way to make your space feel ‘new’ and exciting without having to purchase new items.” She notes that seasonal decor shifts don’t have to be over-the-top themed; rather, the changes can be as simple as using florals with colors that are fitting for the season or swapping out an object or two that is more fitting for the time of year.
Begin with a tray. It’s always a good idea to establish a foundation for your coffee table with a tray, recommends Kelly Butler, owner of K. Butler Interiors in Huntsville, Alabama. In addition to creating interest, a tray also has practical implications, like corralling items like remotes and other accessories. When it comes to making your selection, “Choose a tray that is a different shape or material from the table it sits on to add visual interest,” she recommends. And don’t hesitate to switch it out seasonally—for example, opt for something shiny for the winter, then use a more natural, earth tone, or brightly colored version for the warmer months.
Remember that books are essential. There’s a reason certain volumes are referred to as “coffee table books.” According to Mardie Engelhardt, owner of Architectural Interiors in Eagle, Idaho, every coffee table needs at least one large tome—preferably two or three. Butler notes that books give you a special opportunity to showcase your personal interests and hobbies, while Burton sees them as a way to mimic the seasons in terms of their color palettes. “My spring and summer books have pinks, greens, and blues on the spines and covers, whereas my fall and winter books tend to be more neutrals and deeper blue tones,” she says. Books also play an important role in terms of the architecture of the arrangement. “It’s important that everything is not at the same eye level,” Liz Royal, head interior designer at Robyn Branch Design in Charleston, South Carolina, says of the importance of varying degrees of height. Placing a unique object on a stack of books next to a simple floral arrangement allows your eye to wander and take in all the different layers.
Mix in nature. Butler believes a fresh floral element is a must. Flowers, cut greenery from the yard, or a potted plant will add life and texture to your room. Changing the flowers on your coffee table for each season is an easy way to mix things up, according to Burton. “Green hydrangeas are my favorite spring and summer flower to have on my coffee table,” she says. You can also incorporate objects that give subtle nods to the current season without being overly obvious, she adds, such as displaying shell pieces during the summer months.
Include an interesting object. Both Butler and Royal agree that one great way to inject your personality into your decor is by adding a quirky item to your coffee table. Whether that’s a sculptural object you love, a treasured souvenir from your travels, or just something you’re attracted to, it can serve as a conversation starter while adding some flair to the table. Anything goes—a vintage box, a small statue, a piece of coral, an interesting pair of vintage candlesticks…pick something that speaks to you and put it in the mix.
Bring in scent. Butler loves to add candles to her coffee tables in scents that are evocative of the current season—think peonies for spring and honeysuckle for summer. While the aroma itself is lovely, the ambiance is an added benefit as well. “A lit candle adds a festive glow and sets a beautiful tone for an impromptu gathering or conversation,” she says.
Keep kids and pets in mind. While a Pinterest-perfect coffee table might be a goal, Royal acknowledges that’s not always the way real life works, and certain considerations must be taken into account. “If there’s a chance kids or pets might be running around, I like to keep the styling simple with books or non-breakable objects like an acrylic tic tac toe set,” she says. Plus, if there are pets in your household, make sure that the florals or plants you put out are nontoxic, as coffee table height is accessible to most furry four-legged creatures.
TSG Tip 392 from Mardie Engelhardt, owner of Architectural Interiors in Eagle, Idaho; Lea Burton, principal and lead designer at Leah Honour Interiors in Charleston, South Carolina; Kelly Butler, owner of K. Butler Interiors in Huntsville, Alabama; and Liz Royal, head interior designer at Robyn Branch Design in Charleston, South Carolina. Architectural Interiors is featured in The Scout Guide Boise. Lea Honour Interiors will be featured in the upcoming The Scout Guide Charleston. K Butler Interiors is featured in The Scout Guide Huntsville. Robyn Branch Design will be featured in the upcoming The Scout Guide Charleston.