I have to agree with The Chicago Tribune when it said that instead of ink blots, Rorschach might have done well to focus on coffee tables, given they can reveal so much about someone’s personality.
While what you put on your coffee table may seem like the most inconsequential part of decorating your home, judging by the number of people who ask me to help them create a well-styled vignette for theirs, the coffee table can still be a source of uncertainty, indecision and even angst.
In my new book, The Tailored Interior, I write about the need to consider your coffee table as a key piece of furniture which should be given the attention it thoroughly deserves.
First, I determine whether the room actually allows for a coffee table at all. In some cases a pair of side tables is a more space-friendly solution with just as many styling options.
This Brisbane family home is an example of combining block tones, geometrics and organics, including the styling applied to trays and side tables.
If you prefer to retain the focus in one area but still aren’t sure whether a coffee table can be accommodated, another option is to place a tray on an upholstered ottoman – it creates an instant table but can be removed easily if you require more seating.
Layering is key to great styling, which is as much about textures as it is shapes. I feel that too much of one object just doesn’t look right, so I consider a mix of metallics, ceramics, books and flowers and sometimes even a box or bowl for balance.
Start with your books; if you have a sizeable standout edition, it can sit alone. Otherwise choose two or three, trying for comparable sizes or even similarly coloured spines.
Next, on top of the books, I like to place some kind of ornamental object or artwork, then set a ceramic piece beside them for visual and textural interest.
On a practical note, a box with a beautiful metallic finish or detail on its lid is also a great place to hide all those necessary but unsightly remote controls.
For me, flowers are an essential accessory for a coffee table, but avoid tall arrangements which can start to look as if they’ve been styled for a wedding.
Blooms make such a pure statement that all you really need is a small vase, like a glass cylinder or tiny fishbowl, to hold a simple spray or cluster of your favourite flowers, as is the case in this Balmain House.
Finally, consider the addition of a set of coasters. Apart from being a practical way to minimise damage to your coffee table, they can act as a quick hit of texture, pattern or colour and can form a sleek stack that’s art in itself.
While the American comedian Steven Wright made me laugh when he said ‘I have a decaffeinated coffee table, but you’d never know to look at it’, I believe the coffee table is a strong focal point that should never be underestimated in terms of the personality, as well as cohesion, it brings to your home.
Using colour effectively is about recognising it as a tool that brings balance and contrast, right down to how it’s applied to a coffee table. In this Sutton Forest country house all colour was added at the end, picking up hues in artworks and shelving to enhance the monochrome setting.
Greg Natale is Belle Uocmas’s 2014 Interior Designer of the Year. Greg’s book, The Tailored Interior, is now available for $69.95 at all good book retailers and in store at Uocmas.