Creating A Coffee Table Display (In The Real World)

I’ve seen those gorgeous “how to style your coffee table” tutorials, too. Thing is, I don’t own a carefully curated selection of stunning art books. Any adorable little trinkets that I set out may or may not be immediately shattered. And I have sixty thousand remotes, all of which are apparently necessary to make our television function (whyyyy?).

So as lovely as those tutorials are, they do not apply to a life that contains far more toy cars than crystal candleholders.

Presenting: my kind of coffee table display.

First of all, my tray.

I love my tray.

It’s cowhide, and I think it’s very fancy and expensive, but I found it at T.J.Maxx for about fifteen bucks and got Christmas morning-style excited. A coffee table tray, while functional, is also kind of an art piece and prominently displayed in your home, so I’d go for something dramatic and substantial: look for luxe materials (marble, mirrors, the aforementioned cowhide, metal detailing) and/or a cool shape.

That said, best to go for a tray with sides if you have kids running around. Just saying.

(Some suggestions for you – including a couple of options similar to the one I own – above.)

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1. Something odd. Every good coffee table tray needs something weird on it, like a random green hand. This one – found at an antique shop in the middle of nowhere during one of my PCH adventures this summer – doubles as a sunglasses holder, which is nice.

2. Something for those remotes. My favorite remote-wrangler: a beautiful candle holder that no longer contains candle. I never throw pretty votives out once I’m done burning them – they come in handy for storing everything from paper clips and jewelry to makeup brushes and cotton balls.

3. Something good-smelling. As a candle alternative (since coffee tables and candles and kids don’t always go together), try a rock fragrance in a cool, industrial-looking container (like this version from Mad et Len).

4. Something green. I think a flower or plant to give the space a little life is a must…but as we know, I can’t keep a plant alive to save my own life. And while succulents are a nice alternative for we plant-killers, my son recently saw Wall-E and now steals my succulents and puts them in his shoes and carries them around the house with him. (Really.) Which means they often end up spilled out on the floor, and it’s all not especially ideal. So: a fake succulent it is.

5. Something in a frame. The whole thing about a coffee table is you’re creating a personal display that’s unique to you and your family…so I think a photo or two in a small frame is essential.

6. Something to put drinks on. Add a couple of pretty coasters, just to give your guests somewhere to set their cocktails and coffee.

7. Something to read. And finally: I may not have art books, but I think leaving out something for guests to browse through is a nice touch. And if that item that you set out happens to double as blatant self-marketing, well, so be it.

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