Here's the reality - most coffee tables on any given day look like the one below. It's the catch all for everything - the junk drawer that's not in a drawer. But that's every day living. We're talking about for all the other times - the "company's coming" look. Rather than wait until the last minute, plan out a few different tablescapes that you can pull together in a jiffy when necessary. The tips below will help you create a well balanced and interesting coffee table vignette in a snap.
The goal for a coffee table vignette is to tell a story, to stimulate the eye and conversation. The tablescape is an opportunity to share with your guests details of your individuality as you gather around it. The overall mis-en-scene is meant to catch their eye, from a distance. And then as they move closer in, moments of discovery unfold in the details.
While the table above is not cluttered, it is not visually inviting nor interesting. And, is that a plastic water bottle vase? What's missing? Interestingly, there are items better suited for the table top right there on the shelf!
Here's THE key to a successful tablescape: Scale & Height are EVERYTHING - You can have the most exceptional and extraordinary objects on the table, but if scale and height aren't balanced and in harmony it won't look it's best. Vary the heights so that each object is just a little bit shorter than the next tallest item. This keeps items from feeling disjointed.
Make it personal - give folks something to talk about, something to stimulate conversation, something that has a story. Whether they be collectibles, travel finds, interesting books, or beautiful flowers - have a personal connection to them, a story that makes them special to you.
Overcrowding: Leave plenty of room on the table for actually using the surface for something other than display. If you don’t leave room for a coffee cup, the table will appear awkward and will not be useful to you. Make table tops pretty & useful!
A Place for Whimsy and the Unexpected: unusual pieces or a piece that is in stark contrast to the other objects on the table. Try opposites: pair smooth with rough, shiny with dull, old with new, round with square, organic with man-made.
I think the vignette above is the perfect example and serves as a handy reference guide. It's got height, rough & smooth, neutral and colorful, visual interest and creates a classicly themed story. Trays are a great way to frame a tablescape and here the table itself does the job quite nicely.
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