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Selecting and styling the perfect coffee table

  • Ideas & Inspiration
Jun 28, 2024
Glass coffee table – Beautiful Homes

Expert tips on creating a centrepiece for your living room that blends functionality and flair

At Beautiful Homes, we understand the importance of a well-curated home and with this guide, we focus on creating a fabulous centrepiece for your living room by selecting and styling the perfect coffee table. We’ve gathered insights from experts like Mohammed Afnan and Arun Shekar, principal designers at Humming Tree, known for their maximalist approach; designer Keerthika Surenthar of The Design Shop, who favours a minimalist style; and Gayathri Padmam of Aanai Design Studio, who seamlessly blends traditional and modern elements. Each of these designers, known to custom design and source interesting coffee tables and décor for their projects, offer practical tips and tricks that you can truly use to elevate your living room style.


Some Factors to Consider When Choosing a Coffee Table

1. Seating Layout and Room Size

Gayathri, who also runs Tusker Katha, a furniture design studio in Bangalore with partner Nikhil Haridas, says the seating layout is the most important factor to consider while choosing the size and shape of the centre table, followed by the overall area of the living room. “While most seating layouts are linear, introducing a circular coffee table can help break away from it, bringing in some softness to the space,” she explains. “In narrow spaces, an oval table could help with better circulation and ensure you don’t bump into sharp corners. Long rectangular tables are the best bet when you don’t have the space to add too many occasional tables or side tables.”

Circular coffee table – Beautiful Homes

Circular coffee table in a project by Garodia Group complements the minimal theme.

Avani coffee table – Beautiful Homes

The slender Avani table by Tusker Katha stands out with its curvy legs in this minimally designed living room. A handcrafted toy giraffe, a terracotta pot and a book complete the styling.

2. Shape and Functionality

A coffee table could either complement the overall style of the room or serve as a contrasting focal point. “A space comes together harmoniously only when every element in it fits in aesthetically and functionally,” explains Gayathri. “A coffee table definitely needs to speak the same design language as the rest of the room, but don’t shy away from making it a statement piece either!”

There’s a growing trend in experimenting with new shapes for coffee tables, turning them into almost sculptural, accent pieces. Unlike seating in the living area which requires prioritising comfort, the coffee table can be more playful or even edgy. For their last few projects Kozhikode-based Humming Tree design studio has designed some truly eclectic pieces including an orange-and-black, hourglass-shaped centre table for a technicoloured home and a striking black circular table that rests on giant, round beads for a seductive, noir-style living room.


Chennai-based Keerthika of The Design Shop has recently launched a furniture brand, Kae Living, and advocates for a more practical approach to coffee tables. For a family with young children, she designed a stylish, oblong table with curved edges and a scooping top to prevent spills.

Coffee table in black – Beautiful Homes

A sculptural coffee table in black PU paint stands out in this living room designed by Humming Tree.

She also emphasises the value of multifunctional designs like nesting tables for smaller homes, allowing guests to reach the table from different seating arrangements. For a recently completed compact living room, she crafted a puzzle-like rectangular table that splits into two smaller side tables. In another Scandinavian-style home, her design allows the ottoman portion of a sectional sofa to be rearranged and used as a coffee table with a movable C-shaped wooden table top that slides over it.


3. Scale and Proportion

Ensuring the coffee table is proportionate to the room and other furniture is essential, but Gayathri advocates for out-of-the-box thinking and creative styling when it comes to living room design. “The common belief is that small spaces warrant small centre tables,” she says. “However, I believe that a big table—ensuring there is enough legroom, of course—can help add to the overall scale of the space making it look more welcoming and grand.”


Keerthika recommends keeping the height of a centre table below 17 inches to ensure it remains functional and accessible. “The table should always be lower than the seat height to allow for easy movement around it,” she explains. She also mentions that a distance of at least 1 foot around all sides of the table is required for moving around comfortably.


Arun agrees that a table height between one to one and a half feet, is crucial to ensure visual balance and harmony. He also highlights the importance of the table’s materiality, advocating for a monolithic centre tables crafted from wood or stone for a more sophisticated visual impact and timeless appeal. For smaller homes and apartments, he advises choosing coffee tables with hidden storage or castors for easy mobility.


Styling Your Coffee Table

Kathakali inspired coffee table – Beautiful Homes

A custom Kathakali-inspired centre table with legs that are inspired by a dancer’s stance complete with anklets that point outwards in Gayathri's own home.

1. Minimalist vs. Maximalist Design

When it comes to styling, Gayathri says that minimalists can keep it simple with just a stunning vase and fresh flowers. For a maximalist approach, she says mix it up with books, coasters and curios. “Minimal or maximal, ensure you do have space for that cup of tea and some snacks to be placed without moving anything around,” she says. For her own Kerala-inspired home in Bangalore, she collected 5,000 Lucky Red Star seeds to fill up a brass urali placed on a custom Kathakali-inspired centre table.

2. Layering and Mixing Materials

Keerthika likes to layer different materials to add depth and visual interest. She suggests using natural materials like stone or wood and mixing them with ceramics or metals like brass or black metal to create a unique look. “Every coffee table should have a few essential elements: coffee table books or magazines, a ceramic or artsy item, and a personal artifact. “It helps in creating a balanced and interesting display,” she says. “I like to work with local potters and source for at least one item that’s ceramic or terracotta,” she says. She recently commissioned miniature sculptures of women in black clay designed to fit snugly at the sides of a modular wooden table, creating the illusion that they are comfortably seated.


She also recommends consulting the “Rule of Three” when in doubt—it’s a fundamental principle in interior design that suggests items arranged in odd numbers are more visually appealing, memorable, and effective than even-numbered groupings. One way to do this, Arun says, is by arranging three decorative objects of varying heights on a coffee table. 

Granite coffee table – Beautiful Homes

The granite centre table by Jason Wadhwani Design.

Coffee table with sculptures – Beautiful Homes

A versatile coffee table set by Kae Living, a new furniture line by The Design Shop, splits into two distinct pieces for flexible arrangement and multifunctional use. Miniature sculptures sourced from local potters in black add a little whimsy to the overall styling.

3. Personal Touches

Incorporating personal items is key to making your coffee table feel unique and special. Gayathri suggests using a book of quotes, fresh flowers, or items that bring you joy. Arun too recommends using personal items that reflect your personality, like art objects, vintage books, nostalgic keepsakes and even crystals to create conversation starters.

He also suggests using sensory elements like burnt sage and candles to enhance the ambience. He believes that these elements can create a mood and add a layer of personal touch. Lately, he’s also enjoyed sourcing stylish accessories for candles, like brass or stainless steel lighters, snuffers, wick trimmers and candle stands.


Some of the brands he likes to source for tabletop décor include antiques from Purana Darwaza, candles from luxury brands like Aesop, Jo Malone and local e-commerce sites like Dusaan and smaller trays and knick-knacks from Amala Earth, Ellementry and Nicobar.

Coffee table by Concepto Studio – Beautiful Homes

The coffee table in this living room by Concepto Studio exudes mid-century vibes.

Maintaining a clutter-free coffee table is essential for creating a clean and inviting space. He recommends having designated areas for specific items. “Use trays to organise items like candles, accessories, and snacks,” he says. “A nice candle or a bowl of dark chocolate can add a pleasant aroma and a touch of luxury.”


“At the end of the day, listen to your gut. If you like it, go ahead and get it. Life is too short,” he concludes. “Style your home around the things you like, and don’t be afraid to mismatch. It’s your home, after all, and it should make you happy.”

Wooden coffee table – Beautiful Homes
A set of wooden coffee tables by Anjali Rawat Architects.
Glass coffee table – Beautiful Homes
The expansive glass coffee table by Jason Wadhwani Design houses different coffee books.

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