what’s on your coffee table?

Have you ever noticed in beautifully decorated living rooms that the coffee tables are always accessorized?

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There is usually a collection of books, flowers, candles, maybe a tray to contain odds and ends.

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I know life in a photograph is much different than real life. Especially if you have little ones running around the house. Candles on a coffee table don’t mix well with young children. Neither does a bowl of candy.

And yet, I still believe you can have a pretty, accessorized coffee table even with children.

Here’s what we do in our house:

This is our main living area {although we do have a separate room where movie watching is done} and the kids are in this room a lot.

Notice that nothing on the table is precious. A fern in a basket, stack of books, melamine tray with magazines, vase of flowers.  I like it all and have done my best to teach the kids to respect my things, but if something were to break, I would not be crushed. I think that’s the number one rule of decorating in a household with kids: train them to be gentle, but expect that something could break at any moment.

On the bottom shelf of the coffee table are a stack of puzzles and a basket of books for easy entertainment. And proof that kids do hang out here. I want my kids to know that I care about having a pretty house, but I also want it to be usable.

On the table:

the most amazing bouquet of peonies and sweet peas from Pike Place Market . mirrored coasters {anthropologie long, long ago} . stack of decorating books with vintage bibles on top . yellow flower napkin ring {pier one} . alphabet tray {target long ago} . magazines {do you read matthew mead publications? So great} . fern {from the grocery store} . silver bowl with vintage word cards . vintage metal basket {found}

coffee table: wisteria

zig zag rug: urban outfitters

I’d love to know … what’s on your coffee table?

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51 Responses to what’s on your coffee table?

  1. carrie beth November 9, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

    it’s a rattan/wood chest. on top are two ridiculously cute fabric-decoupaged pumpkins, a wooden frame, and a huge chicken wire basket with assorted decorative balls in shades of white, cream, and natural.

    LOVE your blog! I just stumbled upon it tonight, and I am so inspired! I actually have a chair in my living room that is covered in braemore wonderland pearl – the fabric of your pillows! LOVE it and LOVE them! : )

  2. sarah berdan wood June 22, 2012 at 8:35 pm #

    hi! :) skimming though your recent posts and saw the pic of your coffee table with the ferns and metal basket and totally thought …FOUND!!! :-O and then noticed from your description that the basket really IS from found. ha! thats great. im obsessed with that store. ;-) oh and side note…you were the inspiration for painting my hot pink goodwill ‘file/magazine rack’ from hot pink to grey, and adding numbers ;-) eeeeeeee

  3. donna madden June 17, 2012 at 4:14 pm #

    thanks for sharing. ladies, don’t blame your kids or animals for not having a beautiful coffee like this one. i have a lot of stuff on my own. when we want to prop our feet on it, we add a small pillow. my one year old grand daughter knows what no means. my 2 children growing up never knew what it was to have all beautiful things removed. i have had some things to break, but it was worth the risk. at the moment: a rustic wood coffee table trunk with a runner on the back half, a fern, a small stack of old books with 2 sea shells on top, a tall green glass chunky candle holder, a hollowed out piece of driftwood with a small amount of dirt with succulent plants, and 2 other small gold glass candle vases from Crate and Barrel.

  4. heather June 17, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    We don’t have space for a coffee table in our townhouse, but I’m searching for either an end table, some small occasional tables or ottomans with trays – just to have something to set my teacup and book on would be nice!

  5. Lindsay @ EllenJay's June 16, 2012 at 10:35 pm #

    I just read this post and laughed because currently there are about 20 puzzle pieces, a Minnie Mouse figurine (my 2-year old’s favorite toy), a Mother Goose piano book, a pack of wipes, and a dirty newborn diaper on my coffee table. Definitely not glamorous. There was a day when my coffee table looked cute, but today is definitely not that day!

  6. Cindy June 15, 2012 at 7:04 pm #

    After looking at yours, mine definitely feels a little bare…

    All that’s currently on mine is a long silver bowl that usually ends up coralling small odds and ends by the end of the week) and a trio of different white candles in glass jars, as well as a stack of current home decor magazines that I peruse if there’s nothing good on tv.

  7. Julie June 15, 2012 at 8:40 am #

    Hi Emily! I love your blog!
    I have a vintage pallet cart coffee table that is adorable. I used to have it decorated really cute. And then I had a baby. He is one now and is learning to walk. He tore the pages out of every magazine I had on my coffee table. He threw the glass vases on the floor and dumped out all the candy. He found the remotes I had in a basket and made my TV do wierd things.
    Any ideas for coffee tables that are baby-proof? I am stumped.

  8. Bethany June 14, 2012 at 9:12 pm #

    I love your flowers! We were visiting family in Seattle and I was at Pike Place Market a few days ago. I admired all the beautiful flowers! I just wanted to tell you that I enjoy your blog and I know it sounds silly but I kept wondering if I would see you! Thanks for sharing your life and all your great ideas.

  9. decoguy June 14, 2012 at 8:01 pm #

    The post was done very well! The pictures you showed were great examples. I think the use of accessories on top of coffee tables complete a room altogether. The first picture, with the wooden coffee table (with a metal frame base). I love that table, I think it could be made, what do you think? If you also think it could be made, have any ideas how? =)

  10. Wendy J June 14, 2012 at 7:51 pm #

    I just single-handedly dragged it out of our living room last month because our 7 month old kept bonking his head on it! :) But, I love yours!

  11. amy June 14, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

    Emily, I love you blog! I read your post yesterday and, of course, loved it. It’s almost as if we were separated at birth!

    I’ve been looking for a rug but nothing has really jumped out at me. I read your post and just decided to buy a rug from Urban Outfitters (scallop!). But I was just pining away for a coffee table like yours. There’s a similar one at World Market that I’ve been wanting for years but just haven’t purchased it. I bought one at an antique/junk store a few months ago and it was just ok but have still been loving the industrial one with the wheels. To myself I was just thinking…maybe the rug will make me like this table more. LOL.

    After lunch yesterday some friends and I decided to make the rounds at Goodwill. You will not believe that a table JUST like it was there. I spotted it first thing when we walked in. It was $25!!!! I never have that kind of luck!

    So, long story to say, again, thanks for the inspiration! Love your style!

  12. Nicole June 14, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    A pair of chunky black candlesticks, a moss ball, and a glass urn filled with faux pears that sits on top of a couple of large home decor books,,,,for now!

  13. Jessica June 13, 2012 at 11:23 pm #

    Nordstrom’s Fashion Almanac, a Bella Ball, a sweet smelling candle, way too many magazines and a custom-welded figurine made of bits and pieces.

    PS: I love what you’ve taught your baby bears about caring for your things while still feeling at home. So sweet.

  14. Monica June 13, 2012 at 11:21 pm #

    Dents. Dents from dinosaurs stomping, Ironman landing, Hot Wheels crashing, army men fighting, and from sippy cups falling. One day I’ll have a pretty coffee table, but for now I’ll keep everyone of these dents my three kids have made.

  15. kimberly June 13, 2012 at 7:08 pm #

    our apartment is too small to have a coffee table but i love what my parents use. a family antique trunk is their coffee table and on it is a tray to hold the remotes etc. and then there are a few magazines from william and kate’s wedding that my daddy bought because he thought my sisters and i would like them :) makes me smile.

  16. Julie June 13, 2012 at 5:55 pm #

    The coffee table in my living room has a big silver tray that houses a rectangular glass vase filled with blue hydrangeas, Eric Metaxas’ book on Bonhoeffer (I’ve been reading it for months and am almost finished – so good!), and a pretty white flower bowl filled with sea shells that my 3 kids play with almost every day. I also have some monogrammed burlap coasters that my best friend made for me years ago. I love your sentiments on living with nice things and training your children to be respectful. We do the same!

  17. Julie June 13, 2012 at 5:54 pm #

    The coffee table in my living room has a big silver tray that houses a rectangular glass vase filled with blue hydrangeas, Eric Metaxas’ book on Bonhoffer (I’ve been reading it for months and am almost finished – so good!), and a pretty white flower bowl filled with sea shells that my 3 kids play with almost every day. I also have some monogrammed burlap coasters that my best friend made for me years ago. I love your sentiments on living with nice things and training your children to be respectful. We do the same!

  18. Nicole June 13, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

    We don’t have a coffee table either. I would really like to find a really big ottoman that could be moved easily out of the way for the kids to play in the floor or to be used for extra seating. (Or, let’s be honest, for the kids to crawl around on and jump off of!) I really only miss my coffee table for propping my feet on, so I don’t need a “table” for that spot anyway.

  19. Amanda June 13, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

    Right now ours just has a silver West Elm tray and some magazines – I definitely want to accessorize it better soon, though! I love the flowers on yours!

  20. Catherine June 13, 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    Hmm, let’s see…. We have a plastic cup with a flower pulled from the garden (given by my young son to cheer up his big sister – awww), crumbs, books, a couple of magazines and an ongoing game of Connect Four and it’s box. Everything askew and not much styling happening! I used to have a potted plant and a lovely tray of books with a white bird on top but it got moved so often I gave up and left them on the bookshelf. One day they will get back there and that is fine.

  21. Desiree June 13, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    The coffee table in my formal living room has a recycled black wooden tray with a couple photo books, 2 different size pillar candles, and a small silver picture frame of me and the hubby. I didn’t have to purchase anything, but went “shopping” in my own house to find everything.

  22. Sunny Jane June 13, 2012 at 2:15 pm #

    Nothing. Zip, zilch, nada. (but then I don’t actually have a coffee table so… :)
    But I love yours. And I love getting your posts in my inbox!

  23. Marie June 13, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

    Great post! Just went into our living room to look at what I had on my coffee table. I have a little tray holding tv remotes and coasters. Not much there…I like simple and clean….low on clutte.

  24. Shalni@ OntheDesignLane June 13, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

    We actually don’t have a coffee table at all. Living in a one-bedroom meant less space for my toddler to move around so we decided to let go of the one we had before. It was an Ikea piece that had pull out drawers, so plenty of storage there. On top I loved to have a few books,a basket for the remotes, and a plant for greenery.

  25. Gina June 13, 2012 at 11:23 am #

    Love this discussion. Love all the tables and yours too! I have been trying to pull together a few things to put on a tray (which is moved when my husband is home and we’re watching tv, etc.) on an ottoman which is serving as our coffee table in the family room. I even looked for photos yesterday. I would love to see you do a “linky” party for coffee tables!! ;) Oh, to answer your question, on my coffee table in my living room I have a pewter tray of white candles, white bowl of shells and a ceramic white distressed lidded box. On the tray in the family room I ended up with a couple of books with a shell setting on top, an Ikea metal pitcher (which I plan to add flowers) and a votive. :)

  26. Alyssa June 13, 2012 at 11:20 am #

    I wish my coffee table looked as nice as these!! I love how you made yours kid-friendly underneath with the book and puzzle storage! Ours has become sippy-cup and cracker covered!! Someday mine will look as nice as yours (hopefully!) :)

  27. kristin M June 13, 2012 at 11:16 am #

    we don’t have a coffee table because we used to have 2 great danes and their tail swings just would have sent everything off. Instead we have two square leather ottomans. I live these because they are pet hair and food-proof. They are easily movable and can serve as extra seating in our livingroom. They can handle a laptop or a dinner plate as easily as your feet or something decorative on a tray. We each have sort of adopted one as our own. My husband’s has his feet and/ or his laptop. Mine has a nice wooden tray with whatever i’m reading and a bauble or two.

  28. Jaimie June 13, 2012 at 10:59 am #

    Nothing! We don’t have a coffee table! With two very little ones, it’s always felt safer. And we only have one living space, so we just leave it open for play! : ) Yours is cute though!

  29. {darlene} June 13, 2012 at 10:57 am #

    I LOVE this point, “train them to be gentle, but expect that something could break at any moment.”
    I think a whole post could be written on that wise balance!

  30. Sue June 13, 2012 at 10:34 am #

    Although all the pictures of the coffeetables are pretty, including yours, I would rather have a clean surface. I do not like anything on my table including any remotes. I have baskets on the shelf below and that is where all the clutter goes. I just find it odd that people would decorate them or to even have to look to find pretty things to add.
    Love looking forward to your blog every day !

  31. Claudia June 13, 2012 at 10:34 am #

    On our coffee table: beautiful pink and deep blue-purple hydrangea, four candles, a book and some magazines, two slate coasters and a remote control. There is a built-in shelf and on it are: a basket full of books, a wooden bowl full of tiny pinecones.

  32. Andrea June 13, 2012 at 10:10 am #

    We have actually been coffee table-free for a year or so, and we really love it. I got tired of it being one more thing to straighten and my little one was learning to walk and always seemed to get hurt on it. So, we sold ours at a garage sale, splurged on some extra fabulous carpeting, and now we spend more time playing with the kids on the floor. If anyone is considering getting rid of it, try it!
    Love your blog, btw!

  33. Sacha June 13, 2012 at 10:09 am #

    What size is your rug? I have carpet in my family room and would love to ground the space with an area rug, but am not sure how it will look. Love the zig zag and your sense of style… Beautiful but comfortable and family friendly!!!

  34. Lemonade Makin' Mama June 13, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    Girl, I love everything about this post and your mindset echoes my own about this topic. I agree whole heartedly that our sweet little hoodlums need to be taught to be respectful of “pretties” but they also need to be able to “live” and use those things too. Right now I do have two candles on my coffee table but if the bases were broken I wouldn’t die… LOL I also have an old wooden dough bowl filled with our remote controls. Pretty AND useful. :)

    I don’t comment as often as I would like, but I just so enjoy you and your posts. I love getting them in my inbox.

    Blessings,
    Sasha

  35. Linda June 13, 2012 at 9:58 am #

    Right now I have seashells and shutterfly photo albums of beach vacations with the family. All kid friendly and pretty as well .
    check it out : http://homedeco50.wordpress.com/2012/06/01/beach-decor/
    Love your ideas!

  36. Cynthia June 13, 2012 at 9:54 am #

    I have a super rambunctious 2 1/2 year old boy with another boy on the way so it’s a challenge to keep all the books and toys off the coffee table. So right now my joy is a whole area of blank, clean space. Maybe after they get a little bigger I won’t be craving emptiness so much!

  37. Donita June 13, 2012 at 9:44 am #

    A coffee table! What’s that??
    Haven’t had one in years!
    HA!

  38. Katie O"Keefe June 13, 2012 at 9:32 am #

    Right now, it just has a votivo candle and the Restoration Hardware catalog. I desperately need a new tray though and some life like fresh flowers. Thanks for all of the inspiration!

  39. Rosita June 13, 2012 at 9:31 am #

    On my coffee table? Coffee, {as in I didn’t finish my coffee this morning and it’s still sitting there} :) a candle, a vintage linen table runner and a bowl of lemons.

    P.S. I love your chevron rug.

  40. Jo Ann June 13, 2012 at 9:23 am #

    You’ll laugh, but right now my coffee table has dusty glass and my Great Danes’ nose prints!!!!!! And my living room is full of furniture that hubby is painting and upscaling to sell! Love all the examples though and when I can get back in my living room, I want to try some of them!

  41. Trish @TheOldPostRoad June 13, 2012 at 9:06 am #

    Looks great! A little natural (plants), a little color (napkin ring and flowers), a little shine (metal), and a little function (books and magazines to read). Perfection! Now, if I can only get rid of the dust, occassional gum wrappers, coins, and pens – not sure why those seem to collect on our coffee table!!!
    Trish..

  42. Shanon June 13, 2012 at 9:01 am #

    We actually got rid of our coffee table, it was huge and our living room doubles as a playroom (basically) so I needed that precious real estate for my son to run around. Some day we’ll have a coffee table again, but I like the open space. We just have one end table. My son is like captain destructo, though. He’s almost two, and I have tried to teach him to be respectful but he is just a wild child about some stuff. He would have your flowers and ferns in pieces and any magazines would be torn up. ;) And it would ALL be on the floor. I keep the pretty stuff for areas of the house he can’t reach.

  43. Kelly at Talk of the House June 13, 2012 at 9:01 am #

    Those first two pictures in your post are two of my favorite rooms! I so agree with making it livable for children. I have stacks and stacks of books on my coffee table (love to read!) and sometimes there is a bowl of candy….just not today since we have all been pigs with the sweets lately. :)

  44. Lisa June 13, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    Folded laundry that needs to get put away. :p I like the idea of an accessorized coffee table, but it seems like stuff always got thrown on the floor, so it’s mostly just been bare recently. Once we are out of the toddler stage in another year, I think I’ll start working on putting some of those little touches back. :)

  45. Jamie Rowe June 13, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    Grilled cheese crumbs lol. I have a 12 month old who feels like it is his GOD given right to remove any object that dares to be placed upon the table. :-)

  46. Margaret June 13, 2012 at 8:52 am #

    Right now there’s nothing on the coffee table- Well, temporarily a cup of coffee! But I have grandkids, 6,3 and 1, and anything on the table is too tempting for our new walker, plus it gets in the way of the race car ‘track’ that is oh so important for my grandson (the 3 year old). But your table is so pretty! And I love the idea of using trays, easy to clear off the table when we want…maybe it’s time to dress it up a bit!

  47. Brittney June 13, 2012 at 8:50 am #

    I feel coffee tables take up too much space in our tiny house so I don’t own one. But we do have one of those dark brown rectangular ottomans from target that opens. We have that where a coffee table would normally go and all of my sons toys are inside! Secret toy storage!! :)

  48. Ashley June 13, 2012 at 8:28 am #

    How do I get the hubby to go for a coffee table with all this decor?! Ha, he uses ours to put his feet on…sigh…maybe one day I’ll get lucky and he will figure out it’s not a foot rest :)

    I had a flower on ours a year or so ago and my then 2 year old loved to pick the flowers .

  49. Sarah B Design June 13, 2012 at 8:24 am #

    I love your coffee table. It can be a bit tricky to accessorize your coffee table and still keep it functional. Thats why I love trays! They can be moved if your need space on your table for a quick game or something.

  50. Emily June 13, 2012 at 8:18 am #

    We padded and “upholstered” the coffee table with chalk cloth two years ago when our child started pulling up on the furniture – it’s a solid piece of wood on top with very sharp edges and corners and I just saw him poking his eye out. So we have a little box I made filled with sidewalk chalk on the table and generally there are scribbles all over it. It will stay that way for a few more years (there’s another little due in August) and then we’ll revisit it.

  51. Shelley June 13, 2012 at 8:08 am #

    A favoritve metal tray and a crystal vase of fresh hydrangeas. That’s all. I have three boys who like to remove stuff to make room to play. :)

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