Accessories, DIY Tutorials

How To Make a Tablescape

Gah!  Can somebody please silence the voice of Ryan? It pops into my head whenever I try to blog.  I want to talk to you about my coffee “tablescape.”   It’s in ” ” because the second I start to type it, I hear Ryan silently what-the-hell-ing the word.  Of course.  In his opinion, it’s a table. It’s supposed to hold your drinks, appetizers, etc.  Why does it need to be decorated? And with a special word devoted to that practice, no less?

I half agree with him.  When I see photos of beautifully decorated coffee tables, ones which are piled up with books and candles and flowers and knick-knacks, I often wonder where on earth guests are supposed to put their cocktails.  Plus, I’ve always struggled with creating good tablescapes.  That’s why, years ago, I used to resort to a simple  vase of flowers.

Not my current living room.


On the other hand I do feel that the right arrangement on a coffee or dining table can make a room feel more finished.  So I continue to attempt the ever-elusive “perfect tablescape.”

I refuse to weigh down my large glass table with random stacks of books and a scattering of decorative crap (not that I have much of that), but at the same time I want something on it.  After a few years of practice,  I’ve found that my go-to solution is to start with a tray – it helps keep the decor feel contained, while adding some definition and color to the otherwise see-through tabletop.

That’s exactly what I did this time around, as I’m tweaking our newly painted living room for a dinner this Friday.

A small stack of magazines on one side add a little height to the tray.  Next come the decorative items, in varying heights and sizes.  I didn’t have any decorative crap that needed a home, so I used some plants.  They always look good.  I picked up an orchid at the store, and put it in a pot I had laying around.  I also re-potted some random cacti of varying heights into one shallow pot.

The orchid went on the stack of mags, and the cacti went on the other half of the tray.  Finally, I added a small stack of coasters, so that they’d be easily within reach for our guests.

I’m now realizing I left out my favorite part – candles!  So I’ll dig some out of my stash before Friday night rolls around.  I think a few votives or tea lights in glasses would work perfectly.

And that’s my go-to formula for a foolproof tablescape. Bonus?  Because it’s all on a tray, it can be easily whisked off the table when you’re cleaning.  So in conclusion, all you need for a killer tablescape is:

  • Tray
  • Magazines
  • Plants
  • Coasters
  • Tiny candles

Do you have any tips to add?  Do tell!  And in the mean time, I’ve got a few more projects to finish up before Friday.



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  • Reply Jennifer Laughlin at 11:40 pm

    Loooove it! <3 The tray + magazines + cactus combo looks fabulous.

    Jenn @ Peas & Crayons

  • Reply Julia at 1:01 am

    I love the tray. Saves my life because when my little guy is up and at ’em I just whisk the tray away.

  • Reply Jenn McCormick at 1:43 am

    Love it! *Tablescapes* are hard for me too. When I had a coffee table that could handle a tray that’s the direction I took. I love your addition of plants. Now, I have a pile of books with a candle on top. Simple and clean, but decorative 🙂

  • Reply Mikalah at 1:36 pm

    It looks perfect! I agree, I love how those really stylized coffee tables look, but when it really comes down to it, I would be annoyed to not have anywhere to set my coffee! Also, you’re not alone. My hubby makes fun of me all the time for my crazy design terms I throw out. =)

  • Reply Heather @ REOlisticRenovation at 5:00 pm

    Love those plants!

  • Reply tracie at 5:27 pm

    that’s exactly what i do! the tray is a wonderful way to contain the ‘pretties’ as my mother calls them! plus, leave room for the ever important cocktail! 🙂 love your coffee table btw. the chrome makes me happy!

  • Reply LifeinRehab at 5:53 pm

    Trays are awesome, I have them everywhere to contain clutter. They also seemingly make excellent cat beds. But then what doesn’t?

    • Reply Jane @ The Borrowed Abode at 1:39 am

      In our house the only thing the cats won’t touch is Tin Foil.
      Therefore sometimes I want to wrap the place in it.

  • Reply Zoua Vang at 7:42 pm

    great tablescape! super funny how your husband reacts to your decorating.. my husband is similar! he doesn’t understand why i need or want to buy certain things just for decorating if it’s not “practical”.

  • Reply Nancy at 8:38 pm

    I have always been “the stacks of books” type of girl. And I’ve never liked the way it looked. Thanks for the tray idea. Makes so much sense. I’m getting up from the computer right now to implement!

  • Reply Kalanicut at 8:19 pm

    Jane, I love, love, love your new tablescape! This is a toughy for me too. My coffee table is a go-to footrest, so stuff is always getting bumped around, shifted, etc. I love the tray idea because it’s so easy to move it all away with one swoop if necessary. I am going to have to try this. I do have a fantastic thrift store tray I refurbished last year. It’s the perfect color. Thank you so much for the inspiration. P.S. I’m not telling my man about this either. I am on strict notice not to buy anything more for the apt (haa-haa), only because we have no space. Hoping he won’t notice the small new painting above the living room table that I acquired this weekend while he was away. heehee. Maybe if I decorate the coffee table with a new tablescape it will distract him and everything will look so different that he won’t know what is new or old.

  • Reply Add Character to Your Coffee Table (no paint required) | Bella Grace Home at 9:23 am

    […] For more ideas on styling a coffee table check out The Borrowed Abode here. […]

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