Architecture & Design // 5 min Read

Styling a Console Table

Written by Deborah Van Plew and Gregory Vaughan

May 5, 2020

Special thanks to Court Atkins Group and their interior design team 501 South Studio.

I am always drawn to perfectly styled interiors seen in magazines featuring artfully arranged tablescapes. It seems mystifying how designers put together these beautiful compositions, but don’t be intimidated to try your hand at styling; it is easier to master than you might think. There are a few basic tips to keep in mind to ensure styling success. Remember, this is a creative process, so have fun with it!

Whether a contemporary console or antique chest of drawers, starting with a blank canvas is essential. To begin, remove all existing items from the surface of the furniture piece. This enables you to reset the perspective and determine a design direction. Even if you are certain of including a lamp, and there is one already in place, the new plan may lead you to consider an entirely different lamp than what was originally there.

Creating a tablescape that is balanced starts with the objects used in the composition. Items should relate to one another in scale and vary in texture and finish – this creates visual interest –but don’t hesitate to mix pieces that are different from each other. Consider incorporating objects that are special and meaningful to you and will be interesting to others.
A lamp is a great accessory to begin your composition with; it not only provides ambient light, but it contributes shape, color, height, and visual weight to the tablescape. A lamp can also serve as a background element alongside other objects you may want to feature. If a lamp is an anchor at one end of the furniture piece, you will need an anchor at the opposite end for balance. You may consider a vase with fresh flowers or oversized branches to create symmetry. When in doubt, always add greenery – it brings freshness and life to a space.

The next step in the process is the “magic sauce,” what designers refer to as layering. Select a few favorite coffee table books and stack them in graduated sizes with the spines facing outward so the titles and color add visual interest. Next, layer decorative objects beside the books and perhaps something smaller in scale on top of the books. Small lidded boxes, wooden or bronze sculptures, or ceramic pieces are favorite designer “go-to” pieces when accessorizing. As you compose accessories, remember that it is just as important to vary the height of your decorative elements as it is to avoid arranging items in a straight line. Pull some things forward in the space to give them importance and push others to the background. If the furniture sits against a wall, the perfect backdrop for the composition could be a beautiful decorative mirror or a cherished piece of art leaned against the wall.

Finally, add another layer of luxe with a beautifully scented candle as the finishing touch to your tablescape. Not only does the soft glow of candlelight add warmth to the vignette, but a well-chosen scent can create a mood that inspires calm and tranquility. No well-designed space is complete without one (or two).


Photo 1, J. Savage Gibson Photography: This console tablescape immediately draws you in with balance, sculptural elements, greenery, books, and candles. Candles are always a good choice.

Photo 2, Deborah Van Plew: This dramatic portrait is anchored by an elegant lamp, fresh flowers, and a ceramic bowl on top of a stack of books.

Photo 3, Kelli Boyd Photography: This chunky ceramic lamp is flanked by luscious drapery panels while the bowl and flowers offer contrast and interest.

Photo 4, Deborah Van Plew: Clean and polished accessories flank an elegant and understated mirror.

Photo 5, J. Savage Gibson Photography: An inviting tray of cordials sits between an artistically glazed ceramic lamp and feathery greens.

Photo 6, J. Savage Gibson Photography: Framed art, sculpture, ceramics, and fresh greens co-mingle on top of this console while woven baskets anchor the composition and add some visual weight to the thin legs of the table.