Decorating a Side Table

What Should I Put on My End Table?

When it comes to decorating your living room or den, many people focus on the major players such as the sofa, coffee table and entertainment center. Although these larger furnishings are important, you should also make room in your design plan for accent items like chic and practical side tables.

Despite their small stature, side tables play a big role in the overall look of your layout. In fact, a well-placed side table can enhance the comfortable feel of your space and tie your chic setup together. With the handy information in this guide, you’ll be able to choose side tables that suit the style and function of your space.

Overview

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Side tables let you display essential items and small knick-knacks that personalize your layout.
Side tables let you display essential items and small knick-knacks that personalize your layout.

What Should I Put on My End Table?

Before you start decorating your side tables or end tables with flashy, eye-catching accents that show off your unique personality, it’s important to remember the table’s intended purpose. Along with framing your sofa or sectional or complementing your recliner, loveseat or settee, these small tables provide a landing spot for various living room essentials.

Having a side table next to your arm chair or sofa lets you keep drinks, TV remotes, cell phones and other odds and ends within reach while you relax. To get the most practical use out of your side tables, you’ll need to dedicate most of the surfaces to these crucial items. Once you decide on your side table must-haves, you can fill the remaining space with accents that put a unique flourish on your design.

First, top your table with essential items, then incorporate a few decorative trinkets.
First, top your table with essential items, then incorporate a few decorative trinkets.

Choosing Side Table Decor for Different Table Types

After designating tabletop space for all your must-have side table items, you can decide what types of decorative accents you want to add. Details like the table’s shape and size, design style and finish play an important role in selecting end table knick-knacks and keepsakes that make your overall layout look better.

Side Table Shapes and Sizes

Your side table shape and surface size plays a huge role in the type and amount of decor you can put on it. For example, square and rectangular options usually have wider table tops that can hold larger accents. Meanwhile, you may only be able to set one small item on a compact nesting or c-shaped side table, or add two to three accents to a pair of round or oval end tables.

End Table Decor Styles

To ensure a cohesive look for your layout, your side table decor should also feature similar design elements to the table itself. Narrow your search for end table accents by creating one of the following coordinated style pairings that promote your chosen aesthetic:

  • Modern: Going for a modern look in your living room? Top your modern side tables with practical and simple modern decor featuring clean lines and subtle colors.
  • Contemporary: If you’re a fan of updated, cutting-edge style, consider decorating your contemporary square or round side table using sleek contemporary accent pieces with polished finishes and fun geometric designs.
  • Rustic: Rustic end tables typically have distressed detailing and live or round edges that give them a rough-hewn appearance. Add rustic decor to the tabletops to enhance their rugged appeal.
  • Traditional: Traditional decor items feature ornate designs and stately silhouettes, making them perfect toppers for both sleek square and gorgeous round traditional side tables.
  • Transitional: A transitional layout blends classic and contemporary design elements, so you can either top your transitional end tables with transitional decor or decorate them with both traditional and more modern accents.
  • Mid-Century Modern: If you have a mid-century modern side table with sleek angled legs, top it with accents that complement the table’s retro, modern or vintage design features.
  • Designer Labels: Decorating your living room with a curated furniture set from the Eric Church, Sofia Vergara or Cindy Crawford collection? Accent your end tables using items that enhance your seating arrangement’s country, glam or classic appeal.
Select decor that suits the classic, modern, rustic or contemporary design of your side table.
Select decor that suits the classic, modern, rustic or contemporary design of your side table.

Side Table Colors and Finishes

While coordinating your decor and side table styles creates a cohesive look, contrasting the colors of your accents and table finishes helps your fixtures stand out. A black, white, gray or glass-top end table makes an excellent backdrop for bold orange and yellow decor. Meanwhile, placing green, gray and blue accents on a brown, espresso, or light wood table adds a soothing touch to your earth-tone palette.

Striking white tabletop decor can help brighten up a traditional-style space with muted hues and glossy cherry and dark wood end tables. On the other hand, setting darker black and brown accents on a metal table with a polished silver, brass, chrome or gold finish can tone down your overall color scheme.

Create chic contrast by pairing dark-colored decor with light-colored side tables or vice versa.
Create chic contrast by pairing dark-colored decor with light-colored side tables or vice versa.

Side Table Decor Ideas

Once you decide on the amount, style and color of decor you want for your side tables, it’s time to start decorating. Again, you’ll need to prioritize practical accents, then incorporate a few fun pieces that showcase your unique personality. Consider using some of these popular side table decor ideas when topping your end tables.

End Table Lamps

Coordinated table lamp sets are a staple of living room side table decor. Place one of these light fixtures on your side table for extra illumination as you read or complete crossword puzzles. Again, be sure that your lamp complements the modern or traditional look of your layout and works well with the brushed nickel or copper tones in your space.

Place lamps and candles on your side tables to provide ambient mood lighting or practical task lighting for your layout.
Place lamps and candles on your side tables to provide ambient mood lighting or practical task lighting for your layout.

Small Plants

Looking to introduce some lush greenery into your setup? Top your side tables with decorative silk florals or real potted plants. Most people reserve actual flowers and ferns for glass-top metal tables rather than accidentally warping a wood table during watering. Silk florals may work better if you want to frequently swap them out to suit your seasonal winter, spring, summer or fall color scheme.

Serving Trays

Like to host dinner parties for your family, friends and coworkers? Add serving trays to your side tables so guests have a place to sit their drinks and appetizers while they chat in the living room and wait for the main course. You can also use these trays as tabletop organizers for your eyeglasses, TV remotes, notepads and pens.

Refresh your layout by adding a potted plant to your side table.
Refresh your layout by adding a potted plant to your side table.

Books and Magazines

If you’re an avid reader, consider stacking a few of your favorite novels on your end tables. Those with classic-style wooden side tables can place thick leather-bound volumes atop your tables to mimic the dignified look of a study or home library. On the other hand, setting a thin paperback or magazine on your glass-top contemporary side table can suit the sleek aesthetic of your design.

Home Decor

Framed family photographs, scented candles, and decorative bowls full of colorful stones and sea shells are popular home decor items that people use to spruce up their side tables. Unique figurines and colorful vases let you showcase your chic sense of style as well. Some people even use their end tables to display fun collectibles and small family heirlooms like music boxes and antique hand mirrors.

Once all the essentials are in place, you can use your end tables to show off your favorite trinkets.
Once all the essentials are in place, you can use your end tables to show off your favorite trinkets.

With so many side table and end table decor ideas to choose from, selecting the right items can be challenging. However, if you start by adding functional pieces first, then select a few gorgeous accents that complement the stylish and colorful look of your layout, you can decorate your side tables in a way that shows off your chic tastes and enhances the comfortable atmosphere of your space.