How to Decorate a Console Table Top: Seeing the Forest through the Trees

First of all, what is a console table? Many people don’t know. A console table is typically found in an entryway or hallway. Because of this, a console table tends to be on the smaller side – narrow and slender. Its primary purpose is debatable, but the top three functions of a console table are: 1) to provide a horizontal surface for displaying 3-D items or holding miscellaneous items such as keys, 2) to be an intuitive gathering space housing non-hard-wired light (e.g., lamps), and 3) purely aesthetic.

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Whatever your reason to have or not to have a console table in your space, here are a few tips for decorating a console table effectively.

Tip #1: Pick your console table.

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This kind of table can be found in any budget (from yard sales and flea markets to high-end to-the-trade designers). Make sure it fits your space well, both physically (height, width, depth) and aesthetically (color, shape, style).

Tip #2: Add a lamp. Or two.

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Truly, the console table is like an island in the area; as such, it has the inherent capacity to be a beacon to the entire space, small as it may be. Lighting is imperative for this, particularly if the only other light in the entry or hallway is the central overhead light.

Tip #3: Choose a primary (focal) piece.

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Whether it’s a unique mirror or a piece of beloved artwork, incorporating one focal point to the center of the console table vignette is key to keeping things structured and clean-looking. Keep this focal piece in proportion with the table; it should also probably be larger than the other accent pieces.

Tip #4: Embrace the “white space.”

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Whether or not the negative space is, in fact, white, the point of this tip is to make sure you maintain a good balance of items and their absence. If you’ve ever seen a console table crammed full of tchotchkes, you know how visually uncomfortable this is. Keep your table top well edited, and aim for keeping clear about a quarter to half of the space.

Tip #5: Group similar items.

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Grouping like pieces is a wonderful strategy for packing a powerful punch in an understated way. Not only is a grouping more than the sum of its parts, but it also allows you to accomplish less with more.

Tip #6: Vary the height.

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In order to keep your console table unpredictable and interesting, you’ll want to keep the pieces at various levels and heights. Symmetry is fine, as long as the various pieces within the symmetrical arrangement are at different heights. This adds layers of visual interest and appeal.

Tip #7: Consider your colors.

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It’s never a bad idea to follow a color palette, and decorating a console table is no exception. But don’t be afraid to expand the palette with a bit of variety – for example, a black book binding won’t ruin a lavender console table vignette; it will most likely enhance it.

Tip #8: Showcase your personality.

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Make sure it’s well edited, of course, but the rest of the console table can easily be an outlet for your personal expression. Stack some interesting books under a uniquely potted plant, throw on a bust statue or a couple of pieces from a beloved collection. A console table is also a great space for keeping things fresh with seasonal touches.

Tip #9: Enjoy your creation!

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It’s a design-lover’s dream to keep things rotating and ever-changing, and a console table is a perfect venue for aesthetic expression. Don’t be afraid to change things out, swap an item or two, for a fresh new look. But take time to enjoy each vignette you create, because they’re completely your own.