Yes, they are utilitarian, and yes, you may JUST fancy a convenient place to set your drink of choice and a reliable spot for locating the remote control. If, on the other hand, you prefer to have eye pleasing inspiration everywhere your glance, you may find a design idea or two that will help you curate the perfect pieces for a beautiful table top (known in the “industry” as a tableau or vignette ).
Before we discuss how to choose and display items, let’s consider a few “rules” for selecting a table that can do the job you’ll be requiring. For, if you need a table for your tissue box, a place to store a (or 10) remote control, a safe haven for the active chess game your husband and his brother across the country have been playing for the past 14 years, space for your current reading material, a surface to place your light source, and a location for the dead poinsettia from Christmas, you might possibly be frustrated with a trending, but ever so chic ten inch, white, marble top table with a brushed brass base!
To help you avoid that design trap, keep these things in mind when choosing the proper table: 1) Size/Scale ~ The table should be large enough to accommodate the demands of the job, and should be of similar scale to the sofa or chair it will serve. 2) Height ~ Generally, the table should be from 5 inches below to 5 inches above, or anywhere in between the arm of the sofa/chair. 3) Style: Don’t fear that you have to strictly adhere to a single design style in your room. Mixing styles is not only okay, it is preferred in my world. My advise is to purchase and display what you love and it will work in a room that you love!
On to styling! The drum table that I chose to style three ways for this post is one that I can use in almost any room of the house and it works beautifully! A rule to acknowledge when styling a table top is display an odd number of items. I do not know why the odd number is more pleasing, (there may be scientific or psychological reasons you could explore – I’m just willing to go with personal experience). If, though, you’re always unhappy with the look of your table top, and you can’t seem to get it “quite right” the rule of “odd” could be an easy fix.
If you are a minimalist, this means “A” lamp, or “A” floral, or “A” single art piece, and you’re done. If you are of the “more is more” persuasion, you can successfully blend 5-7, even 9 items on a table depending on its size. You may be asking, How do I chose these items? Let’s take a look at the first table top display that we will label “Traditional”.
Here, I have gathered elements that are not only beautiful, but also have meaning. Go find your treasure box or tub in the basement! The one that is storing mementos that you can not, for sentimental reasons, send to your local charity. Those items deserve a moment in the spotlight. You’ll see some of my treasures on all three table top examples.
On this table, I’ve combined a modern brushed brass and acrylic lamp with vintage candlesticks from the 1970s; they pair beautifully despite the nearly 50 year age difference (not recommended in the dating world).
(By the way, if you’re counting items on the table to make sure we followed the “odd” rule, don’t be fooled. The eye is a complicated creation! We interpret the lamp and books as one, the tray with its contents as one, the pair of candlesticks as one; and when you add in the framed telegram and hour-glass we see the magic of “odd”)!
I’ve chosen to incorporate one of my favorite design elements on all three table tops, the always versatile tray. For the traditional display I used this vanity tray, also from the 1970s (I hope it doesn’t bother you when I take artistic license when decorating).
The family photo’s in my home are forever rotating! This one is a favorite of Grandma Rowe enjoying a game of Pretty, Pretty Princess with young Annalisa the Beautiful (a little family resemblance, huh – When Irish Eyes Are Smiling)!
Fresh flowers are always in order. But if you do not have an inexpensive source (like say your back yard), porcelain flowers are an excellent go to. Once upon a time, I was a collector of porcelain flowers. The season of collecting was somewhat short-lived, as you quickly run out of display options. I have a handful remaining that are significant in some way. This is a gift from Tom the Great from 20+ years ago; it is one of my favorite flowers, the magnolia.
Did you note of the way books were used on the table. I have a barrage of “coffee table” books (okay, okay – collection number two). The vast majority are home design books by THE PROS. They are never old and outdated! I can pick a Southern Living hard copy up from any decade and find loads of inspiration. Here, the books are providing height for my lamp, so it’s the right height for late night reading.
AND, the final details for the traditional table, incorporates MY treasures; I’m sure they are similar to the ones you might find in that basement tub of yours! For me it is a framed Western Union telegram sent from Tom the Great’s dad, Robert Semple Rowe, to Mary Margaret Mooney when they were dating!
And the brass hour-glass you see is a gift Little Nell gave her mother nearly 40 years ago. She once overheard her mom say how much she loved hour glasses! “Ma”, as all the grandchildren call her, has passed the trinket on to Annalisa the Beautiful, who in turn, allows me to display it in our home!
The following table top is styled with a decidedly French flare. I love French style and French Antiquities. If it were up to me, my entire home would reflect French style. For now, I’m happy with a wink to the French style in our master bedroom.
I’ve used a plate stand, another favorite decorative element, on all three table tops. (The treasured telegraph was displayed on a plate rack in the traditional tablescape). Here, I’ve used the plate stand to display a plate (always thinking outside the box), a very romantic French Watteau plate!
The tray I used has a vintage look, but is a reproduction. The vintage bell (disguised as a figurine), repeats the romantic sensibility from the plate in “3-D” form!
Fresh out of fresh flowers? Make use of a dainty silk arrangement, carried here by the most adorable vintage French cherub.
Our final table display embodies a style trend that doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon, thanks to the inspiration of the famed Chip and Jo-Jo Gaines, Country Farmhouse Cottage. The style incorporates barn wood, antiques, rusty relics you might find on an farm, hand-made items, and rough finishes in an unpretentious and “utterly” charming manner.
All of the same elements are displayed: a lamp, tray, flowers, plate stand, books and personal treasures. But, there is a distinctively different feel for this look. The ruffled shade on the lamp reads country and laid back. Because this is a relatively short lamp, it is seated in a rustic glass and iron tray. Also in the tray are antique Johnson Brothers china pieces from England. For the floral element in this scenario, I’ve used live succulents (all the rave and so, so easy to keep alive). The container we have chosen is completely unexpected, an antique milk pitcher.
That handsome cowboy is Tom the Great, Junior! His cousin, Lindsey, a REAL artist (no kidding, with art exhibits and everything), sketched this for us when she was still in high school! Typically found hanging on a wall, instead, we’ve used a plate stand for display.
The well-worn cowboy boots were Junior’s first pair, received as a gift from the best cowboy I know, my dad ,Walter (aka Poppa the Singing Cowboy). Those two have logged many miles together in the past twenty years on the back of a horse! Whether they were singing, philosophizing, or enjoying the quiet of the trail, the indelible bond of a grandfather and grandson was forever sealed.
The final item on the Country Farmhouse Cottage table top is also a gift from Walter the Singing Cowboy! This leather-bound Bible from the 1960s was my dad’s first Bible, after he came to know our Savior. I can thumb through this treasure, and find some of his notes. I have vivid memories of my dad, beneath the light of a lamp, “writing the words of scripture on his heart”.
Love y’all ~ Lori Nell