Designers Emily William Stankus, of EWS Interior Design, and Jess Ebert, of Four Story Interiors, gathered around one coffee table to share their styling tips with Noteworthy. The table, a family-friendly upholstered ottoman by Lee Industries, provided the perfect base for each designer to work their magic. Each styling approach confirmed just how easy it is to change the overall look of a room through its often-central focal point, the coffee table. A thoughtfully selected stack of books, a conversation piece, fresh blooms, or a new tray can easily transform the table design.

Emily Stankus takes a simple, yet refined approach, including a tray, a few great coffee table books, and fresh blooms. The bowl by Ralph Lauren adds additional texture and can easily be filled with almonds or candy for expected guests. The look is minimal, allowing the playful pattern of the ottoman to be seen, and the styling to act as a compliment to the table rather than trying to upstage.

Similar to other furniture in your home, your coffee table should fit your lifestyle. As a mother of two young boys, I chose an upholstered ottoman versus a glass table or other material to disguise fingerprints and hopes of a few less trips to urgent care (avoiding sharp corners). The pattered fabric is durable and forgiving, which is a must with kids. If I am honest, the table typically remains bare during this season of life. Rather, it serves as launch pad for the boys and table for toys. For this feature, I styled the table to reflect the setup I use most often when we host friends or family gatherings.

I pulled a few of my favorite coffee table books from the shelves, ones that have striking covers, a tray from the dining room and an item or two that will likely spark conversation. In this case, I used an antique lock my husband bought from an antique store in Asheville, NC. I like the contrast against the book cover and the story behind it. It was one of the first overnight trips we took after our oldest was born and the lock serves as a souvenir of sorts. Lastly, a few fresh stems add a pop of color and complete the look.

Jess Ebert, of Four Story Interiors, builds on the coffee table basics by adding items that are meant to be played with and touched. This fits well in her own home, with two young children, and her desire to create a table that is both playful and visually pleasing. She includes her favorite design and travel books, a plant uniquely displayed in a brass prism, and kid friendly items like a tambourine and a game of tic-tac-toe. The items are meant to be mobile and the pages of the books turned. The design is welcoming, likely prompting visitors to grab a seat on the floor to enjoy.

Images by Candice Lanning,