From your living room to your bedroom to your library (don’t we all dream of having a library?) side tables can go anywhere in your home and be so much more than a place to set your water glass. A side table is a small surface area, so it’s actually relatively easy to style. However, you do need the right items and the right ideas to make this small space come to life.
With these side table styling tips, you’ll learn how to decorate a side table so it speaks to your style and your vibe, whether it’s by your sofa, by your bed, or by your dog’s water bowl. We’ll also share a few great end table ideas that you can copy guilt-free or use to inspire your own unique design.
The Dos and Don’ts of Side Table Styling
When it comes to styling anything, from an entire space to an accent or side table, you should always let your creativity run wild. However, there are a few rules or guidelines to side table styling that can be quite helpful. We have found that following these dos and don’ts not only inspires creativity but also produces results that are both beautiful and functional.
Do: Add a Table Lamp
Lighting is often overlooked, but it’s one of the most influential factors in any room. If your space is lacking overhead lighting, or you want to be able to create ambiance with the flick of a switch, you should strongly consider incorporating a lamp into the room, and a side table is a perfect place to put it. If your side table is your nightstand, it’s especially useful to style it with a table lamp so you can shut off the lights almost as quickly as you can clap.
There are thousands of table lamps to choose from, but the most important thing to consider when selecting a lamp for a side table is size. Scale is what makes the pieces in your living room or bedroom all fit together. So, choose a table lamp with a height and base that is at least a third shorter and half as small as the height and surface area, respectively, of the side table. The bottom of the shade of the table lamp should be at eye level when seated as well. This will ensure your view isn’t blocked by a lampshade that is too low and you aren’t blinded by the light because the lampshade is too high.
Do: Stack Items
Books, vases, candles, you name it, you can stack it on a side table. Stacking is a great way to fit multiple items on the small surface area of a side table and to add visual dimension. Start with a few large books or magazines and stack smaller books, a vase or pitcher, and decorative bowls or beads on top. In a matter of moments, you’ll transform your end table into an art piece.
Don’t: Overload the Space
While we love the stacked look, a side table can become crowded quickly. If you aren’t happy with how your side table is looking, remove items instead of adding them. This will not only help you achieve a clean look, but also allow space for you to set a glass or coffee cup, or a vase when you get surprised by a bouquet of flowers. If you have few other surfaces available in any given room, it’s even more important to not overload the surface of your side table so it’s there for you when you need it.
Don’t: Forget About Function
The placement of a side table will contribute to its function in the space. If you set it by your sofa, it may be a place to set beverages (hint: add coasters), if it’s next to your bed, it may be a home for your glasses and phone. Consider what the side table will be used for before you begin styling it. This will influence what you fill the space with or if you fill it with much at all. If you’re wondering “How tall should a side table be?” be sure to check out our blog article.
A side table can also be a place for those pieces you really want in the room but have nowhere to put such as your favorite candle, a picture of your family, the ceramic vase you brought back from Italy, and so on. Maybe your kitchen is short on storage and you want to use a side table to showcase your grandmother’s tea set, or maybe you’re always writing notes on napkins and need the space for notebooks and pens.
A side table doesn’t have to function as a space for your keys and coffee, it can function as a home for your beautiful knick-knacks too. You just have to be clear about how you want and need it to function from the start so you can decorate it accordingly.
5 Side Table Decor Ideas
Now that you know the rules, it’s time to craft your ideal surface. We put together a few ideas from the fancy to the functional to spark your creativity.
1. The Reading Nook
There’s nothing better than a side table next to your favorite chair to curl up in. Create the ideal setting to read a book by using your side table to hold a reading lamp, a coaster for your mug, and, of course, a few books. For easy organization, opt for a side table that has a shelf to store whatever you’re reading at the moment. Our Jorn Side Table even has built-in media organizational features to help manage your cords so you can stow away your devices while you escape to storyland.
2. The Drop Stop
Who said a side table only has to go by your sofa or bed? You can use a side table by your entryway to act as the perfect place to put your keys and sunglasses when you walk through the door. To keep the space from ever looking cluttered, simply add a tray to contain the items you’ll drop there. Decorate it a bit with a vase or frame and it will look complete. This is one of the simplest ways to decorate a side table, by far, but also one of the most functional ways. Plus, it will keep other areas of your home, including the kitchen counter and coffee table, free from the items you tend to set there.
3. The Designer’s Corner
Thou shalt not move anything on the side table. This is the commandment of the one who’s looking for an almost too-pretty-to-touch look in their home. While not ideal for a nightstand, an end table near a chair that doesn’t get much use or by a sofa that has a coffee table to set things on may very well be able to function simply as a pretty place for pretty things.
To achieve this look, you can use any combination of decorative objects, picture frames, vases, books, candles, and more. Remember the stacking method and start with a large book or tray and then layer your other chosen items on top. Whether you opt for minimal or many layers is completely up to you. What matters is that you love the look of it in the end.
4. The Blank Space
The opposite of the designer’s corner would be the blank space. That is, leaving the end table completely free from items. This may appeal to you for any number of reasons; perhaps the side table is where you set your coffee mug every morning, or your laptop when you need a break from your desk. Perhaps your style is minimalist, or perhaps you just love the look of your side table surface so much that you can’t bear to cover it up. If you opt for a surface design on your custom side table, we wouldn’t blame you if you choose to leave the surface free from any other decor.
5. The Greenhouse
Is there not enough room for all your beautiful plants in your space as-is? Use your side table as a place to display a plant or two from your collection. Not only will this help solve your problem, but it will also add life, texture, and color to the room. Should you choose to put more than one plant on your side table, we suggest choosing plants and pots of various heights and styles. You can always stack smaller plants on books to create the diversity of height as well.
Another great way to add life, texture, and color to any space is with flowers. Adding a vase of blooms will instantly brighten up the room.
Embrace Your Style
The size, shape, look, and placement of your side table will dictate how you decorate it, so styling your side table truly begins the moment you select it. At Inside Weather, our collection of side tables and accent tables can be customized to suit your space, so your side table can both look and function as you wish. With stylish patterns, colors, and wood finishes at your fingertips, the surface of your table alone will be enough to make a statement in any room and serve as the perfect canvas for your decor. Plus, the scuff-free, UV-resistant surface means that your side table can hold anything and go anywhere in your home from the sunny corner where you love to sit and read to the spot where your wine sits while you binge the latest series.