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No coffee table-books on coffee table

Charlyne Varkonyi Schaub South Florida Sun-Sentinel

What’s on your coffee table?

A. All of your accessories look about the same size?

B. You use it to store one or more piles of magazines.

C. It’s the place to show how eclectic your tastes are — from Grandma’s cut-glass vase to the folk art statues you brought home from Mexico.

D. Guests have to move your “display” to put down their coffee cup or wine glass.

E. You can’t wait to add to your pile of coffee-table books.

If any of these fit you, it’s no wonder your coffee table doesn’t look like those you see in magazines and show houses. So what’s the secret to a great-looking tablescape? Joyce Weakley Shore, former president of the American Society of Interior Designers, Florida South Chapter, took us to a home on the Las Olas Isles in Fort Lauderdale to let us in on the “Trade Secrets.”

Place it like the pros

The table should be spaced about 18 inches from the sofa or chairs. Put it close enough to make it easy for a guest to put down a drink but far enough away to prevent banging a leg when the guest gets up.

Get it together

When you’re shopping for accessories, look for unity. The key is repetition – of color, texture or material. For our traditional table, Shore repeated the gold and burgundy color scheme in the book bindings and the topiary’s container.

Off with the books

Shore says to find another spot for your magazines and coffee-table books as an accessory.

“I don’t like to have them there,” she says. “It’s too predictable. And we are looking for what isn’t predictable.”

Scale it right

If the tabletop is small, the accessories should also be of a smaller scale so they don’t overwhelm the space. The idea is to have enough room on the table so someone doesn’t have to move anything to put down a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Items can be bulkier on a larger table.

Find a focal point

Most coffee-table arrangements have a focal point – the item that attracts your attention.

The odd-number rule

While Shore was looking for props for this photo shoot, she overheard two women in their late 20s or early 30s pondering the purchase of some accessories. One of them held two glass objects.

“You know you have to have three,” her friend said. “I read it somewhere.”

“Why do I have to have three?” the other woman said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

Whatever you do, it should make sense. You can use pairs if you like, she says. Just think about what you are doing. The odd-number rule comes from the fact that people are used to seeing items in pairs, Shore says, adding that different shapes, sizes and odd numbers provides contrast.

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