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3 Styles, $100 Budget: How to Style Your Coffee Table Like a (Literal) Pro


Welcome to a brand new series that we are VERY excited to share with you…The EHD Team Budget Challenge. This idea was really born from all of you. We understandably get a lot of requests for budget content but what we also get tons of questions about who all the random faces and voices around here are. A general sentiment of “who are these people?” has been noticed and received. While the web design team is hard at work creating a Meet the Team page (hang tight), we thought that a budget challenge with our talented team would be the perfect marriage of the two requests. Since we are first and foremost a styling blog, we thought that a coffee table styling challenge would be a really fun way to kick it off. Am I right?

Today, we have three team members going head to head (insert wrestling bell double ding) with only $100 to shop with (paired with a relatively budget coffee table). DISCLAIMER: This isn’t a competition against each other (we are all winners, ha) but boy was finding cute, shoppable items to style a coffee table for under $100 that also represented our individual styles a personal feat. But we all prevailed and are very excited about our findings. So without further ado, here are today’s players…

Emily Henderson Ehd Team Challenge Coffee Table Styling Contenders

Yes, I included myself in this first round because I wanted in on this challenge asap. Now, 2019 was the year you all got to know me a little better what with my novel-long posts revealing my living room and kitchen a few months ago along with my other post appearances. But as a refresher, as stated above, I am the Senior Market Editor and have been at EHD for just over 2.5 years. I am a Southern California native, 5’3″ (and 3/4s), ex-Irish dancer, theatre major with a motorcycle license but who can only safely drive a scooter. Now let’s talk about my coffee table…

My “Casual Euro With a Hit of Glam” Look

Emily Henderson Ehd Team Challenge Coffee Table Styling Ingredients Jess

About my style: Over the course of my 2.5 years here, my love for modern, European-inspired design has grown to an almost unhealthy level. And by unhealthy, I mean it’s typically extremely expensive and out of actual reach but I just want it all. Thankfully and finally, the mass market is catching up and more affordable pieces are available outside the very lucky random vintage finds. Here is how I would style my euro modern coffee table for under $100 and why.

  • Coffee Table: I went a little glam with this because it’s visually so interesting thus not needing a ton when it comes to the coffee tabletop decor. And maybe this is just me but chrome feels like a less in your face “glam” than gold. It’s a slightly quieter statement which I liked.
  • Black Tray: So I have learned basically everything I know about styling from Emily and what I have learned is that a tray is your friend. So to contrast the light colors and shape of the table, I went with a black rectangle tray. I love its simplicity.
  • Book: I really wanted a hit of color(s) so what better and easier way than a colorful coffee table book like this one. The colors are modern, bold and the cover design has just the right amount of visual texture.
  • Wood Sphere: Target killed it with this wooden sphere object. I own it myself and love, love, love it. It’s cool, brings in an organic element to this otherwise not very natural design.
  • Bud Vase: In keeping with this idea of adding some more organic shapes, I chose that ceramic bud vase because it looks handmade, is textured and ties in a few of the other colors, as well.
  • Coasters: I know I said gold was an “in your face” glam metallic but a little hit is never a bad idea when you are trying to keep things modern. Plus, these are great with their simple shape and are super affordable. I think I would maybe ditch the holder if I bought them though.

Emily Henderson Ehd Team Challenge Coffee Table Styling Layout Jess Updated

How to put it together: What’s a styling post if we don’t show you how our coffee tables are actually styled? The answer is a bad one. So we created overhead views, to scale, of how we would lay out our picks and this is mine. I wanted the tray to really be the statement so it takes up most of the table’s real estate. Then I purposefully wanted the sphere to be a bit oversized (because it looks modern) on top of the book. Not only does it give some needed, varied height but it also tones down the colorfulness of the book by covering it a bit. On the other side, there is plenty of room on the tray so I chose to place the vase and coaster in line with each other to create a loose grid. I like the idea of also not having the coasters perfectly stacked. It feels a little less stuffy. Well, that’s it for me. Let’s move onto our Special Projects Editor Ryann…

Ryann’s Modern Victorian (With $7 to Spare)

Ryann has been with us for almost a year and is fully integrated into this crazy EHD world. She started out helping us with the launch of the Rooms and Shop pages but when that was finished, we told her she wasn’t allowed to leave because she was awesome and very talented. Outside of her editorial and social duties, she is “a dedicated mother to the most perfect American bulldog, a self-proclaimed Top Ramen aficionado, and someone who can’t manage to go a full day wearing a white T-shirt without getting a stain on it.” She’s a real gem who is pumped to show you her coffee table challenge.

Emily Henderson Ehd Team Challenge Coffee Table Styling Ingredients Ryann

About Ryann’s style: Our girl Ryann was actually pretty surprised by her coffee table design because her normal go-to style is a mix of mid-century modern/’70s boho. But once she found that vintage matchbox, she quickly dove into a minimal modern Victorian style. It’s pretty awesome and here is the how and why of her coffee table challenge.

  • Coffee Table: “I went with this slim, charcoal gray table because I liked that it could work with a bunch of different styles. I’m drawn to the color and shape which feels industrial and I decided it could be really interesting styled traditionally with a hint of modern Victorian.”
  • Book: “The cover felt feminine and bold, and it added a sultry and somewhat moody aspect that juxtaposes the industrial style of the coffee table. I love it so much and am actually debating buying it IRL.”
  • Vase: “Knowing the styling must-haves, I knew I needed some texture and this vase delivered. It’s the perfect shape, height and color that accentuates the modern traditional style I was going for.”
  • Blue Taper Candle: “My imaginary coffee table was in desperate need of some height variation, so I went with a taper candle in blue for a pop of color instead of going with a traditional white.”
  • Candle Holder: “A simple candle holder was all that taper really needed, but I really liked this one because of the tiny hint of brass which pairs really well with the matchbox.”
  • Vintage Match Holder: “Bringing in some vintage was important to me (did Jess not say I was a true EHDer?), but I also wanted it to be something that could be useful or practical. I found this matchbox on Etsy and loved the cylinder shape, the Victorian woman pictured on it, and the gold-tipped matches which add the perfect amount of glam without being too loud.”

Emily Henderson Ehd Team Challenge Coffee Table Styling Layout Ryann

How to put it together: Ryann wanted to keep things elegant and simple. First, she chose a larger book to work with the scale of the size of the table. Then placed a simple but bold (because of the color) taper candle and holder on top of the book for height and layering purposes. The vase is placed up and off center to the book for visual dimension. Then lastly, the very special matchbox is placed next to the vase to help visually balance the vignette. Done and done. A beautifully styled coffee table with room to set down a remote or a drink (or like, your dinner plate…we get it). All we need now is for Miss Ryann to do her MOTO so we can fully indulge in her very cool style (hint hint Ryann, it’s time).

Now last but not least our Chief Marketing Officer, Michael…

Michael’s Curated Vintage Cool Picks

Michael started with us at the end of 2018 and fit right in with his love for vintage, warm spirit and serious marketing skills. You also may remember his beautiful (vintage-filled) living room and dining nook he showed us back in February. So not only is he our resident vintage deal finder but he’s an “Oregon raised and semi-outdoorsy kinda guy. Official flea market fanatic and lover of all things vintage. Dad to an English Bulldog nugget named Dottie. Owner of a lot of hats and patterned shirts.” Let’s jump right into what he was able to pull together for $100.

Emily Henderson Ehd Team Challenge Coffee Table Styling Ingredients Michael

About Michael’s style: As you can see, he perfectly balanced his love for actual vintage things with vintage-inspired things to create this collected modern vintage style. His favorite word is vintage so saying it three times in one sentence is 100% Michael approved and preferred. Now, let’s dive into why he chose these carefully curated items.

  • Coffee Table: “I chose this beautiful real wood coffee table because A. it was wood B. has a vintage MCM shape and C. the blonde finish makes it feel modern and light which helps to balances the bolder colors and shapes of the accessories I picked.”
  • Green Book: “This book was the biggest expense in the challenge but I just absolutely loved the pop of green it adds and that strong, bold typography. I’m a BIG fan of green.”
  • Orange Book: “I love vintage and color, so this book was the perfect pop of happy vintage in book form.”
  • Planter: “The planter is clean and simple and when you add a sculptural looking plant…it adds some life (and oxygen) to your place.”
  • Coasters: “The coasters are modern and visually interesting and add a little personality to something that’s functional. They are from Woonwinkel, a cute store in Portland, Oregon. Plus I actually own them so can very much vouch for how great they are.”
  • Vintage Plumb Bob: “As I said with the orange book, I, uh, LOVE vintage (I used to be a flea market picker). So I always like to throw a unique and random antique “doo-dad” on my coffee table. It makes for a fun conversation starter. If this one sells out, just try to find something one of a kind and old to pepper in some soul.”

Emily Henderson Ehd Team Challenge Coffee Table Styling Layout Michael

How to put it together: We are big fans of three’s when it comes to styling around here. Odd numbers of grouped items are typically visually more interesting and this layout very much proves that. Michael has three groupings with three different heights in each corner of this rounded triangular-shaped coffee table. The first is the tallest which is the planter, followed by the stack of books and lastly the coasters. All are either colorful, textured or graphic which keeps your eye interested and happy. All in all, it’s a great coffee table vignette that you could have for a total of $98. What. A. Steal.

Challenge accepted and challenge completed. Man, this was fun and hope you got something out of it and feel like you know the three of us a little bit better. We really love trying new things to make the stories you want so let us know what you think and what you would want to see next. The sky is the budget-loving limit. 🙂

In case you didn’t know, coffee tables are something we covered a few times before. Here some of our favorite posts, picks and a style school video if you are a visual learner:

Love you, mean it.

Fin Mark


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Oh yay so glad you guys are helping us match faces to names and personalities. I realized the reason I have been reading this blog everyday for years, beyond great design and content, is that Emily is my pretend best friend. So anything that helps me feel like I know you all feels important. Like for the Link Up I’ve been hoping for a picture and name and then a first person account of whatever the thing is. Right now the second person voice feels less personal and makes it harder to make all of you my pretend best friends!

Loveley of

1. love this kind of post! how fun!
2. could we put pictures of the posts’ author at the top of the post, like, a little picture off to the side? i think that would help with identifying people too. i’m more of a visual person, so seeing their picture is way helpful.
3. i really liked seeing the different styles and picks, but next time can we also see what it looks like IRL?
4. i love when you guys include vintage objects too!


On your point #3 I agree it would be nice but I feel like it is too much to ask for the team to buy a whole bunch of items and transport them back to the office just to style them out photograph them, and then I guess return everything to the stores? It would be challenging for vintage items too, complaints that will flow in from people saying the vintage item is not available to buy (if the team has already bought it to do the shoot). One way around this might be a “how I style my real-life coffee table” post with a few contributors from the team, like a mini-makeover takeover. But you can’t expect that to be all budget finds if it’s what people actually have in their homes. It’s tough, I think this is an appropriate compromise.


Or they could do more of a “you have to style this coffee table with items from our prop closet, only” situation… I bet we would see some things we haven’t seen in a while and we all know Emily’s stuff is so fun to look at. 🙂


I was thinking the same. I wanted to see it in photographs. Maybe a drawn illustration then? The graphics didn’t give me a real sense. Love the idea though!


I agree! I want to see in real life. Too hard to tell what it actually looks like without that!

I loved the concept, but only read the first one because it’s just not useful without seeing real life photos.


This is what I was missing from the post too. I’m having trouble “seeing” the finished product


I really like the concept of this post, but didn’t LOVE any of the table styling. Maybe the budget should be upped a bit? But really, I think it’s because it was just a graphic and I couldn’t really get the vibe each person was going for. I’d like to see real life pictures in the future.


I love this new segment, it’s a great way to get to know different team members’ unique styles (there is probably someone for everyone! I think I’m a Sarah – come on MOTO). I especially liked seeing how the items would be laid out, it creates a teachable moment rather than “here’s a bunch of random cheap stuff that might not actually work in real life”. Bravo!

Wow, I’ve never felt more validated in my entire life. THANK YOU, you’ve truly made my day. More MOTO is coming SOON. Just need a few more sheets of dry wood…and you know, some walls……… But I’ve been documenting the whole renovation process on my stories so far if anyone is curious what we’re up to at the new house so far. Hoping to share real content here on the blog in the near future.


Great idea! Helps a lot thanks! I am a visual more that a reader, would be interesting if someday you do a fast motion video challenge with each participant styling something from zero….with a real room space on the back! Love your blog!

Ooh that would be fun 🙂 great idea!


I love a styled coffee table in photos but in reality I find that mine is always covered in water glasses and open mail! How do you maintain the style during daily use?


I find tray-based coffee table styling works for me! It contains the pretty and separates it from whatever life stuff is happening around it. It’s also easy to pick up and move out of the way for occasions where you need the whole table, like for games or a movie night spread of take out/snacks, etc.


Love this column idea!

Julie P

Hmmm. How to style a coffee table when you share it with legos and matchbox cars??

On a serious note I’d love to see the new Meet the Team page include links to each of their authored posts. Since you all have distinct voices and design ideas it would be nice to say “I’m going to pick Ryann’s brain today” with a deep dive into the archive.

I’d also love to see this same post done about nightstands! And mantles!


Another vote for mantels and nightstands if you keep doing this series!

Yes! we agree and that is the goal once we get the Meet the Team page up 🙂


yes to styling with legos and matchbox cars! and 1 billion american girl doll accessories. also ‘styling’ when your 3 year old picks up any decorative accessory not nailed down and transports it to the car, the bathroom, her bed, behind the couch, your purse, and probably several other places I just haven’t discovered yet.


When my baby cousin was little (he’s a high schooler now!) my aunt was a master of using real decor to hide and store his small toys. That vase on the end table? Full of cars. The decorative box on the coffee table? Full of Legos. It was an “aha!” moment for me when I realized that you can have kids and a well decorated house as well! Just be sure that whatever you’re decorating with is either pretty durable or isn’t too expensive or precious, since kids are kids 🙂 but there are plenty of flea market or inexpensive Target decor that could easily be replaced if something were to happen. Worn wood flea market boxes could probably be dropped a million times and it would just add to the charm.


This was a fun post. Some styling areas I’d be into in the future: kids’ bookcase or kids’ picture ledge, office-office (not a home office), makeup / getting-ready-in-the-morning area, inside of a closet (linen, hallway, or laundry, etc.), or some vertical areas (I don’t personally have sprawling horizontal spaces).


Love the concept and the execution. Just one thing… do we get to vote? I mean it is a challenge, yes? I think it would be interesting to see what styling combo people gravitate to. You could always include a can’t-decide-they-are-all-awesome category for the vote.


Love this post so much. The links aren’t working for me though… problem on my end?


Love this post. Loved Michael’s take.


But maybe it’s because I own those coasters. Also at West Elm.

Michael Keck

Thanks! It was a fun challenge, I was surprised how fast you can spend 100 bucks (although I shouldn’t be since I spent $36 of it on a book). hahaha


Two things:
1. I didn’t think I would find this post interesting, but I really enjoyed it! I’ve pinned those Table Tiles and will definitely be buying them the next time I’m in the mood for retail therapy.

2. I completely missed Michael’s intro post and comments are closed on it, so I’ll just mention here that OMG I loved it! It was so relatable. I’ve been a pretty consistent reader for the past few years and I feel like I’m learning exactly the same lessons and more. Keep writing, Michael! I love your voice!

Michael Keck

This is a tasty little comment that is giving me all the feels! Thanks so much, I genuinely appreciate it. And you’ll like those coasters, they are fun.


I missed Michael’s post too (how??? I’ve been reading every post for so many years!!) and wanted to say that that room is absolutely gorgeous. I wish I had the same ability to put together weird finds. Also, yes, you totally look like amish siblings in that picture 🙂


Love this column idea, but sadly did not love any of the three styling efforts. While fine, they all seemed so predictable, but maybe I read too many design mags and blogs.


Absolutely love this new series! Keep up the great work.

For the record, my fave is Michael’s.


Ideas for more styling challenges: thin fireplace mantels (like 3-4″ deep), wall shelves (as opposed to bookcases) and maybe small vignettes on dining room tables? Loved this new series and can’t wait to see more. I vibed with Michael’s style the most because I love me some quirky vintage!


YES to thin fireplace mantels!!! Help me!


I learned a lot in this post, and one of the weirdest things is that I draw the styling line at picking books for their outward appearance. Books are so much more than props to some, and to see them used as such is…. well… difficult.


Sorry, this isn’t working. I’d prefer “real life” examples too. I’ll end up skipping this post altogether if it stays in this format.


I love this post! Gave me great ideas, and I can even save $100 by using things I already own to re-style my coffee table per the team’s helpful examples.


loved this post!! i think this series could work for styling so many things (couches with pillows, dining room tables, bed-side tables, etc. etc.). This is my favorite kind of EHD post and i loved all of your ideas here 🙂

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