How to style small living room end tables — enjoy chic zoning with 8 expert tips

Keep your end tables clutter-free and intentional for chic and stylish small living room vibes

Three living room end tables, one wood mid-century modern end table next to a tan couch, a white modern end table with a plant and a leopard lamp, and a gold decked out end table with books and a whale tale figurine
(Image credit: West Elm + Urban Outfitters)

When deciding how to style small living room end tables, this classic furniture item has endless decor potential. They can be so versatile and useful, even when being put to work in the smallest of square footage.

Consider function and tidiness, and for everything else, we've tapped into our network of interior design experts to learn their best eight tips.

Zone your small living room with your end tables, and let them shine with their great functionality, variety in choice, and quick and easy adaptability day-to-day.

How to style small living room end tables

In a small living room, having little zones can make a difference and elevate your space. One of the best ways to group together decor is with the use of an end table, which you can place either next to an accent chair or on one end of your sofa. 

Our eight expert-approved tips and tricks for styling end tables in a small living room will shake up your aesthetic for the better in no time.

1. Less is more

West Elm side wooden side table with low shelf featuring two books and the top shelf styled with a cream ceramic bowl

(Image credit: West Elm)

When decorating ends tables in a small space, it’s important to keep things clutter-free and remember: less is more. Start by decluttering your small space.

Tayah Mawer, an interior designer, says, “To achieve this, create a visual triangle by placing a tall object at the back of the table, and grouping small objects at the bottom."

The designer notes this arrangement creates a more pleasing appearance and helps ensure your room doesn't feel overcrowded. Clutter in even the biggest of living rooms zaps the sensation of space so little ones will feel the crunch much more keenly.

Tayah Mawer
Tayah Mawer

Tayah Mawer is an interior designer helping those with small homes inject function and style into their spaces.

2. Use a trinket dish

Shiny white hexagonal trinket dish with water glasses, two bottles of water and a white and gold geometric patterned vase with green leaves and budded plant

(Image credit: Wayfair)

To create more intention with your end table decor, Bethany Struble, a lead designer at Totum Home, says to try and contain things as much as possible — and one way to do so is through aesthetically pleasing trays.

“Trinket dishes or trays are a nice way to keep things contained on a side table,” she notes. You can use pretty much anything as a trinket dish, be it a chic bowl, a vintage candy dish, a mirror tray, or a wooden heart tray from Pottery Barn.

Bethany Struble a while woman with shoulder length light brown hair in white shirt and jeans
Bethany Struble

Bethany Struble is an interior designer at Totum Home and a set and prop designer for bands such as Paramore and Plain White Ts. 

3. Add height

Metallic West Elm Side Table

(Image credit: West Elm)

Making use of height within your table decor can add intrigue when considering how to style small living room end tables. 

“Add items that are of varying heights to an end table for visual interest,” Bethany suggests. “Taper candles (we like taper candles from Wayfair with intriguing shapes) or vases with flowers are great paired with shorter indoor plants or coasters,” she adds. 

4. Incorporate a coffee table book

Urban Outfitters side table with a shelf underneath with three stacked books, and a futher shelf under that with a folded knitted cream throw blanket

(Image credit: Urban Outfitters)

Your end table should be as clutter-free as possible, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Don't shy away from colorful small living room styling and remember: your end tables are an extension of your design tastes and don't have to be bland.

 “I like to put a coffee table book down first and group your best candle and a plant on top of that,” says Bethany. “Using a book as an anchor stops the table from feeling cluttered."

In addition to cheap coffee table books, Tayah advises using your own books. “Whether you prefer new releases or classic editions, books can easily add depth to your end table while showcasing your personality,” she notes. 

“By stacking two or three books on top of each other, you can create riders and add another unique element on top, such as a vase or picture frame,” she adds. 

This is an affordable and simple way to personalize your space, and reflect who you are in your surroundings, a 2024 trend resonating from all expert corners. Celebs love utilising this too, with Ashley Tisdale's coffee table books leading the charge.

5. Keep things practical

Urban Outfitters side table with lamp and plant

(Image credit: Urban Outfitters)

End tables can add a nice, decorative touch to a space but their main purpose is functionality. With this in mind, Alex Bass, an interior designer, art curator, and founder of Salon 21, says to keep things practical. 

She says, “End table are in a space where you are actually using it as a surface to serve drinks on, so make sure any styling or decor makes sense. When in doubt, try to keep your end table clutter-free with only one or two framed photos and a lamp or small plant, to leave room for function."

Alex Bass
Alex Bass

Alex Bass is an interior designer, art curator, and founder of Salon 21, a NYC-based fine art and design studio that provides curated cultural experiences for the contemporary consumer 

6. Make a statement

West Elm glass side table with three mirrored levels each wide than the next and edged with gold metal

(Image credit: West Elm)

Alex also recommends looking for end table designs that make a statement, as a functional piece can also be used as a unique design element in itself. “I love some metallic elements and glass to help bounce light around a space, rather than having too many heavy, dark pieces,” she explains. 

While you can find brand-new glass top side tables (like this one from Amazon), antique stores and vintage shops are also great places to look for unique glass and metal side tables, helping to keep the carbon footprint of your decor journey as low as possible.

7. Group items in odd numbers

Ridged cylindrical vertical West Elm White Side Tables

(Image credit: West Elm)

When decorating your end table, Bethany says to be intentional about your pieces and group things together in odd numbers. “For some reason, it always looks best,” she adds, sharing she personally typically sticks with three knick-knacks. 

8. Use different textures

West Elm metal and wood side table with metal legs and white wooden tray top styled with a lamp and ridged green trinket box

(Image credit: West Elm)

When styling your end table, Bethany says to also consider different textures by mixing things like stone with wood or metal. It’s also worth adding some greenery texture with a small potted plant or floral arrangement. 

“Greenery goes a long way in decorating,” she notes, adding that she almost always adds a plant to an end table. “It brings life and energy to a space.” 

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Where should end tables be placed in a small living room?

“I like to have a side table next to a floating accent chair or just simply next to the sofa,” says Bethany. Where you place your end tables depends entirely on your space and, if you don’t have space for next to the sofa or an accent chair, Alex says to get creative. “If you have unique nooks behind your couch based on the layout and structure of the space, I love to find small tables to fill these gaps,” she explains, noting that it’s a great way to maximize space with function. 

Should you use end tables in a living room?

While an end table might not be a go-to for small spaces—after all, you want to prevent crowding—they can elevate a room, depending on the amount of space and overall living room layout. “You may have to go much smaller than you would in a larger space, but having a place to set your drink without leaning forward to the coffee table is a luxury,” says Bethany. 

An end table goes beyond its functional purpose and is an excellent way to elevate your space with design and personality. According to experts, it’s important to keep these areas clutter-free—but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little bit of fun with the decor.

Consider adding height to your end table by stacking books or adding tapered candles. A mix of textures and greenery can also go a long way and create a more elevated look. Now you've tackle side tables, it's time to delve into how to style a sofa in a small living room.

Jessie Quinn
Freelance Writer

Jessie Quinn is a lifestyle writer with words published in The Spruce, Byrdie, Well + Good, Shape, PEOPLE, and more. Jessie has a Bachelor's Degree in Fashion Journalism from Academy of Art University and leans on her background in fashion to inspire readers to hone their personal decor style as if it's their wardrobe. When she's not writing, Jessie can be found browsing the aisles of her local antique stores, creating DIY home decor projects, and taking care of her dozens of houseplants. Her eclectic decor style balances vintage, modern, and artisanal pieces that reflect her artsy style and love for handmade goods.