If you’ve ever looked at an empty space in your home and thought “there’s something missing”, the answer could be a console table. One of the most versatile pieces of furniture, the humble console not only provides valuable extra surface space but acts as a stage on which you can showcase everything and anything: from treasured trinkets brought back from travels overseas, to vases full of colourful flowers, to a collection of family photographs, the console is a blank canvas for you to interpret as you please.
A console table can be purely ornamental – a vignette sprinkled with clues divulging your tastes and character to guests – or it can take a more functional role if it features drawers or a shelf, which too, can provide decorative opportunities. It’s equally important to think about not only what you display on your console table, but also how you arrange it and where it sits in your home. Not sure where to begin? Read on for our step-by-step guide on how to style a console table.
Where you place your console table will largely dictate its purpose, and thus, what you choose to style it with. A dining room console is first and foremost a practical piece, for housing readily accessible tableware, whereas one in the hallway will be what welcomes you in and the first thing guests see, acting to set the tone of your home.
So how to style a hallway console table? The hall is one of the most popular places for a console but often offers little space, especially if you live in the city, so it’s important to factor this in – a “less is more” approach can be the best way to go. Think about what you want the first impression to be when you come through the door and base your decorative choices on that. These surfaces have a habit of getting quite cluttered, so look to objets d’art, such as dishes or pots, that double up as useful places to store out-of-the-door essentials. A mirror balanced on a console can work well too, acting as decoration while reflecting light around to make the space look bigger, and offering a last-minute spot to check hair and makeup before dashing out.
Another typical position for a console is behind the sofa. If you have an L-shaped sofa, opting for an asymmetrical set-up will work well, whereas a balanced console fits nicely with the symmetry of the room if its focus is a rectangular sofa – more on this later.
Before you start adorning the console’s surface, take a moment to reflect on how your arrangement will tie in with its backdrop. Most consoles sit flush with the wall, so think of the area as pieces of a puzzle, rather than separate entities; the effect should be visually cohesive. Positioning art, a mirror or framed photographs – or all three – above it draws the eye and creates a focal point in the room.
Let the length of the console guide the size of your artwork. Whether you’re hanging a single mirror or multiple prints, the general rule of thumb is that they should be spread across two-thirds of the width of the furniture, about 15 to 25cm above it. If you step back and it doesn’t look right on the wall, chances are you need to rethink the size of your artwork.
When styling a console, most people tend to favour a balanced layout – it’s more pleasing to the eye and offers a sense of calm. Symmetrical console table arrangements tend to feature identical sized pieces at either end (such as a pair of lamps) with a focal feature in the centre. To prevent your arrangement from looking too “samey”, vary the heights of your chosen objects and introduce trinkets from different eras – think metallic picture frames paired with ceramic vases. This breaks up the visual landscape, allowing the eye to travel easily from piece to piece.
Alternatively, look to the asymmetric – this doesn’t have to mean messy. In fact, more thought can be given to an unbalanced layout than when designing a symmetrical one; there’s more room to play around, but the end result will be more nonchalant. Effective asymmetric layouts are often anchored by a large object at one end, with successive pieces decreasing in height, towards the opposite end. Be sure to experiment with depth to make your display more interesting to the onlooker and consider grouping together pieces of the same family (photo frames for example), or accessories that are completely unrelated but have one thing in common, such as the same colour or finish. If you feel that it’s looking too cluttered, select two same-coloured objects to place at either end of the table. This will help your eye travel from left to right.
If you’ve got more personality packed items to display, look to the space underneath your console to complete the look. If you don’t have a bottom shelf, the floor can work just as well. For a pretty but practical feel, tuck woven baskets in the nook, which can be used as extra storage if that’s something you’re lacking, but lend an organic feel otherwise. Stacks of large coffee table books sat side by side add height and drama.
Now you should be a pro at console table styling. If you’re considering incorporating another console into your home, let our useful guide to choosing the right piece help you out.