Creating 3 Different Looks for a Side Table

Have you ever been stumped when it came to decorating a side table or dresser? I have! I tend to be a bit of a minimalist, and I don’t like a lot of stuff sitting around. But then my house can look kind of bare. So when the Nester over at Nesting Place talked about a tablescape tutorial she read in The Home Book, I took notes. According to designer David Jimenez:


1) Layer and lean framed photographs against the wall.

2) Keep your palette simple–black and white with one hit of color.

3) A tray makes everything richer.

4) Use a vase with a strong silhouette.

Here is how Nester’s tablescape turned out:

Isn’t that lovely? She’s hosting a 10 Minutes to a Room You’ll Love party today, so I decided to participate and give it a shot!

It wasn’t hard to decide which table needed a makeover the most. Here’s my sad, neglected, and practically nekkid work table in my home office. It’s humble Sauder furniture, and I desperately need a new lamp, but taking the Nester and the Home Book’s advice, I set out to see what I could do with it.



First, I shopped the house to see what I had that resembled the items in the Home Book photo: silver candlesticks, a black and white photo to prop against the larger artwork, colorful books, and a white plate like Nester’s. (I had a black tray, too, but it was too wide for my narrow table.)

I took the artwork off the wall and propped it on the table as instructed and recreated the general look of the inspiration photos as closely as possible. Here’s how my first attempt turned out:

After #1:

Oh, and I straightened up my cubbies, while I was at it. I got some matching black boxes to put stuff in. That made a big difference!

I played around with it some more. What if I took the beat-up old lamp off the table altogether and added a vase instead? I mixed it up a little to create a second look.

Look #2:

At this point I started getting tired of the black and white and wanted some color. So I brought in all the bright, colorful things I could find, including a candy bowl from the kitchen, just for fun.

Look #3:

I bought these 3 glass bottles at IKEA for $2.99 each but had never figured out what to do with them. When I was at the grocery store today, I grabbed a bunch of their cheapest flowers ($5) and put them in the bottles. They were just what my room needed!

It was fun playing around and trying some new things. Now I’ve got to decide which look to stick with. I have pictures, vases, candlesticks, and books stacked everywhere. So help me out here. Which look was your favorite? Do you think I’m on the right track, at least?

{If you like black and white decorating, check out my family room.  If you like more color, check out my daughter Lily’s bathroom.}

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  1. says

    Wow, that looks beautiful, great job with all three! I LOVE all the color in table #3. Thanks for inspiring 😉

  2. says

    I like them all. The one that is best is the one that makes you happy. I don’t know you, but when I saw the 3rd picture, it seemed perfect for you. Does that make sense? LOL!

    Thanks for the post, now I know what I will be doing tomorrow!

    Jenny’s last blog post..Works For Me Wednesday

  3. says

    I was majorly impressed with each transformation of that little ol’ table. Looks fantastico! I am taking note…

    Megan’s last blog post..Nine is FINE!

  4. says

    I love that you didnt just re-arrange once and give up! I kind of am leaning towards the last one because it is bright and cheery-spring ready! And the beauty of it all is that you can change it again and everytime you get a hankering for a new look! Thanks for sharing-it was fun!
    Hope you are having a wonderful week~Tam:D

    Tam’s last blog post..My LiL Weekend Adventure!

  5. says

    I have got to give this idea a whirl. Maybe tomorrow when I’m off work?

    Suzann’s last blog post..

  6. says

    Great job! I like # 2 and #3 the best, how’s that for being decisive? Maybe you could change them out for the seasons? Or just with your mood? But then you might not get anything else done! 😉

    Kimm at Reinvented’s last blog post..Inspiring Spaces

  7. says

    I have such a hard time with tables, so this post is really helpful! I can’t decide which look I like best…#2 is so classy, whereas #3 is spunky and fun. Nice job, Julia!

    bungalow_bliss’s last blog post..The Sleeper Trifecta?

  8. says

    cute! very clever…love the tip about adding books…i did the same to one of my tabletops yesterday!

  9. says

    Oooh I loved this post. I love the look of After #1 – it looks very polished and put together – like it could fit easily into a magazine spread. But I would prefer to have After #2 in my own home. I love color, fresh flowers and I love that those look books that would actually be read. The only think I might do differently is get a different piece of art for the wall that has more color – and try hanging it vs. propping on the table. You’ve inspired me – I have been meaning to do something with my two bedside tables for ages. Must work on them this weekend!

    christy’s last blog post..Power Surge on Hub Port (huh?)

  10. says

    Fun to see all the different ways- you’ve inspired me to get working on some table I have. I just spent sometime refreshing my fireplace-and now I have some ideas for a couple of tables.
    Have a great day-

  11. says

    Oh my gosh girl…this is absolutely LOVELY…you did a fantastic job…I tend to get too much STUFF and now i am going to work on a problem chest that I have…you have given me some great ideas….

    bj’s last blog post..A teeny, tiny make-over aka FLUFFING..

  12. says

    I’m a big fan of black and white decorating! I personally loved the black and white theme, and I thought the first picture in your linkback to your family room was your family room! It took my breath away. Yours is equally lovely, by the way. But now I’m lusting after those houndstooth chairs.

    Heather’s last blog post..I want some free clothes from J Crew

  13. says

    i like look #3, but i would like the picture back on the top of the shelf and maybe the lamp on the right? i’m not crazy about pears *and* flowers together, but i love the bright-colored books.

    how about black and white with just a shot of color from either the books or the flowers? i’d like to see that.

    maya | springtree road’s last blog post..©1974

  14. says

    Thanks for sharing! I like 1 better than 2, a lamp is always good. But I also love all the color in 3. That’s what’s so great about shopping your house. You can do 3 during the spring to brighten things up and then when you need a chage, no problem!

    Lazy Mom Leslie’s last blog post..The Pantry Pit!

  15. says

    Number 2 is my pick. A fun and easy exercise everyone should do. I think a mantelpiece could be tackled in the same fashion. Thanks for passing on the tips!

    Nouveau Stitch’s last blog post..Ode to a Foot

  16. Judy B says

    Love your second look the most!!! But they are all stunning – Great job!!!

  17. says

    I love the clean-ness of the black and white – but i’m ALWAYS drawn to color. Maybe mix the two up a bit. Anyway you do it it will turn out great. All 3 are fantastic. I just put my dresser in the closet and that was probably the only thing in my house that I could do a tablescape on. I’ll have to wait on doing this one!

    amylouwho’s last blog post..:*deep breath*:

  18. hookedonhouses says

    Maya–I wouldn’t actually use pears in my study, probably–just needed that color when I was playing around.

    Christy–I agree that if I go with the colorful version, I’d probably need different artwork. I’d definitely have some shopping to do!

    Thanks for all of your kind comments. Nice to see so many new faces here this morning! -Julia :-)

  19. says

    All of them look great. I like how you used just thing you have. Pulling thing that fit the stlye and the color pallet.

    Derek’s last blog post..House update

  20. says

    I love #3! The others are nice too but I think #3 is un-stuffy and fun. I actually love the pears and flowers together. And so much color- love it.

    Amy’s last blog post..La-de-da

  21. says

    I was just over at Susan’s and saw your link, Julia. Love this makeover/tablescape! Beautiful, with lots of inspiration!

    Pat’s last blog post..~Soup for Two~

  22. Tricia Anne says

    I really like all the looks that you presented. :o) Your hydrangeas are gorgeous!
    Sincerely ~ Tricia Anne

  23. says

    I like ALL the different looks! I love that you shared the differences that you tried out. I like 2 for a more ‘upscale’ feel and 3 for springy and fun!

    Sherri S’s last blog post..Tornado Warning!

  24. says

    Yo uhave such cool stuff around your hosue to work with–I love all the arrangements. The flowers make it look so summery. Sheesh if I had to shop around my house, all I’d have to work with is a stack of diapers and an arrangement of cottage cheese-making sippy cups.

    Aubrey’s last blog post..Untacky Valentines

  25. Susan says

    Okay, #3 has my vote. The other two were lovely, but that one is perfect

  26. says

    Oh I love those bottles from IKEA.

    I think I prefer the Black & White #2. But it would really depend on what is going on in the rest of the room.

    Now to finish my day and get home to decorate.

    angie’s last blog post..Updates…

  27. says

    looks fantastic! i love all three ways…the second might be my favorite. But the third looks like how I’m feeling…all whimsical with spring fever!

  28. says

    I love all three. What an excellent job! Now, I must copy these for my “I wanna do this, too!” file.
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia 😉

  29. says

    Exquisite! Love the effort you went to! It’s so nice to see possibilities. I’m loving all of the great ideas… I think I’m going to host a toile party in the future. Would you come if I did? Crazy… I’m a little nervous about it and don’t want to look like a total dork in a party dress with 3 links… Ahhh… bloggy nerves! I’ll be back soon! Love this blog!

    PrettyOrganizer’s last blog post..Rearrange the Furniture; an unscheduled post.

  30. says

    Those all look great! Isnt it amazing what the comosition can do to a space. You dont even realize until it is done properly and then you seem to even breathe easier. I love all of those looks.
    Thanks for playing along in Thrifty Thursday’s in Bloggeritaville! I appreciate your support!


    leigh of Tales from Bloggeritaville’s last blog post..Thrifty Thursday-Plus a Tablescape

  31. says

    You did such a great job! Bravo!
    What a great little project to liven up a space, tonight I’m going to walk around the house and see if I can do something similiar.

    Christine’s last blog post..Lace and Stencils

  32. says

    Great ideas for three different looks! Just remember if leaning any frames or other objects against the wall that you use something to prevent wall marks or scratches. It is very easy to mark or scratch the wall each time you move the oject to dust. I like using the peel and stick pads that you put on the bottom of furniture. They come in many sizes and thickness.

  33. says

    Hey, great job! I think I like #1 best. If your lamp has seen better days, you could spray-paint it black and that would tie it in and give it a little more visual weight. Maybe you could put the flowers with that arrangement for a punch of color.

    Holly’s last blog post..I Did It In Ten Minutes, More or Less

  34. says

    I like them all, but the colors of the last one caught my attention. I’m a color person for sure. I even have a colorful basket like yours. Well, really I have 5 or 6 of them in a row in my laundry room holding craft stuff. Love the flowers. Pretty tablescapes…all of them. Great post Julia!

  35. says

    All three look great, I prefer #3 for spring and summer and maybe #1 for fall and winter, just my two cents worth.


  36. says

    I love this, Julia! I can waste…I mean spend…many hours doing stuff like this at home. I love the black and white look – very classic, sophisticated, and grown-up. I’ve been craving color recently, myself – I think it’s that longing for spring, knowing that it’s just around the corner…so I have to say I’m a big fan of the colorful tablescape too. For me personally, I’d probably go with the colorful one for now (in anticipation of spring!) and switch to the black and white come fall (maybe with a tiny bit of orange thrown in, like in the original inspiration photo had). Btw, THANK YOU for not using silk flowers in your Ikea vases. :-)

    Courtney @ Nesting Instincts’s last blog post..American Country refreshed – a no-money makeover

  37. says

    I love tables two and three. Nice job. I’m learning so many things about tablescapes that I never really thought about. Blogging rocks.

  38. Polly Maly says

    I stumbled onto the Nesting Place’s blog party, and have had an absolute blast looking at, and being inspired by, everyone’s 10-minute-makeovers. I’m having a really hard time deciding which of your tablescapes I like better. but I have to say, I was blown away by the first one. The other two were just as fabulous. Must run to change a tablescape right now!

  39. says

    Well, you sure had some fun in your office! All three look fab, Julia. I’m drawn to number three since I’m desperately craving Spring right now.

    Ah, trays. I love ’em. I’m starting to feel paranoid, now, however that people will call me the “tray lady” since every room has one perched on a table. They are just so great for detail, color, and anchoring all the pretties on a table.

    angela | the painted house’s last blog post..The Cottage Project: We Have Walls!

  40. says

    Running late this week visiting blogs….

    Hope you had a great Tablescape Thursday


  41. says

    It’s hard to decide which look is best they’re all great, always go with what you like & you can’t go wrong

  42. says

    Love all of them!

    Btw, I rented a movie the other day from the library…An Affair To Remember! I LOVED it! I didn’t cry as much as Meg Ryan and Rosie O’Donnell did, and I actually laughed my head off when Debra Karr said the line “Winter must be so cold for those who have no warm memories…” because that’s the line Meg and Rosie are sobbing over in Sleepless in Seattle. Thanks for posting about it the other day!

  43. says

    Hi Julia, Welcome to Tablescape Thursday! Wow, amazing how different that area looks with all the different vignettes you’ve chosen. If you need light in that area, I’d probably stick with the lamp look…which I like anyway. :-) The second look is a bit more sophisticated, I think, which the third is more casual and fun. Ummmm, maybe you could go with look 1 or 2 for winter and the fun, more colorful look for spring/summer. Or you could reverse that idea to give you some spring/summer in the dead of winter when we sometime need it the most!
    :-) Thanks for sharing all these great ideas! Susan

    Susan’s last blog post..Welcome to the First Ever Foodie Friday and to the Twenty-Sixth Tablescape Thursday!

  44. says

    They are each lovely, and now you have four different looks to this space that you can change whenever the mood strikes! I enjoy mixing things up every once in a while so my pretties don’t start to look stale. For me, if things never change, they blend in and I almost forget they’re there! Thanks for the inspiration…I’m off to play around in my dining room next!!!

  45. says

    I am so sorry. I made a mistake with number 40 on Mr. Linky. I can’t remove it.
    Thanks for having such a great link party.

  46. says

    I like the first one, but I would probably would try painting the lamp black…might be a little more balance! Great job! Loved seeing the 3 different looks!

    jodi @ bpr’s last blog post..Bless this Nest

  47. says

    Wow I love this. great idea to show the different ways. I get tired of the ‘same’ look….I love the different ideas and different placement of everything you used. Julia great post.

  48. says

    Thanks for the cool post. I got some good ideas from it. My favorite was #3. I have some tables that desperately need a makeover but my 18 month old won’t leave my knick knacks alone! Sigh…maybe next year :-)

  49. says

    Fantastic! I love the milky white candlesticks in the last look and the vase that matched the art in the second look. I’m dying to try the tablescapes, but with two crazy kiddos running around, I have to make it childproof and unbreakable….anyone have any tablescape suggestions using MELAMINE AND IRON????

    Cary’s last blog post..Thank you Nester!!!

  50. ida says

    i like look 2 . you even out the round clock with the round plate. could have used a round picture if you didnt want the plate. look 1 is still a very good look. i didnt care for look 3. though i did love a flowers and vases. i think they would look good perhaps spread apart in the living room or perhaps together on the dining room table. oh, and i LOVE ikea. got hooked on ikea back in stuttgart germany.