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A Guide to Console Tables: What They Are and How to Dress Them

May 6, 2022

It’s obvious where most tables fit in the home: dining tables take centre stage at mealtimes, coffee tables offer a cosy escape for a much-needed brew, and bedside tables are on hand for all your nighttime necessities.

But what exactly is a console table and where does it go? 

Slender, stylish, and a dab hand for storage, console tables are a versatile addition to any space. Today we’re talking about what they’re used for and how you can dress a console table to add instant intrigue to those empty corners of your house. 

A Guide to Console Tables: What They Are and How to Dress Them | Rose & Grey

What is a console table?

A console table is a long but narrow piece of furniture that is often positioned against a flat surface, like next to a wall or behind a sofa. Generally, they stand alone to spruce up empty hallways and bare walls. With the right placement and styling, console tables can be a beautiful accent feature.

Some console tables have built-in drawers or shelves that provide additional storage options. Often, their open design means that your trinkets or odds and ends will be on display to your guests – whether you choose to keep your everyday essentials close to hand or use it to hold your favourite decorative accessories, it’s completely up to you.

Why is it called a console table?

Console tables are thought to have got their name from the French word ‘consolide’, which means to strengthen or reinforce. This is believed to be because of the design of the first console tables in 17th-century France, which were built with a tabletop slab that’s supported by two wall brackets and two scroll-shaped legs. 

Today, console tables have evolved to become freestanding pieces of furniture, losing their wall brackets and gaining two extra legs. It gives us a lot more freedom to choose where we want to place them – without having to commit to fixing them into one permanent spot – and their slender shape means that they’re still a great fit for narrow spaces.

A Guide to Console Tables: What They Are and How to Dress Them | Rose & Grey

What’s the difference between console and side tables?

The main difference between consoles and side tables is where they’re positioned: consoles tend to be placed against a wall or flat surface, whereas side tables are often found framing a sofa or armchair. 

Consoles are usually wider and taller, with the extra surface making them decorative as well as functional. For side tables, they tend to serve a more practical use and hold items within easy reach of living room seating. Think lamps, cups and glasses, and books.

What is a console table used for?

Historically, console tables were found in the hallways of palaces and mansions and were exclusively used as a decorative element rather than for functionality.

Today, they strike a happy balance between both.

Let’s take a look at how consoles are used throughout various rooms in the house:

Hallways

You’re most likely to find console tables giving a warm welcome in hall or entryways. These narrow tables lend themselves well to busy areas, filling up space without feeling intrusive.

As the first thing that your guests see as they step through the door, it’s common to see console tables in entryways paired with wall mirrors and accessories to draw the eye in. 

For more hallway ideas, take a look at our guide to creating the perfect entryway.

A Guide to Console Tables: What They Are and How to Dress Them | Rose & Grey

Dining rooms

Consoles can add extra storage wherever you need it — and dining rooms are no exception. 

Today, you might see one near a dining table holding dinnerware and placemats. They might also be used to store glassware and spirits as a makeshift home bar.

Living rooms

In living rooms, console tables can be used in a number of ways:

  • Accent tables – Accent tables add another layer to your home décor, creating a focal point that’s separate from other large pieces of furniture like sofas, coffee tables, and cabinets. Use them to hold miscellaneous items that might otherwise clutter up your coffee table, prop up your favourite table lamp, or showcase stylish flourishes like plants and dried flowers.
  • Media tables – Some consoles are the perfect height to function as a TV or media stand. Ones with drawers and shelving are super convenient for keeping cables and media accessories tucked out of sight.
  • Sofa tables – Consoles that are placed against the back of a sofa are sometimes referred to as, you guessed it, sofa tables. These can work to divide a living room into separate sections. 
A Guide to Console Tables: What They Are and How to Dress Them | Rose & Grey

Bedrooms

Tucking an accent chair or stool under a console means that it can also double up as a dressing table in the bedroom. 

Perfect for creating a cosy nook where you can get ready in the mornings, console tables offer a practical but pretty solution. Just don’t forget to hang a mirror and add some lighting.

How to dress a console table

  1. Choose a console that fits the height of your sofa

Want to use a console as a sofa table? Before you order your table, check how tall it is compared to the height of the back of your sofa. 

The one golden rule for sofa tables is that they shouldn’t be taller than your sofa back. Ideally, it should be the same height as your seating to create a seamless transition, or one or two inches shorter if you’re struggling to find one that fits exactly.

  1. Use for storage in entryways

For console tables in entryways, it’s useful to opt for storage baskets or trinket dishes. These are ideal for catching your keys, wallet, and other must-haves as you step through your front door.

A beautiful wicker basket makes an excellent catchall while hiding any unsightly clutter.

  1. Opt for symmetrical or asymmetrical styling

When it comes to styling your console, there are two types of design to choose from: symmetrical or asymmetrical.

  • Symmetrical – When you opt for symmetrical placement, place similarly sized and shaped accessories equal distance apart on your table. This helps to create balance that‘s visually pleasing to look at. Table lamps, vases, and matching candlesticks are popular choices for framing a console table. Prop a framed print and a stack of books in the centre to complete the look.
  • Asymmetrical – The opposite of symmetrical design is asymmetrical. Varying the size and shape of your accessories and placing them in a way where they don’t mirror each other can give off a more relaxed, effortless feel. An easy way to achieve asymmetry is by sticking to the rule of three; group three objects together rather than placing them individually and spaced out. The odd number means you won’t run the risk of accidental symmetrical placement.
A Guide to Console Tables: What They Are and How to Dress Them | Rose & Grey
  1. Use a console table to anchor a large wall fixture

To avoid a decorated console table appearing too bottom-heavy with accessories, anchor a large wall fixture above it.

Whether it’s a print, a wall hanging, or a mirror, a large structure that takes up space above your console will help to balance out your space.

As consoles can often be quite angular, hanging a round mirror above it can help to create an aesthetically pleasing contrast.

  1. Layer items to add height

Vary the size of items that you want to use to dress the top of your console table. If you select accessories that are all a similar shape, your console can look quite flat and lack depth. 

Layer tall, small, wide, and thin decorations to form a well-varied display. 

Lamps, taper candles, and prints can lend a helping hand for adding height, while a flat stack of books and small vases are great for incorporating a mixture of shapes.

  1. Don’t neglect the space around your console table

Don’t forget that dressing a console table doesn’t just include the things that go on top of it, consider the things around it too.

A tall floor lamp or potted plant placed on one side of your console table can take asymmetric design even further. 

Take a step back to look at your table as a whole with the things around it. Avoid placing more than one item on the floor around it to prevent the space from looking cluttered.

A Guide to Console Tables: What They Are and How to Dress Them | Rose & Grey

How to style a console table to elevate your space

Knowing what a console table is and what they’re used for makes it easier to fill empty spaces in your home and elevate your interiors. Selecting the right accessories and choosing the perfect placement means you can make the most out of your furniture. 


Browse our full collection of tables or discover the Rose & Grey blog for more inspiration and interior tips.

A Guide to Console Tables: What They Are and How to Dress Them | Rose & Grey

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