Decorating 101: How To Style a Buffet Table In 3 Easy Steps

I love playing around with styling our buffet table. Changing out the decor seasonally and using various textures and placements for the accessories is a lot of fun. But it wasn’t always that way. At one time, it was a real challenge and, to be honest, a bit of a mystery how all those stylists on T.V. seemed to style a surface so effortlessly! That’s why today I’m sharing how to style a buffet table in 3 easy steps. It’s a formula that works for me every time – yep, that’s right – every time!  And I’m spilling the beans here 🙂

How To Style A Buffet Table in 3 Easy Steps | Take the mystery out of decorating your buffet table by applying one basic principle of design in just 3 simple steps. Once you master these 3 steps, you'll be able to apply them to other surfaces in your home, including your sideboard, console, credenza and mantle. Learn the basic steps in this easy-to-follow tutorial. | via aprettyfix.com

The Cart Before the Horse

I’m not normally one who rants (that’s my husband’s job – lol! 😉 ). But may I rant for a moment?

One of my biggest pet peeves about most decorating advice, is that there is often little that’s useful about it. Most of it boils down to telling us that we need to ‘break all the rules’ and just ‘add variety.’

But what does that mean?

Knowing that we should vary height or texture or add pops of colour is valuable, to be sure (and it’s something I do). But how do you pull it all together so that it’s pleasing to the eye? How do you group objects? How do you prevent visual clutter on a narrow surface or, worse yet, visual monotony?

How can we break the so-called rules, when we don’t even know what they are?

Telling readers to ‘add interest,’ ‘mix accessories’ or ‘add something personal’ only makes sense once you understand the basics of design. It’s like putting the proverbial cart before the horse (or should I say, decor before design).

Back to Basics:  The Rule of Three

Before you begin to style your buffet table (or any other surface in your home), there is a universal ‘rule’ of styling that is extremely valuable to know – and that’s the ‘Rule of Three.’

The ‘Rule of Three’ goes something like this:  Arranging accessories in odd numbers – such as 3 – is more appealing than grouping them in even numbers. That’s because it is unexpected, visually interesting, and more memorable.  For this reason, it is a basic design principle that many designers use.

While I am not a stickler for this rule (and break it often), I do find it a useful guideline that I often return to again and again.

Back to Basics:  Visual Triangles

Understanding the Rule of Three helps when considering any surface in your home, including your buffet table. Here’s how:

Think of your buffet table as having a HORIZONTAL plane and VERTICAL plane. In order to decorate that space, both the horizontal and vertical planes need to be considered.

The Rule of Three is best applied in this case, therefore, by creating ‘Visual Triangles’ with your decor. In a Visual Triangle, three points are considered:  one at the top to cover the vertical plane, and two along the horizontal plane of your surface, thus creating a triangle of decor.

Here is an example of 2 visual triangles on our buffet table.

Design tips for styling a buffet table | use Visual Triangles to Anchor Your Accessories.

When thinking of covering vertical and horizontal space on your buffet table, Visual Triangles are just about the easiest and simplest way to corral your accessories.

Let’s break it down further by showing you how I styled our buffet table in 3 easy steps.

How To Style A Buffet Table In 3 Easy Steps

First, I gathered accessories that approximated 3 different heights. One set of three were grouped together on the left and the other on the right.

Decor Selection Tips:  When selecting accessories make sure to 1. have a consistent colour palette 2. vary shapes 3. vary textures. These 3 tips will ensure that there is cohesion, harmony and interest in the vignette you’re creating.

STEP 1:  Add The Tallest Accessory First

Start with a clean slate.

start with clean slate before decorating buffet table.

Add the tallest accessory first to anchor that side.

Style a buffet table or console in 3 simple steps.

STEP 2:  Add the Second Tallest Item

Taking the second tallest piece, place it next to your anchor.

Decorating a buffet table | Tips | Home Decor

STEP 3:  Add The Shortest Item To Complete The Triangle

Finally, add your shortest piece to complete your Visual Triangle.

Design tips and tricks for decorating a buffet table in 3 simple steps.

I added mine on top of the box to give it more height and substance.

Let’s take a look at the process again in the GIF below (it’s as easy as 1-2-3!):

Decorating around a mirror in 3 steps.

Now you are ready to balance out the look on the other side by simply repeating the 3-step process:

First, start with a clean slate (dusty mirror notwithstanding 😉 ).

Decorating a buffet table.

Step 1: Tallest Item(s) First

Simple tips for decorating a buffet table.

Tip: How To Break The Rules. Once you understand the Rule of Three, it now becomes easier to know how to break or modify it to adjust to ‘real life’ decorating. Notice that I break from the rule of 3 by choosing two like items of similar heights (instead of just 1 tall item). By doing this, I am treating the 2 as a single item, thus creating ONE VISUAL FOOTPRINT. In this vignette, therefore, these two candlesticks will act as the anchor piece(s) of the Visual Triangle being created.

Step 2: Second Tallest Item

3 simple styling tips to decorate a buffet table.

Step 3: Shortest Item

How To Decorate A Buffet Table (or console, credenza, sideboard).

And here’s another GIF (for your viewing pleasure 😉 )

Simple style tips for using your home decor to style a buffet table.

Styling a buffet table need not be a mystery. Use objects you love, vary things up, but remember, if you start to feel overwhelmed, use this post on how to style a buffet table as a guide. In just 3 easy steps, you’ll be styling like a pro!

Happy decorating 🙂


If you enjoyed this post, then check out more in the DECORATING 101 series below:

Throw pillows and blankets are a simple, affordable way to add instant appeal to any space. Don't underestimate the power of these 'twin towers' in home decor to take a drab room and make it look stunning in an instant. Get your inspiration (along with a key formula in design) in this decorating series via aprettyfix.com.

Need some added inspiration and ideas when it comes to styling your sofa? These 3 steps can take the guesswork out and can take your sofa from ho-hum to styish and put together. // aprettyfix.com


For the best expert tips for styling your home, check out a few of my favourite home style bloggers:

Style By Emily Henderson (vintage, boho, eclectic)

The Inspired Room (coastal, classic)

Sarah Richardson Design (traditional, fresh, feminine)

School of Decorating (contemporary, colourful)


  • Reply
    July 17, 2017 at 11:04 am

    I love your buffet Jelica! The mirror in the back is so beautiful and I like the white touches with the blonde wood style so much! I also love that it is not overloaded at all. Thanks for these helpful tips, I break the rule of three often too, but it´s good to have it as a guideline!

    • Reply
      July 17, 2017 at 6:25 pm

      Thanks Katrin 🙂 The Rule of 3 is such a useful guide, but it’s not one to be followed blindly. Decorating is such a personal process and we all have our individual styles and tastes. Either way, I’m loving the journey!

  • Reply
    July 18, 2017 at 9:48 am

    Jelica you could teach a class on this! It takes the guesswork out of styling. I can usually tell when something is wrong but I never know why. This explains everything!

    • Reply
      July 19, 2017 at 7:13 pm

      I”m so glad you got something from the post. I enjoyed putting it together (and, yes, I would LOVE to teach a class on this! You’re giving me food for thought!). Thanks for stopping by Mary 🙂

  • Reply
    July 19, 2017 at 8:20 am

    You explained that so beautifully Jelica. I often look at my groupings and know in my gut that something feels off, but I just can’t seem to put my finger on exactly what’s wrong. Next time I’m trying to style something, all I’m going to see is triangles 😉

    • Reply
      July 19, 2017 at 7:20 pm

      Lol! Yes, those triangles have gotten me out of more than one style puzzle. They definitely come in handy 🙂

  • Reply
    jodie filogomo
    July 28, 2017 at 12:30 pm

    I usually have so much fun with this kind of decorating. But I’ve been at a loss lately with above my fireplace. I think I’ll just use these tips!!

    • Reply
      July 28, 2017 at 3:52 pm

      This can work very well when you have a narrow, flat surface (like a mantel) against a wall or fireplace. I’d love to see the finished product!

    Leave a Reply