Learn how to make a vignette look effortless, while showing off your favorite objects, and enhancing your room designs.
You won’t find “vignette” defined as “a pleasing tableau of objects” in the dictionary, but this is what it has come to be known as in the sphere of home interior design.
A vignette, or “tablescape”, can be described as; an artful arrangement of objects grouped together to create a scene; tell a story; act as a focal point; or simply to make a decorative statement in your home. A vignette can be a grouping of accessories chosen to compliment a room's function or decorative details.
Vignettes can be truly personal, informing the world of your tastes and interests. These home interior design arrangements are typically composed of objects that may have at least one or more things in common, or nothing at all.
My mother is the master of creating vignettes— her tablescapes are ever-evolving. She will add or take away items to suit her fancy, or swap out objects with the seasons.
A vignette should look uncomplicated, spontaneous, and unstudied. Following are a few diy tips and tricks that will help you compose these delightful decorative scenes.
These “rules” are merely helpful tips to get you started. If you find something that works, even though it may not follow the rules, by all means, add it to your display.
Vignettes can be displayed on practically any horizontal surface.
Create a vignette on a coffee table, console, shelf, windowsill, fireplace mantle, an upright piano, bookcase, kitchen counters, bathroom counters, as a dining table centerpiece, a nightstand, bedroom dresser, foyer table, even on the floor.
Vignettes should compliment the style, color, or theme of your room designs.
Generally, when assembling a vignette, the accessories you choose should have at least one thing in common, some kind of connecting element. This rule isn't carved in stone, but it is a good place to begin if you're just starting out.
Common vignette groupings:
Anything, if it's done in good taste!
Some ideas: Sculptural objects, vases, a stack of books, plants, flowers, paintings, photographs, and materials from nature like sea shells, starfish, sea sponges, and geodes. Candles, antique binoculars, an old globe, mason jars, lamps, baskets, mirrors, clocks, bowls, bottles, pretty soaps, boxes, picture frames…the list is endless.
Accessories can be divided into 2 groups: Functional and decorative.
This category includes accessories that are useful and pretty.
Examples of functional accessories include; Lamps, lanterns, clocks, vases, books, candles, mirrors, etc.
In the kitchen; a pretty breadboard, kitchen crocks, bowls, canisters filled with utensils or herbs, wine bottle and glasses, gorgeous appliances, etc.
In the bathroom; bottles, pretty soaps, baskets for holding towels, candles, etc.
This group encompasses all other kinds of artwork such as; paintings, photographs, sculptures, and flower arrangements.
A vignette, or tablescape, can be arranged in a triangle, or pyramid shape, or it can be linear, which is well-suited for a formal style room.
This style consists of objects arranged in different heights in a triangular or pyramidal shape.
Work in odd numbers, threes, fives, and so on. Odd numbered arrangements are the most pleasing to the eye-- they appear less studied. See art of accessorizing.
Avoid using too many pieces, which can often look cluttered.
For the foundation of your vignette, select an object to be the “star” of the composition. Think of this as your “anchor” piece. This could be an object that has special meaning to you, fits a theme you are striving for, or just appeals to you and will look good with your home interior design.
The key element piece should be of considerable height or weight so that it’s substantial enough to “hold” the arrangement together.
Examples of objects that work well as anchors are; paintings, mirrors, sculptural objects, lamps, a tall vase of flowers, or a plant. Your eye should naturally be drawn to the anchor piece first.
Begin building your vignette by placing the anchor piece first and at the peak of the pyramid, (at the rear) and off center.
Next, fill in the rest of the triangle with objects of varying heights, finishing with the smallest and shortest object at the base and to the front, always keeping in mind the pyramid-shape, or “A-shape” as you are building. Overlap pieces so that a part of each object can be seen.
A good rule of thumb is to select objects that are half the size of the anchor piece. For example; to complement a 2’ tall sculpture that serves as the anchor, select a 1’ tall secondary piece, or pieces to arrange around it.
Symmetry, or formal balance, is for those who prefer an atmosphere of order, calm and formality in their home decorating. Arranging accessories symmetrically is fairly easy to do, because you are simply trying to "match" each side of a room, table, or mantle.
Asymmetry, or informal balance, is for those who prefer a bit more excitement, energy and creativity in their home decorating. If you like a casual or informal look, aim for asymmetry when building a vignette.
A properly executed asymmetrical arrangement should look effortless and unstudied, as if the items were just laid down.
Be aware of the “visual weight” of each object. Objects don’t have to match perfectly to balance each other off. Learning how to balance unlike objects will keep your arrangements from being too stiff and boring!
What is “visual weight or mass?”
Visual weight refers to how much weight an object APPEARS to have when you look at it, not how much it actually weighs. Visual weight can refer to color, patterns, textures, design and the shape or structure of an object.
For instance, darker colors carry more visual weight than lighter ones. A black leather sofa will visually outweigh a white leather sofa of the same size. See space planning for more information.
Always be aware of the surrounding decor in the room when building a vignette. The backdrop becomes an integral part of your vignette, so watch out for too bold color schemes or wild patterns that may conflict with the objects in your display.
Choose objects in colors and shapes that mirror or compliment the background of a room.
If building a vignette in front of a painting or mirror, be sure they are hung low enough that they become part of the arrangement. When you place objects in front of the hanging artwork, be sure that each item is visible.
Mirrors make an interesting backdrop to a vignette, bringing dimension into the equation and bouncing extra light around the room. Be sure that objects you place in front of the mirror look as good on the backside as they do in the front.
The objects you use in your display can reflect the colors, shapes, or subject of a background painting or photograph.
A fireplace mantle arrangement can be symmetrical or asymmetrical. The following home design tip is how to balance an arrangement without using symmetry.
An easy interior designer tip for decorating a fireplace mantle is the “three-plus-one” trick. This decorating tip can be applied to other long flat surfaces, as well, like shelving, or a long dresser. I like to use this method to dress up my upright piano, which is always a difficult piece of furniture in any room.
For the 3 objects: combine sculptures, vases, plants or flowers, candles on pedestals, clocks, framed paintings, antique plates, lanterns, baskets…
For the single item: a sculpture or large urn, a tall plant, flowers or topiary, a painting, a large antique clock, a tall lantern…
Always consider your surrounding home decor and whether the accessories you choose will complement it. The objects you select may relate in some fashion by, color, shape, texture, or theme.
For home staging purposes, don't overdo it by creating vignettes all over your house, as the result may look too cluttered. Just enough to show the function of a room, to highlight a particular decorative detail in your home, or to create a focal point.
For more home design tips, go to home interior design rules.