Vignettes are a powerful and flexible way to create interest in a room, or even to create a focal point in a space (see our article on ways to create focal points). Basically, a vignette is a collection of objects designed to evoke a mood or a feeling. They can be small (for example a collection of a few objects on a side table) or larger (such as a corner of a room), and there are no hard and fast rules for creating them, so be creative!
There are a few basic guidelines to get you started, and below we are going to break down some examples of vignettes we found to illustrate how those were used, and to give you inspiration for creating your own.
- Keep it simple. There’s no need to display everything you have all jammed together. Think of it like you are creating a haiku vs. a novel. Find a group of objects that will trigger a memory, a feeling or a story for you and start from there. One trick you can use: once you think you are finished with your vignette, remove one item, step back and have a look. Does the vignette still work? Is it missing something? This is a quick way to whittle down the objects until you have just what you need.
- Have a unifying theme. Every object in the vignette should be linked to the others by the same theme. The theme can be visual (i.e. “Mid-century Modern Design”, “All black items”) or by subject (i.e. “Our anniversary trip to Greece”, “Things that remind me of my mom”).
- Follow the eye. This refers to the idea of arranging things in a way so that the eye naturally flows through the arrangement to see everything in it. Think about it in terms of basic shapes like a triangle, an oval or a spiral. It’s the path that your eye naturally follows from one object to another and should help to keep the grouping together visually.
Let’s take a look at some examples of vignettes and see how these basics were applied to them.
Example 1 - Medium Size Vignette
Let’s start by looking at this medium size vignette you can imagine in a hallway or in the corner of a room. There are a number of visual aspects that unify the items in this grouping (1). The most obvious is the color palette, which is limited to various shades of brown and black. You can also look at the style of the items such as the furniture, the drawings and even the profile of the frames, all of which have an elegant, old world vibe to them.
For the arrangement, the whole thing is anchored at the bottom by the table (2) which creates the base for the vignette. The pictures are arranged above the table in a rectangular formation (3) which is a similar scale to the table and stool below.
A few accessories were added on top of the table to visually link the table to the picture arrangements (4). Note that this is a very common way to link parts of a vignette together, you just want to make sure that the item that is in front doesn’t block so much of what’s behind it you can’t see it easily.
Finally, a small stool was added to the left of the table (4), and what this does is helps the eye to travel naturally along a spiral path from the bottom left corner of the vignette to end up right in the middle where the print of the face is looking right at you (5).
The overall effect is of a balanced, uniform and consistent visual story.
Example 2 - Large Scale Vignette
Here’s another large scale vignette that could be used to create a focal point - for example in an entryway or another area where it’s the first thing that you see when you enter the space. Here the large picture on the wall is the anchor piece, and the other items in the vignette draw their inspiration and coloring from the main piece (1).
As mentioned above, the large artwork is the focus of this vignette, so it’s hung front and center right in your field of view. While it is impressive enough to stand on its own, adding a few select items around it helps to build a richer story, in addition to providing a comfortable space to sit and reflect (3). Once again you can see how positioning the chair and the plinth with the statue so they slightly overlap the frame of the artwork helps to tie everything together visually.
Finally, a couple of objects in the same color palette and of a similar scale were added on the floor between the two furniture pieces (4). This helps to create a nice circular path that your eye naturally takes to draw you around the vignette.
Example 3 - Small Scale Vignette
Not all vignettes need to be made up of large items or take up a lot of space. Here’s an example of a small grouping that lives on a side table next to a sofa or bed. Even with a few small items, it's easy to create a collection filled with meaning.
In this case, the items used may not have a clear link thematically, but they do share a neutral color palette with a pop of color for emphasis (1). You can also see there is an emphasis on natural materials with the wooden finish of the table and box, the natural brass and even the image of the tree in the frame.
Here a small collection was created with some favorite books, a candle, a keepsake box topped with a vase with some fresh flowers and a small bowl. The items have been placed in 3 piles and positioned with the tallest in the center to create a stable triangular arrangement (3).
Finally, a picture frame and lamp were added in behind the vignette to give it more visual weight and height (4). The end result is a nicely arranged group of objects where your eye travels from one to the other in a triangular path (5).
So there you have some basic approaches to help you get started creating your own vignette. At the end of the day there’s no single way to create a great vignette, and the most important thing is that it’s a collection of objects that tell a story that’s meaningful to you. Have fun, be brave and get creative - what story do you want to tell?
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-The UTR Team