I'm a fan of a creating a little vignette in interiors, particularly on a sideboard or a console table. I was explaining this recently on a workshop I was leading when someone asked me to elaborate further, not understanding what a vignette was. I was surprised that this wasn't jargon understood by everyone, as practically every magazine I read seems to have something about styling a coffee table or a bookshelf. So for the uninitiated a vignette is a small scene that creates a focus on one point in a space by creating a composition. This usually is a small pleasing view made up of meaningful or related items. It's a extremely useful way of creating a focal point and can be easily changed overtime when the feeling takes your fancy.
A vignette is sometimes used to help create a particular emotion in an interior space such as calmness, it can express drama or it can just simply be a decorative distillment. The arrangements above show how easily they can be put together and equally changed when you feel like it. The main elements remain in both compositions - the mirror and light on the top shelf and all the items on the second shelf - but the arrangement on the top surface has been modified and updated. It's easy to use items that you usually already own trays, bowls, vases, boxes and stacks of books and unusual finds.
Incorporating art can be highly effective as seen in the two below images and both also show a light source - there really is no point in putting in the effort of styling a composition like this and then not lighting it! Both of these also include a stack of books which is a great way to incorporate books into your interior. I personally have so many large format books that I have included stacks all around my house and often with an object on top like below.
There are however few guiding principles to building a successful vignette.
The ideal vignette has height, depth and layers. Layering objects of varying size in front of each other or overlapping them is an easy way to build interest. Normally you'd start with the largest items at the back, maybe a picture, a mirror or a taller vase. Varying the height of the displayed items makes the eye move around and invokes visual interest. Remember that putting everything in a straight line can look awkward. You've probably noticed on the images above the artwork is hung really low to the horizontal surface but you could equally lean a picture or book against the wall instead (very helpful if you are renting). Scale is important too. If everything is the same size your focal point isn’t going to be easy to discern, so remember to include small accessories as well as tall or over sized pieces. Clustering and spacing helps create dynamic between items. The closer items are to each other infers they are part of a group but be careful not to overcrowd. There also needs to be a focal point, the place you want the eye to rest the longest – usually the most interesting item.
The colour you use is purely down to you and your interior scheme. It is possible to create calmness though pale shades or through tones of the same colour, equally you can help create drama by using high contrast. If you then add items with unexpected or an unusual texture or different finishes such as a gloss finish and rough beside each other this can also help make your display more dramatic. The idea hardest to convey is balance (above image). I'm not talking about symmetry here, more about being careful that one item doesn't overpower others in the grouping. Use odd numbers of objects in asymmetrical configurations for the most casual yet aesthetically pleasing vignettes. BUT beware of the over used power of three! If everything is in groups of three it feels a little odd. As with all things these principles are not cast in stone so above all else have a little fun.