5 “Don’ts” of Vignette Designs

Put the last finishing touches on your room with a small artistic arrangement. Beautiful arrangements of flowers, artful stacks of books, and carefully selected knickknacks are the icing of the design world, making a curated personal design statement. In true DIY spirit, many of us are looking to create these tiny design stories for ourselves. Follow these steps to create the best vignette for your space.

1. Don’t deviate from your aesthetic

If your entire room is traditional, it’s not the place for an organic rock piece or a salvaged iron sculpture. Vignettes blend easily into the space, making it look lived-in and inviting. Try to choose items for your vignette that speak to the larger use and feel of the room. Is this a seating area that gets a lot of visitors? Add a discrete tissue box cover or a stack of coasters to your display. Is it a room mostly for kids? Be sure to take anything glass or high-fashion out of the equation. Is it your own personal space that you like to relax in? Add in something unique to what helps you unwind, like a bunch of vintage teaspoons or a pretty tray of hand lotions. Stuff that doesn’t gel with the style of the room will stick out and ruin the effect.

This lovely living room from Bles-Id continues the green and black color scheme and clean lines from the walls all the way through the arrangement.

Tip: Is it the first thing you see in the room? It shouldn’t be. While a statement piece or a unexpected color may catch the eye, it should be subtle enough that it isn’t the focal point of the whole space.

2. Don’t let it take over

Vignettes are small accents, not statements. They fill small spaces that would otherwise be bare, not take the place of something else. A vignette shouldn’t have more than 5 or 6 elements total; any grouping larger than that is veering on clutter. Leave enough space on the table for someone to set a drink or rest their arm. Bare space should become part of the display, giving the carefully-selected elements space to breathe. Not counting tall pieces like candle sticks and floral arrangements, it should all fit in a small space.

This isn’t a vignette anymore – this is a collection! Those should have their own dedicated spaces, like these shelves by Gail’s Decorative Touch.

Tip: Try to pick up your vignette all at once. Can you do it with your hands? A tray? If it’s much larger than that, try taking some things out.

3. Don’t “add as you go”

Vignettes are not excuses to hang on to old knickknacks. If you can’t remember where or why you bought it, don’t put it in your vignette. These arrangements are best when they maintain a sense of purposeful placement. The eye should wander from piece to piece. If it takes longer than a few seconds to get the gist of everything in the set, it’s too large. Set a limit to the size and stick to it. Only plants in vignettes should grow with time, not the arrangement itself.

The Cow Hollow home from this Apartment Therapy tour has just enough on the shelves to make them look occupied, not crowded.

Tip: If you’re avoiding throwing it out, you already know it’s trash. It doesn’t belong in your decor.

4. Don’t buy for it
Do you really have books on architecture and interior design laying around your house? Then why do so many vignettes feature them? Don’t set out with a shopping list for your arrangement just so you can have the same “decorative spheres” as everybody else. If you don’t already have it (or have dreams about it), it’s not who you really are. Vignettes look most natural when they come from an accumulated life. If you go out and buy every piece all at once from the same place, it’s too artificial to be effective.
Do you have two of the same book with a fancy cover? No? Didn’t think so. Leave that to the professionals like Carmen at The Decorating Diva. (photo at the link)

Tip: Create dimensional height out of things that are more common in a typical household, like notebooks with nice covers or a stack of photo albums that would otherwise be collecting dust.

5. Don’t forget your own story

Don’t get sucked in to the Pinterest-perfect pictures. They lack what makes your house your home. Put something in the vignette that you found with your spouse or kids, not just what you see in the portfolios of famous designers. Branches that you picked up while on walk with your family will mean much more to you than something you buy from a store. Vignettes are also the perfect place for small heirlooms like framed photos or small antiques that could be damaged with heavy use. For the more modern among homeowners, consider making over something old. Spray paint a birdcage you found at a garage sale or make your own modern art on a small canvas. Remember: you decorate your home for yourself. Everything should make you smile when you look at it.


We bet there’s a story behind that all that beautiful silver in this vignette by Housepitality Designs.

Tip: Include one thing that has a story behind it. When people point it out, it should take you more than one sentence to explain.

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