4 Secrets to Creating Successful Vignettes

Designers often make "simple" table vignettes look and sound easy.  Eventually they are, but when you are first trying to figure out how to make things look cute on a mantle or side table, it doesn't always come easy.  Here are a few tips to get you started!

1.  Oddballs.  Odd numbers always look better in vignettes that are supposed to be casual and look "natural", as if you just tossed off your boots and flowers from the garden and they just ended up looking like a magazine spread.  

Notice in this photo there are three groupings.  Browns, blacks and houndstooth.  There are 5 browns, 2 blacks and 2 houndstooth items creating a grouping of 9.  If you are ever in doubt, go oddballs!

Now this gets tricky because if you have two small items or even a cluster of items (like all of those houndstooth items on the picnic basket), it can count as 1.  So, you might technically have an even number of items, but your eye sees an odd, pleasing grouping.   Take this simple grouping below.  There are 4 items (2 pears, the frame and the goldenrod), however the two pears read as one grouping because of their size, shared color and placement together.  If I had put one of the pears on the other side of the flowers, it would be seen as a separate item, making the grouping even and no longer pleasant to look at. 

2.  Hug What You Love.  In general it is a good philosophy to hug what you love, so why not in design as well?!  The idea is for your accessories and vignettes to highlight (hug) your statement pieces (that you love).  If you look at the previous photo, it is a very simple way to highlight the shape of the frame by placing shorter items (the pears) near the bottom of the frame leading up to the taller goldenrod arrangement which echoes the height of the frame.  The accessories are basically just hugging that corner of the frame to give it more ooomph.

3.  The Rule of Thirds.  You already know that you should use odd numbers, so the rule of thirds shouldn't surprise you!  In photography, one of the big rules is to divide your photograph into thirds vertically and horizontally and place your subject at the intersection of one of those points.

Notice how close his face is to that upper left hand corner?  This also works with displays.  Split each portion of your area into thirds and then place your most meaningful or eye-catching details at those points.  Allow the rest of the squares to contain negative space.

 You have to forgive my horrible writing with the photoshop pencil :)  This little vignette is a simple combination of two stacks of books, the drawing figure and a secondary table across the back.  Considering the rule of thirds, each book stack ends at the bottom left and right intersections and the hands of the figure reach for the top right intersection.  Also notice that this follows the oddball rule as well because there are three intersections with highlights while the 4th is left with blurry filler.   If you look at the first example above, you will see the same lines.  The bottom left and right, and top right intersection have lines running through them while the top left space is left negative.

4.  Choose 3 colors and split the number of items with one color having the most items, and the two secondary colors with an equal amount of lesser colors in the scheme.  You can see this in the first example (the 9 items split into 3 colors - ODD, ODD!).  You can also see the color distribution in this arrangement.

There is only one real color in the arrangement and it is the yellow and brown shades in the goldenrod, skewers and on the bottom of the lampshade.  Notice how there are three items with color and the two smaller items (skewers and lampshade) are placed opposite the larger color pop of the goldenrod.  Also notice the 2 small glass votive holders working as one item to the eye.  Please ignore the twinkle lights.  They look odd in the daytime, but with the golden light at night bouncing off all of that glass,  this little display is just gorgeous!

If yo have read this far, you are ready for a full outline of a sidebar vignette!  CLICK HERE for more!

Do you have a gorgeous mantle or vignette you would like to share?  

and you might see your design featured in an upcoming post!


Love, love, love this!!! I saved it on my sidebar under "links I love" so I won't loose it either!! Thanks Amy, you rock!
Miss Kitty said…
Hi Amy! Thanks for sharing those great photography/composition tips. I am going to "pin" this so I can find it when I need it (like ALL the time). I joined your "pool"....I dont' know what that is but I trust you.
meg said…
beautiful!! love the vignette on the ladder shelf with the goldenrod ;)