Vignette Design Ideas

Michelle Radcliff
dresser vignette

In terms of decorating and interior design, vignettes are small visual compositions made up of grouped together decorative objects. A vignette can occupy a relatively small space such as the surface of a table or dresser or it can expand into a small portion of a room, occupying a corner or nook, and include a combination of larger furniture pieces and wall art, objets d' art, lighting and other collectibles.

Tell a Visual Story

monochromatic vignette
Monochromatic vignette

A well-designed vignette captures a moment in time with meaningful items that relate to each other in some way.

Compose Using Color

It could be a composition focused on color, where a group of items share a harmonious aesthetic of monochromatic or analogous hues, neutral tones or vividly contrasting complementary opposites.

Eclectic Mix

Vignettes are not a collection of like items such as antique bottles, tiki masks or seashells. It is more of an eclectic mix of items that create a varied and interesting display. So a vignette might include one of each of these items: antique bottle, tiki mask and seashell, displayed with a framed photo, a lamp, and a small stack of books.

Let Personality Shine

If you have chosen your items carefully, another person looking at the display should pick up something about your personality or lifestyle, such as the colors or textures you are drawn to, locations or cultures that interest you, what type of art or literature you like or things you might possibly collect.

Where to Create a Vignette

Practically any elevated flat surface in your home can be used to display a vignette, including a:

coffee table vignette
Coffee table vignette
  • Foyer table
  • Hallway table
  • Coffee table
  • Nightstand or end table
  • Fireplace mantel
  • Dresser
  • Bookcase or built-in shelves
  • Credenza or sideboard

Good lighting is always essential for displayed items. Try to incorporate natural lighting from a nearby window. Decorative light sources can also be incorporated into the display, such as a table lamp, wall scone, lantern, or nearby floor lamp.

Composition Tips

foyer table vignette
Mirrors add to vignettes.

By following a few simple tips, your displayed items will create a much more pleasing aesthetic.

Consider the Background

When the surface is backed by a wall, the wall directly behind the display becomes part of the background. Framed art, clocks, and mirrors can be used to enhance or even anchor a decorative vignette. A busy wallpaper pattern could detract from it, so look for another location.

A vignette placed on a coffee table or an end table by furniture that is floated in the middle of the room will not have a background or a front or back and will be viewed from all sides.

Designate a Focal Point

Draw the eye with a stand out piece that commands attention and anchors your design. This could be an ornate mirror mounted behind a foyer table, a lamp with an elegant glass base on a nightstand or a colorful painting leaning against the wall on the back of a dresser.

Create Layers

Layer display items from front to back to create a feeling of depth. Fill the background with large objects like frame art or photos mounted on the wall or leaning against it and place smaller items toward the front. Strategically mounted mirrors introduce additional colors and shapes in a vignette with reflected images. Stagger items along the surface instead of placing them in a straight line.

vignette pedestals
Stacked items create pedestals.

Vary the Height

Think in all three dimensions for the most visual interest, using items of varying height and size. Add vertical lines with tall objects such as lamps, tall narrow vases or candleholders. Place small objects on pedestals made from stacked books or trinket boxes.

Introduce Texture

Items rich in texture also create visual appeal. Plants and natural materials work well for this, especially those with sharp spiky leaves such as palms, feathery leaves such as ferns or unusual shapes and textures such as succulents. Add sleek surfaces with glass or ceramic, smooth textures with rounded stones or silky fabrics or rough texture with rope, burlap or woven baskets.

bedside table vignette
Aysmmetrical table vignette

Asymmetrical Arrangements

Grouped displays are more pleasing to the eye in odd numbers and asymmetrical arrangements. Groups of three or five have a strong visual impact. However, in formally decorated rooms, symmetrical arrangements are more common.

When using pedestals and stacked items, they can appear as a signle object within the vingette, counting as one item versus two or three. Keep this in mind as you arrange your vignette.

Consider a Theme

A vignette does not need a theme to be well-styled and interesting if the composition elements are in place. However, a theme can help inspire you and give you ideas on what to include in the display.

Theme Idea How to Create the Theme

Vintage

vintage

If you like the look of vintage items or have acquired a collection of thrift store finds and family heirlooms, you may have the makings of a great vignette stashed away in the attic or basement.

Vintage or antique items tend to intrigue those who ponder the history behind them, where they've been, or who owned them before. It almost feels like a scene from another time.

Seasonal (Spring)

spring/Easter vignette

Look through your holiday décor to create a seasonal vignette. Think of ways you can change the look of the display from one year to the next. Introduce new items, change the location, and vary the design of your grouped items to keep seasonal vignettes fresh and interesting.

You should also occasionally change the look of non-seasonal vignettes as well.

Large Vingette

large table vignette

As a small scene within a larger setting, a vignette can expand to occupy a corner of the room, a small nook or recessed area. This type of vignette should have a unifying element to help tie the scene together, such as color, form or subject matter.

Don't overlook the area underneath console tables as a place to include decorative elements for a vignette. Use larger items to fill this space so it doesn't appear too cluttered.

Cottage Chic

Beach cottage chic

Sentimental items placed on a distressed table or dresser creates a composition with warmth and character.

Vintage or distressed finishes on framed art and display items rich in texture such as rope, seashells, coral, twisted branches or plants complement the distinctive look of the surface beneath.

Get Inspired

Take a browse through some online galleries of vignettes - Houzz and Pintrest provide great visual resources to inspire you with ideas. Then take a look around your home to identify a good location. A flat surface or empty corner in need of embellishment should soon present itself. If the area is lacking in light, incorporate a lamp into the display or use a nearby directional light. Gather your materials and enjoy the creative process of designing your own vignette.

Vignette Design Ideas