Unusual interior design terms are always banded around the industry and there seems to always be a new one to learn at every turn. From the likes of hygge and wabi sabi, to patina and maximalism, these terms appear to pop into the interior design consciousness one day and suddenly they’re everywhere. But do you ever feel a bit lost by all the jargon? We certainly do! Vignette is one of these words that if you are interested in interior design have probably heard people say in recent years, but might not quite know exactly what it means. Well you can relax, we’ve done the research for you and have come up with this handy guide on what they are, why you should know about them and how to style them in the home…
What is a vignette?
Pronounced ‘vee-nyet’, vignette has many different meanings in various industries. Not to be confused with the photographic term where images fade to black at the edges or a single sketch in a comedy show, in interior design a vignette is a small styled area. Usually a cluster of decorative objects on a table or arranged on shelves, they are a snapshot of the home owner’s life and they can be seen in any room. In fact you’re probably already creating them without realising they had a name. Perfect for switching up when you get a new accessory or the seasons change, these little areas are the easiest ways to refresh your interior in an instant.
Why are they so good for taking interior shots?
As mentioned above, vignettes are areas in the home that be changed at whim. By restyling the items and adding new buys you can continually refresh the look of each vignette in your home. Because of the endless restyling capabilities of these snapshots, they lend themselves perfectly to photography. This explains why we are seeing them all the time throughout Instagram, magazines and interior blogs.
Full room images will always be breathtaking, but vignettes show off the details of a freshly decorated room which can be missed in shots of larger areas. For influencers and bloggers who shoot their own images, completely refurbishing rooms to shoot new images is not only time consuming but costly too, so restyling or creating new vignettes are a more feasible option for making fresh image content all the time ready to share.
They are also a fantastic way to inject personality into our interior images, from a quirky vase, a favourite art piece or a fresh spray of flowers, vignettes offer a glimpse into your life for visitors, readers or followers.
How do you style the perfect vignette?
We asked the experts how to style these chic little snapshots in your own home…
‘One of the keys to styling a successful vignette is to choose decorative items, books, table lamps etc. within the same tonal range. Although bright pops of contrasting colour can work in certain environments, complementing shades, such as the sea blues and greens I’ve highlighted on this bedside table vignette, can work incredibly well. If you’re working with neutrals, for example, use varying texture to add interest as you pair colours such as taupe, blush pink, and gold together. The items used in your vignette shouldn’t fight against each other, but rather harmonise within the design of the room itself.’
‘When styling a vignette, it should complement the style, colour, or theme of your interior design. Generally, when assembling a vignette, the accessories I select have at least one thing in common. I like to tell a story about my clients so mine show hobbies they like to perform within that room. Whether that is entertaining, reading or playing games. In the picture shown we took these elements and then tied them into the space further with the use of colour. Using the red from the room’s accent and the luxurious gold that is also dotted casually around the rest of the room’s design’.’
‘Start your vignette with a blank canvas. It’s easy to get carried away, but a few considered objects will go a long way. In this example, I chose three wooden shelves with organic forms displayed asymmetrically. As they are a feature in their own right, I styled them for a minimal look.
Next, pick a focal piece and bring other ornaments around it. I went for a vinyl sleeve with an interesting graphic pattern. Then I added a little concrete plant pot and an inconspicuous CD player. These square-shaped accessories contrast against the curvy shelves. Note: it’s ok to leave empty space to rest the eyes.
Finally, your vignette is not an isolated scene. Play with similar colours, patterns and textures in the room. For example, the cushions on the sofa mimic the geometric design of the vinyl sleeve.’
‘We’re firm believers that our personalities should be reflected in our homes and that’s why vignettes are the perfect way to encapsulate different aspects of our lives. Whether it’s creating a memory of a holiday, a special day or just showing off your creative flair – vignettes can be fun to pull together and change around when you fancy a refresh.
We used a blank space of wall which was too small for a conventional shelf and used this industrial-style cage unit as a starting point. From there, it’s time to get personal. Look around your home for pieces to show off your style, from decorative objects, books and trinkets to photo frames, candles and vases. Try a couple of different combinations and don’t be afraid to edit back if needed. The rule-of-three always looks great or try layering at different heights for a bit of added drama. Most important of all, have fun with the display!’
‘There are so many different ways to create the perfect vignette. The easiest way, in my opinion, is to mix large, medium sized and smaller items together on a side table, window sill or on a tray. It’s far more interesting to mix different items together like trays, tealight holders, coffee table books and flowers. It’s important to mix different materials and shapes too, so that your display doesn’t look too staged. Also, use a maximum of 2-3 colours so that your vignette looks unfussy and organised. There are always exceptions though.
If your vignette consists of only 3 items, it’s better the shapes and colours match. In larger vignettes, it’s better to avoid the overly matchy look in my opinion. I wouldn’t worry about symmetry too much as long as the vignette is balanced. Tall objects should be placed at the sides, avoiding the middle section. The background matters too. If your vignette is on a window sill you’ll want to avoid tall objects altogether so they don’t block the view. I always try to include at least one item in the vignette that means a lot to me. This can be a family photo or a small gifted ornament.’
‘Our top tip for styling a vignette is that it should be “pleasing to the eye” – your eye that is! The person who will be looking at the arrangement day in and day out must love it! To be pleasing to the eye, first choose materials and colours that appeal to you. In our vignette, we used several items that we love – the ironstone pitchers that we both collect, hydrangeas and a favorite quote. For the colours again go with what you love and what will coordinate with the room.
Another component of creating a vignette is balance, not only in height and style, but also in colour. We kept the height of the pitchers and plaque moving from taller to medium to short height, but also balanced both from left to right. Also the colours of the items used flow from one to another. Finally, the items in the vignette overlap a bit. They are grouped together without a great deal of air space between them. This creates a grouping or a vignette feel. It’s easy to change out a vignette so feel free to play around with it whenever you want!’
‘There are a number of rules that apply to styling a surface which can be applied to vignettes, varying heights (including stacking books on their backs alongside those that are upright), using objects in odd numbers, adding an element of surprise. But my number one piece of advice is to follow your heart, collect things that you love, and then play around until you’re happy with the result. I love natural history, and to bring the outdoors in, so there is always something natural involved for me, it could be a shell, a feather, dried flowers, or, as here, dried eucalyptus. Vintage always adds an element of storytelling, there are several flea market finds on this sideboard. Finally, take your time, a rushed collection can look very unsatisfying!’
‘I love how you can bring in a pop of colour by creating a vignette and a sideboard or shelf is the perfect place for this. It’s a good idea to base the colour of your vignette around a lead colour in the room, and by using different variations of the same colour, it keeps the styling simple whilst adding maximum impact. A little tip – if you buy something new that will work well in your scheme, don’t be afraid to mix your vignette up by adding more or swapping items around. I do this all the time with my hallway sideboard and it means I never get bored of it!’