Vignette decor — a compendium of objects

Style compelling vignette decor with evocative objects that tell your story. Curate vignettes from the palette of your past, your passions, and your fleeting interests. Fall in love with the silhouettes, colors, and textures of the things in your home, and let them speak to one another in a vignette.

Sense and sensibility in vignette decor

Banish clutter by grouping your objects into meaningful visual vignettes that say something. Learn how to conjure a vignette by reading: How to vignette: the art of making spectacular visual statements with your stuff. Here is a living, growing, soon-to-be-bursting list of items that would be gorgeous in vignettes.

Past perfecto = antiques in vignette decor

Silver bowl with lid for vignette decor
Found silver bowl with lid.  The tarnished patina of something genuinely old is incomparable in vignette decor.  Photo by Kelly Shea Ellyn.

Vintage radios, hats on hat stands, cigar boxes, record albums, clocks, telephones, cameras, typewriters, tarnished silver table service, trophies, pool balls, bacci balls, croquet balls, baseballs, wooden bowling pins, bird cages, barometers, suitcases, globes, eye glasses, shutters, telescopes, kaleidescopes, typesetter boxes, bells, board games, iron banks, quirky dolls.

World view = art in vignette decor

Pictures, framed or unframed, hung, leaning, or suspended, such as elevated fine art paintings, charmingly amateur paintings, arresting black and white photographs, vintage or not, crisp color photographs, thoughtful drawings, intricate etchings, intriguing portraits, depth-filled landscapes, quiet still lifes, delightful children’s art work, haunting silhouettes, poignant framed needlepoint.

Cocktails concocted = bar ware in vignette decor

Parisian bottle opener for vignette decor
Reproduction of a bottle opener found in a Paris bistro. Original produced around 1900. Reproduction purchased at Design Toscano. This saucy lady will put a bit of vavoom into your vignette decor. Photo by Kelly Shea Ellyn.

Art deco cocktail shakers, cut crystal wine carafes, wine bottles with labels either artistic or amusing (e.g. “Seven Deadly Zins”), vintage seltzer siphon, champagne bucket, glass bottles of mineral water such as Perrier, Pellets grino, or Ty Nant.

Quiet pleasure = books in vignette decor

Manners, Culture, and Dress vintage book for vignette decor
Manners, Culture, and Dress by Richard A. Wells, A.M., published 1893. A gift from my mother. Antique books are a rich visual experience. They are also quite practical for creating levels in vignette decor. Photo by Kelly Shea Ellyn.

Handsome old books with patina and textural cloth bindings in muted colors; Victorian photo albums covered in dusty old velvet; books with gold embossed covers; whimsical old children’s books; newer glossy books with or without their paper covers, with interesting titles made in bold fonts; box sets, books that reference something personal, like furniture or goats or food porn or whatever you’re into.

Likeness strikes = figurines in vignette decor

Discreet deer for vignette decor
Oxidized brass deer snatched from my boyfriend’s house. Animal figures add a whimsical quality to any vignette decor. They observe constantly, yet politely refrain from smart alecky comments. Photo by Kelly Shea Ellyn.

Animals such as dogs, deer, bear, foxes, horses, and other animals; people doing interesting things; body parts such as busts, hands, ears, and skulls; faux animal heads; religious figures such as The Madonna, Buddha, Ganesh, Saint Francis.

Integrity distilled = handmade things in vignette decor

Weed pot and pestle for vignette decor
Weed pot turned by Laurie Halbritter. Pestle found among the things of Terry Dodd. Wooden objects can breath organic integrity into vignette decor. Photo by Kelly Shea Ellyn.

Carved wooden sculptures, wooden tools, or wooden toys, either vintage or made by modern day artisans; cutting boards, either old and patina-ed or new and handmade with gorgeous woods in unexpected shapes; trays, spheres, pyramids, or obelisks in marble or onyx; baskets, duck decoys,

Artistic utilitarian = kitchenesque things in vignette decor

Fiestaware disc pitcher for vignette decor
Fiestaware disc pitcher by Homer Laughlin. Art Deco lines articulate the cool panache of a bygone era. It happily hogs the spotlight in chic kitchen vignette decor. Photo by Kelly Shea Ellyn.

Colorful Fiestaware pitchers or salt shakers, jadite cups, character teapots, oddball old toasters, beautifully shaped kettles, art deco pitchers, classic farmhouse pitchers, spatterware, antique utensils, copper molds, iron molds, Bakelite flatware, bamboo handled flatware, tortoise handled flatware, chinoiserie servingware, teacups.

Illumination fascination = lighting in vignette decor

Lamp for vignette decor
Mid-century glass lamp with floating white flowers. Shade found in resale shop. Ugly shades offend my eyes and are prohibited from my space. This unusual lamp is worthy of feminine console table vignette decor. Photo by Kelly Shea Ellyn.

Ginger jar chinoiserie lamps, bare-bulbed lamps showing off edison bulbs, industrial task lamps, curvy Art Nouveau lamps, glamorous Art Decor lamps, ornate Victorian lamps, spare mid-century lamps, edgy modern scandinavian type lamps, groovy 1970’s lamps, lava lights, fairy lights, Italian lights; candlesticks in either pairs or odd numbers, candleabras, devotional candles, pillar candles, beeswax tapers, grouping of extra slender tapers in multiple colors, Kosta Boda snowball candleholders with tea lights, kerosene lamps, camping lanterns, colonial lanterns.

Elemental hammersmithing = metal in vignette decor

Indian brass mirror for vignette decor
Brass mirror from India. Purchased at World Market. Metal grounds vignette decor in elemental earthiness. Image by Kelly Shea Ellyn.

Door knobs, door knockers, keys, switch plates, bricks or rocks coated with gold, silver, or copper metallic paint, vintage hand tools, aged fans, gears, propellers, pulleys, chains, brass elephants from India.

Earth tones = organics in vignette decor

Succulents for vignette decor
Dish of succulents. Bowl from Pier 1. Pretty colors and interesting shapes make succulents strangely intriguing additions to vignette decor. Styling and photo by Kelly Shea Ellyn.

Silver bowls of white roses; tall, linear vases of pussy willows or blossoming apple tree branches; dishes or topiary of sculptural succulents; terrarium, classic European topiary; bare branches, either graceful or jagged; ethereal grayish driftwood, chunks of wood showing the grain, a scrap of reclaimed wood, bamboo; a single large shell such as a conch, or a collection of shells; geodes and crystals — very large ones can be breathtaking, or group multiple small ones in a meaningful way; malachite, tourmeline, river rocks or field stones; jars of pebbles or bowls of quartz; petrified things such as prehistoric creatures and dinosaur poop; insects in amber, faux butterflies, bird nests, feathers, naturally shed antlers, pine cones.

Potting wheel poetry = pots in vignette decor

Mccoy Floraline pot for vignette decor
McCoy Floraline planter. Twentieth-century verve can work beautifully in twenty-first century vignette decor, especially if you like little ears on your pots. Photo by Kelly Shea Ellyn.

Floor vases made by Roseville or Rookwood; Native American, Mexican, or Portuguese pots; bowls crafted by a local pottery in your region; tiles such as those from Italy or Morroco; Arts and Crafts period tiles such as Rookwood; terra cotta pots, Chinese Foo dogs, ceramic fruit and vegetables.

Refracted diamonds = reflective objects in vignette decor

Snowball and star for vignette decor
Kosta Boda snowball tea light holder and found star taper holder. Vignette decor scintillates when enlivened by candlelit crystal. Photo by Kelly Shea Ellyn.

Glass jars, modern glazed ceramic jars, bell jars, depression glass, carnival glass, Tiffany glass, mercury glass, blown glass, stained glass, and cut crystal glasses or bowls; glass jars filled with sea glass, pearls, or costume jewelry; antique bottles in jewel tones; Moravian mirrored stars; Art Nouveau mirrors; windows gleaned from architectural salvage; crystal balls; shiny sterling silver or plated silver bowls; magnifying glasses, Tibetan singing bowls, perfume bottles, glass paperweights.

Visual inhibition = sculpture in vignette decor

Venus figurine for vignette decor
Venus sculpture from Italy. Found in resale shop. Venus infuses vignette decor with fluttering emotion as she has done for centuries. Photo by Kelly Shea Ellyn.

Statues of classical greek gods, statues of animals like whippets, large sculptures of wings, garden statues, busts of famous people like Beethoven or Napoleon, modern abstract sculpture with fascinating shapes.

Circular energy = spheres in vignette decor

Green sphere for vignette decor
Mineral sphere from Black Market in Gurnee, Illinois. Round things energize vignette decor. The mineral nature of this sphere is both earthy and ethereal. Photo by Kelly Shea Ellyn.

Spheres, crystal balls, feathered balls, knotted balls, sun dials, gears, clocks, decorative plates on stands.

Luminous looms = textiles in vignette decor

Kilim for vignette decor
Kilim from Morocco. Purchased online. Hand-made textiles add soul to vignettes in this age of sad, mass-produced stuff. Photo by Kelly Shea Ellyn.

Tapestries, wall hangings such as faux fur or macrame, fabric with historical significance, fabric created by a designer you deeply admire, gorgeous fringed shawls, textural wool scarves, kilims, kitchen linens, dining linens, feed sacks, juju hats.

Tactile beguiles = texture in vignette decor

Yarn in vase for vignette decor
Yarn in a glass vase. Using common objects in vignette decor somehow elevates the ordinary to art. Photo by Kelly Shea Ellyn.

Partissementerie, knotted rope, balls of yarn, jars of string.

Holding within = vessels in vignette decor

Tagine for vignette decor
Moroccan-style tagine from Pottery Barn. Tagines are beautiful in many contexts, but lend themselves especially well to primitive, modern, and Boho vignette decor. Photo by Kelly Shea Ellyn.

Classically shaped vases, mid-century modern vessels made by McCoy, ewers made by Haeger, modern vessels in brash, unexpected shapes, Morrocan tagines, bejeweled goblets, colorful wine glasses, pewter mugs, copper mugs, battered tin cups, bowls of personality.

Oddities & endlings = unclassified objects in vignette decor

Book ends, crowns, scepters, magic wands, cd box sets, Celtic crosses.

A honeydew, if you choose

Please comment with your ideas for items to add to the compendium!  I hope for this compendium to someday bulge with thoughtful objects, creative suggestions, and bizarre notions.

Get new posts by email:

Decor vignettes — home styling for the sly eye

Decor vignettes create high visual impact that underscores your individuality and shows off your decorating chops. A vignette is a pastiche of your history and your passions. Arranging vignettes are a truly satisfying way of expressing yourself. They are you, curated.

Essence of decor vignettes

Decor vigette with aged elements
Aged elements speak of past and patina. The branch is an unexpected visual that pierces an otherwise predictable composition.Photo by Nadia Reid Interior DesignCourtesy of Houzz.com

A vignette is a visual moment. You pause. You take it inside you. You contemplate it. It makes you think and feel and appreciate. At the most basic level, a vignette is a small arrangement of objects. The objects can be somehow related or not. The arrangement can be harmonious. Or quirky. Or disturbing. But it should definitely be personal.

Decor vignettes and the people who make them

Bold graphic book titles, a fan with strong, interesting shapes, and a couple of additional curiosities all combine to form a high-impact statement. Courtesy of Houzz.com.

I have a theory. While vignettes are used in every design style, some of us truly need vignettes. A vignettist is driven by making statements, sometimes harmonious, sometimes not, with disparate things. Vignettes are the perfect opportunity to unleash our eclectic super powers.

I was a compulsive arranger of vignettes even as a child. I remember having a pink depression glass bud vase and using it as my jumping off point for many a vignette. As adult life swept me up and I had my own dwellings to decorate, I was still so focused on vignettes that I often neglected the functionality of the room. I learned to think in terms of whole rooms eventually. But where my eye lands as I enter a room or lounge in a chair is still exceedingly important to me. I need interesting things to look at or I get whiny.

Creatives are also frequent flyers on the vignette jet. We bore easily. We change our minds frequently. We drive our mates batty by frequently re-inventing, or at the very least refining, our surroundings. We need to refresh our senses by changing it up, mashing it up, and mixing it up. Call it a primal need. Frequently changing vignettes can give a voice to that restless creative spirit.

Design perspective on decor vignettes

These objects would look like clutter if strewn randomly throughout the room, but together they make a cohesive composition. Pottery, pictures, mirror, and furniture all have something to say individually, but harmonize together like a curated mob of angels. Photo by Shirley MeiselsCourtesy of Houzz.com.

What vignettes can do for your room design:

  • Vignettes give random objects a sense of composition so they don’t read as clutter.
  • Vignettes give the eye a place to pause and muse.
  • Vignettes can create mass with small objects, creating the right scale that a room may need.

Inspiration for decor vignettes

Still life with nautilus cup
Be inspired by the still life paintings of the masters. Still Life with Nautilus Cup – Willem Kalf – 1660-1670. Courtesy of National Gallery of Art.

Some of the best vignettes evoke the still life paintings of the European masters and artist world wide. In those paintings, the  relationship of shapes, texture, light, and shadow all conspire to say something meaningful to the those who gaze upon them.  Yeah, these guys could be a bit macabre given the prominence of (yuck) skulls, and (sadly) dead animals. Still, there is much to be learned. Photographic still lifes can also teach us much. Look at the reflective quality of the abundant glass against the highly textural black backdrop.

Reality strikes in decor vignettes

Large vignette unified by color
A lot of stuff can be unified by a limited palette such as this one. Black, white, natural, and blue-grey pull a large number of items together in a quietly exuberant way. Photo by warren_laurel_homeCourtesy of Houzz.com.
  • Ask yourself how much visual stimulation you can handle without it feeling cluttered or claustrophobic. The ultimate goal is to feel emotionally comfortable with the amount of stuff around you.
  • Ask yourself how much dusting you are willing to do, unless dust doesn’t bug you. Adjust the number and size of your vignette objects accordingly.
  • Ask yourself, “How do I want to feel when I look at this?”

Anatomy of decor vignettes

Seascape, Venus, and vases
Seascape, Venus, and vases. Seascape painting by Connecticut artist Sam Boettner. Venus statue imported from Italy. Twentieth-century Haeger vases. Emotions flutter when Venus is placed by the sea. Blue bottles mirror the blue of the water. Vignette styling and photo by Kelly Shea Ellyn.

Symmetrical vignette

Traditional symmetrical vignette
This traditional, symmetrical vignette sings with well-bred patina. Photo by Susan Jay DesignCourtesy of Houzz.com.

Symmetry is traditional, safe, reliable, and beloved by many. It is said to be quite soothing for people who get their feathers ruffled easily, or in places like bedrooms where we need calm. I’ve known people who feel off balance and a little crazy if vignettes are not perfectly symmetrical. We all need to nourish our nervous systems with what that need. Additionally, symmetry has worked throughout history and the classicists thrived on it.

For a symmetrical vignette, choose two identical pieces such as large candlesticks or chinoiserie vases if you want to be traditional, or two supremely odd things if you want to rock the boat. These anchor pieces create an easy balance. Then it is simply a matter of picking which additional object(s) would compliment(s) your pair of anchors in terms of shape, color, and texture.

Asymmetrical vignette

While there are no pairs of objects, balance is created with two large and striking items. Photo by Ryland Peters & Small | CICO BooksCourtesy of Houzz.com.

Asymmetry creates visual energy, and there’s just something likable and quirky about it.

To “A” or not to “A”

“A” style vignettes are beloved by many. Photo by Seldin Design StudiosCourtesy of Houzz.com.

“A” formation vignettes are eye-catching. They are created by placing together three objects of distinctly different heights. Position them so that they visually touch one another. At least one object is staggered to create depth. From there you can add additional objects, so long as an “A” shape is maintained. Books are sometimes used to elevate one or more objects.

Linear vignette

Linear vignette
This vignette is highly linear and highly effective, due in part to the dramatic lighting. Photo by Salt InteriorsCourtesy of Houzz.com.

If you’re feeling rebellious and maybe at bit bratty, line objects up in a linear, non-staggered, evenly spaced kind of way. Some may consider it horrifically wrong, but who cares?

A non-vignette vignette

A non-vignette vignette of yellow birds.
The yellow bird collection form a non-vignette kind of vignette. Linear identical objects have something to say. Photo by IncorporatedCourtesy of Houzz.com.

Some people say that a line of identical objects is not a vignette, it’s a collection. So let’s call it a non-vignette to stay on their good side. If a linear arrangement has repeating objects, it can create a kind of visual rhythm that is somehow soothing. I think of it as rhythm therapy.

Punching up decor vignettes

Books and blue vase
Stack of books with blue Haeger vase. Dramatic lighting turns objects into architecture. Vignette styling and photo by Kelly Shea Ellyn.

Look at your vignette. Then ask yourself:

  • Does the vignette relate to the backdrop and the surface? Are they playing well together?
  • Can the vignette be enhanced by purposeful lighting?
  • Have you achieved the level of drama (or spare humility) you were going for?
  • Would the balance be better by taking away an object or two?
  • Do you need more or less contrast among objects, or between the objects, the backdrop, or the surface on which the objects sit?

Where to put decor vignettes

Table vignette in quiet corner
This unexpected table vignette is a visual punch of mostly neutral colors against a black backdrop. The table legs offer amusing lines to the composition. Courtesy of Houzz.com.

There are classic, expected places for vignettes.  Or dare to venture into the unexpected.

  • Lay a groove on a tabletop or any piece of furniture with a flat top.
  • Coffee table vignettes are de riguer.
  • Let your imagination riff on any shelf, anywhere.
  • Unleash yourself on the space above the kitchen cabinets, if any.
  • Consider a vignette atop your fridge rather than cereal boxes.
  • Window sills beg for miniature vignettes.
  • Fireplaces DEMAND vignettes.
  • Nightstands look ever so gracious with a simple vignette.
  • Vignettes can work on floors.
  • Hide surprise vignettes in unexpected places such as medicine cabinets and refrigerators. Your mate will surely squeal with delight. Thanks to Alexandra Stoddard for THAT suggestion. 🙂

Decor vignettes that forever evolve

David, fern, and star
A moody bust of David contemplates the infinite universe in a Moravian star. The ferns too are timeless. Vignette styling and photo by Kelly Shea Ellyn.

Unless you have a big wad of money to throw at a decorating project, most of us work with what we’ve got. We edit and add over time, and decorating is not one single binge. It makes sense to set up our homes to anticipate that our vignettes will change over time.

  • Choose some places in your home that you can change out often, while the bones and large pieces remain constants.
  • “Shop” your own house for objects to change up said vignettes. Or buy new stuff.
  • Rotate accessories in and out of a designated storage area such as cupboard or closet. Boxes don’t really work well for this. It’s important to put them where you can see them when you need to, but where they are not normally visible. They are your “objects-in-waiting.”

In parting…Every vignette starts with a muse. Pick an object. Begin. Then let your stream of consciousness run wild. May an exquisite visual experience ensue…

Decor vignette resources

For ideas on things you can use to create a vignette, read my post Vignette: a compendium of evocative objects. To peruse my favorite vignettes on the web, see:

  • My Pinterest vignette board: https://www.pinterest.com/Lilymoorish/vignettes/
  • My Houzz vignette idea book:
Get new posts by email: