In interior design terms, a vignette is simply a grouping of items. Look around your home and you’ll likely find you already have some displays on tabletops, bookcases, or shelves.

Mostly, vignettes draw the eye, creating interesting focal points within a space. And while they can make for a great way to proudly put your prized possessions on display, vignettes can just as easily turn into overcluttered eyesores. These pointers will help you assemble well-designed vignettes that look natural rather than staged.

Focus on Style

While your vignette could comprise a collection of similar items, it doesn’t have to. Feel free to lay out your sand samples from around the world, but pull together a look by also adding some shells and a starfish, or a framed photo of the family on the beach. After all, the whole idea of style is to group like items without singling out too much of the same thing.

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This is true for any type of display pieces. For example, if you collect historic artifacts, putting them all on a shelf together can get overwhelming quick. Instead, try placing all the pieces from particular eras together in smaller groups. If you only have a few pieces, couple them with framed artwork, historical information, or tapestries.

As another example, say you want to feature a cultural theme such as Hawaiian or Spanish. Vignettes offer the opportunity to bring in elements that create discussion without completely smothering the space in the theme. So instead of parrots on a wire and sombreros hanging from the ceiling, place your favorite Mexican souvenirs in a grouping that will naturally bring out the wanderlust in any visitor.

Add Spacing

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Pay special attention to how you place items together. Always make sure your vignettes are adequately spaced, and do your best to avoid blocking one item with another. If you have too many items for one area, create two vignettes instead!

Create Height

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Items that are all the same size and shape are boring for the eye. Instead, vary the heights of everything in the display. Even if the entire collection is made up of seashells, you can still put them in vases of various sizes, with taller ones in the back and loose shells in the front. If your items truly are all the same size, consider adding risers to the back row to at least create multiple tiers.


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Again, mix it up! Along with the smooth glass of pictures and jars, throw in some coarse fabric and a candle. You’ll likely find your collection already provides a variety of textures. For example, a tribal vignette might house a wood mask, a ceramic plate, and a woven basket. Although very different in the materials, the different textures add depth and visual interest while the common theme holds it all together.


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Make sure there’s some color contrast between the background and the display. Let’s face it: all white animal figurines against a white bookcase just aren’t going to make much of a statement. Instead, place a colorful image against the back panel to accent the white items in the front.


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Remember to make your vignette your own. It should bring you joy. If it doesn’t, consider if it’s because it’s too cluttered, too boring, or too unorganized. Also add those items that make it personal to you. The fun roller coaster pic from an amusement park, a keychain you bought from a beach vendor, the portrait drawn by a local street artist, the mug given to you by an AirBnb host – all of these things will allow you to relive happy, meaningful memories every time you enter the room.

Top image via HGTV