Flip through any home decor magazine, and you’ll see dozens of photos styled so perfectly they give the house a chic, unlived-in look. These images are not unachievable ideals; instead, they’re vignettes that have been professionally styled by a decorator who knows a thing or two about the basic rules of design. Transform your shelves and tabletops into photo-ready vignettes by weeding out the clutter and arranging decorative items with a designer’s eye.
Professional decorators have the ability to arrange a seemingly random selection of objects into an eye-catching vignette. That’s because they're trained to assess the arrangement using the principles of design, which include: emphasis, unity, balance, movement and repetition. Luckily, home decorators can learn to do the same by recreating professional vignettes at home. But you don't have to purchase items identical to those in the images you’re attempting to recreate; simply gather objects of similar size, shape and color. Organize these objects into an exact copy of the photo, and then experiment with changing positions and swapping out objects for other decorative items. For example, if the photo vignette displays a silver-framed mirror and black-lacquer lamp, substitute a mirror with a light-colored frame and dark-colored lamp of comparable size and shape.
Where the Eye Goes
Practice makes perfect, and soon you’ll be translating the principles of design into your own original vignettes. To do so, begin with the basics by selecting a focal point for the vignette that catches the eye’s attention by making you look at its size, unusual shape or vibrant color. Make this object the emphasis in your vignette. Next, accent that focal point with decorative objects arranged in a way that draws the eye from one object to the next, which adds movement to the arrangement. Use a large red vase as the emphasis in a vignette, then create movement by pairing it with a white, medium-sized vase of similar shape and a small, round decorative box in a darker red, or black hue.
Odd, Not Even
Take an accessory "head count" in any professional vignette photo, and typically, you’ll see an odd-numbered arrangement. That’s because uneven numbers invite the eye to move. For beginners, it’s best to apply the "Rule of Three" by arranging simple vignettes in groups of three. An arrangement of an even number of objects becomes static and boring because the eye has nowhere to go. Even numbers work in vignettes only when true symmetry is achieved, such as two identical lamps on a long table.
Just One Thing…
The Rule of Three creates a solid, balanced foundation for any vignette, but not all accessories belong together. The best arrangements group objects that share one design element, such as color, size or shape, to create unity throughout the vignette. Just don’t make the mistake of grouping three identical objects, which is as visually underwhelming as a symmetrical vignette. Create dynamic vignettes by grouping objects that share one design element, but vary in other ways. For example, group three vases that share the same shape, but vary in height, size and shades of blue.