Thursday, May 31, 2012

Free Decorating! Creating Vignettes and Tablescapes

Today we're going to talk about vignettes. Tablescapes. Displays. Arranging your stuff so it looks really, really good. Yeah, it's kind of twee and affected and sometimes it's overly adorable. But since you can use things you already have, it's decorating for free. And if you like cats and croissants and crinolines and magical realism, then you should dig it. And if you don't like that stuff, what's wrong with you?!

If you're just joining, you might want to start at the beginning.
Part One: Considering Scale and Proportion When Choosing Art
Part Two: Unique Large-Scale Art That Won't Break the Bank

From The Brick House Tumblr
So you've found the perfect piece of unique, special art. You chose the right place for it and hung it properly; it's almost as wide as the furniture below it, but not quite. And you hung it at eye level, so that the center of the piece is approximately five feet from the floor. It looks good. But you're not done yet! Look at what's beneath that gorgeous thing you just hung on the wall. Is it a dresser in your bedroom? A console table in your entry hall? A desk? Unless you're an extreme minimalist, you're going to put stuff on it. Do that carelessly, and it will look like random stuff on a table. Do it well, consider these points, and your artful arrangement will make your ordinary things look special.

1. Vary the heights
2. Vary the shapes
3. Layer
4. Use odd numbers
5. Edit carefully
6. Tell your story and show some personality!
From the Tao of Dana
Varying heights - A pleasing visual composition keeps the viewer's eye moving, and when objects are of different heights, the viewer's eye is guaranteed to move over your composition. Here, my eye goes to the plant first, and then down the plant's stalk and to the telephone, and finally to the cameras.  Notice that stacked books can be your best friend when it comes to creating height. TLC recommends that your tallest object be balanced with an object exactly half its height, but I think such precision is unnecessary and kind of obsessive. Just make sure to vary the heights to keep it interesting. 

From SFGirlByBay
Varying Shapes - Too many straight lines and squares can look harsh, so soften the look with some curves. There is a lot of stuff here, but look at the mix of straight lines in the desk and painting and curved lines in the chair, lamp, and bicycle horn. Isn't that beautiful? This is always a difficult composition problem for me. I love precise lines and geometric shapes, so the things I accumulate are often very angular. But adding a round mirror or curved jug to an otherwise straight and square composition always makes the entire arrangement more pleasing.

From Conspicuous Style
Layering - Layering creates a sense of unity among otherwise unrelated items, and I think a friendly jumble looks more relaxed. Lining up everything perfectly with no overlap screams HI, I HAVE OCD! Let the plant to cover the art a little, place the tray in front of the smaller framed picture, and who cares if you can't see the base of the candlesticks?

From SFGirlByBay
Odd numbers - Three things are always prettier and more interesting then two or four. Why? Because with three points, you have variety, a sense of balance, and a central focal point. Also, because Apartment Therapy said so. In my own home, I like to make arrangements with two items on one side, three items on the other, and a flat tray in the center so the eye can have a place to rest. And so I can see the artwork on the wall above.

From Completely Totally Madly
Editing - How is anyone going to see your gorgeous milk glass candy dish or Buddha statue if it's hidden among thirty other knick-knacks, stacks of junk mail, and a few abandoned coffee mugs?  A beautiful vignette doesn't have to include a lot of stuff. Choose the items you display judiciously, keep surfaces clear of items you aren't intentionally displaying, and edit often to keep your displays fresh, relevant, and interesting. I rearrange my displays two or three times a year, otherwise it all becomes sort of invisible to me.

From My Favorite and My Best
Uniqueness and Personality - You know what I hate? Walking into someone's house and seeing bowls full of those creepy "natural" balls that don't occur in nature. Seriously, who thinks wow, this thing from the Decorative Object aisle at Target is so special and so me? Probably someone named Generica Blandini. You know what I love seeing in people's homes? Black and white family photos. Rocks you collected at the beach with your children. A clay pot you made in 4th grade art class. A doorknocker from your grandpa's house. Stuff that has a personal story, and isn't just there to fill space.

The best thing about creating a pleasing vignette is that you can do it right now using things you already own. If you've never consciously arranged your items before, consider moving things from room to room. That white pitcher in the kitchen might look pretty in your bedroom, and doll you picked up in Prague might look better in another place, too. As you arrange, remember that you don't have to use everything you own. I store the stuff I'm not displaying in a cabinet in my living room. When I redo my arrangements, I'm always pleased to open the cabinet and find "new" things to use.

From The Glitter Guide
A word about using fresh flowers in your vignettes: If your don't subscribe to the flower of the week club, and you don't like to drive yourself crazy, DON'T create a visual composition that relies on flowers. They're gorgeous, yeah, and so many designers say if you don't have flowers you lose at life. But a week after you put flowers out, they're brown and nasty and falling all over the rug. If you're the kind of person who will replace them on a weekly basis, go for it.  But pussy willow branches, potted succulents, and silk cherry blossoms are pretty too, and a lot easier to live with. Or terrariums!

What is your favorite thing to display? Mine is the Phrenology Head my mother gave me as an early birthday present. Also, dino models. I had to make myself stop buying them and putting them together because seriously, who needs more than three dinosaur skeleton models?! BUT I LOVE THEM.
Hi. I live here.
More inspiration after the cut.

From Eddie Ross
From The House
Image found at Little Blue Deer, but it's not hers--do you know the source?
From Mark D Sikes
from The Roof Over My Head
From Apartment Therapy

Yup. That stuff looks rad.

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