Creating the perfect design vignette can be an art form. Assembling just the right composition of objects to adorn a coffee table or shelf is a style statement all its own. From family heirlooms to collected books, the small, thoughtfully arranged grouping known as a “vignette” not only adds warmth and depth to your space but can also be a window to your life story. We tapped five local interior designers to inspire us with some of their favorite design vignettes and offer up a few tips and tricks to help you create your own.
5 Home Design Vignettes by Nashville Interior Designers
A “Nashville experience”
Marcelle Guilbeau of Marcelle Guilbeau Interior Design phrases it perfectly and succinctly when she says, “To me, a vignette is an arrangement of things in a room, which helps to complete the room. I really love the way a vignette can help personalize it and give it a sense of meaning and place.” And what better place to utilize an attractive design vignette than in lodgings intended to capture the feel of Music City? That’s exactly what Marcelle did, merging music memorabilia and artwork for a classic approach to this bookshelf, which is located in one of the bedroom suites of a local Airbnb. “We wanted to give the visitors a ‘Nashville’ experience,” she explains. “I often bring in vintage books, greenery, lamps and artwork to complement my clients’ own books and sentimental objects, which I like to repurpose in interesting ways.”
Marcelle balanced out a vertical stack of books by arranging others horizontally, adding vintage records from the Nashville Flea Market and The Great Escape and faux succulents from Color for a touch of nature-inspired warmth. A record player from Urban Outfitters rounds out the Music City theme. Offering up a trick of the trade, she suggests considering the function of a space: “I always add something purposeful that can be picked up and enjoyed.”
Creating vignettes is often the final layer in the design process, adding a touch of personalization, tying everything together, and pulling focus to a particular spot in the room. In this Belle Meade living room with 14-foot ceilings and a multitude of windows, interior designer Debbie Mathews achieves this with colorful floral touches on an iron coffee table in the center of the room. “The theme in this vignette is all-neutral and natural, achieved by color and textured elements,” she tells us. “I’m known to bring in fresh, living touches. Here I used sheet moss and tulip bulbs.”
It’s no secret that adding a touch of greenery can brighten and warm up any space. In Debbie’s vignette, an Elegant Earth stone planter filled with sheet moss and a porcelain planter with tulip bulbs offer contrast to a pair of antique candlesticks, assorted coffee table books, and a bone inlay box. It’s an eye-catching arrangement! In the background, a woven basket with birch logs and a Matouk mohair throw pillow complete the look and bring in additional texture. Debbie incorporates a diverse array of both horizontal and vertical elements in her design to generate interest. “The trick to creating a perfect vignette is to create layers of interest around a common theme,” Debbie tells us. “I always like to incorporate something vintage or antique because I think the patina of antique wood or iron adds a richness and depth that is difficult to achieve otherwise.”
Vintage pieces are often the focal point of a vignette, offering a sense of nostalgia and charm to the design narrative. Jessica Davis of JL Design pairs a vintage viewfinder from Chairish with a selection of exquisite hardback books from the homeowners’ collection to create a delightful little display on this library shelf. Mixing and balancing objects can make for a less formal and more inviting configuration. “I really love how the vignette turned out because the books and vintage viewfinder stand out just enough from the navy blue shelves,” says Jessica. “The visual texture of the books and the interest of the viewfinder speak for themselves in a humble way without trying too hard, and the colors all balance very nicely.”
To prevent your composition from appearing too cluttered, and to make a more effective statement with your vignette, be mindful of your spacing. As with many aspects of architecture and design, less can be more. Choose a small selection of personal treasures, be it framed photos, candles, plants or antiquities, and build your vignette layer by layer until you feel it’s complementary without being crowded.
A sense of adventure
Capturing an almost otherworldly vibe, this moody music room boasts a nuanced vignette from interior designer Jonathan Savage that’s both mystical and elegant. A collection of rock crystal obelisks and upholstered boxes offer varying heights and depth against the custom Shetland horsehair wall covering. A metal serpentine piece offers a unique element laced with intrigue. Sourced at Atlanta’s ADAC and antique shops across the country, the beauty lies in the compelling combination of curiosities. “The items displayed are a collection of beautiful artifacts and findings from all over the world,” Jonathan tells us. “Each piece can stand alone but is much more impactful grouped together.”
Ultimately, his goal was to highlight his client’s affinity for adventure. “We feel these items represent them as avid travelers,” he says. “Collections these days are plentiful. When designing this space for the client, we wanted to showcase their love for adventure and travel as well as their worldly visits.”
To create a stunning and impactful vignette in your own home, Jonathan says the trick is to create a skyline. “It is the highs and lows that combine interest,” he explains. “If everything were the same height, life would be boring! Don’t be afraid to mix and match; it is truly the key to the perfect vignette.”
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Interior designer Stephanie Wallace, of Stephanie Wallace and Associates, emphasizes that any design vignette’s most important element is incorporating beautiful things. Whether your style leans toward modern minimalism, kitschy collectibles or coastal chic, infusing your unique style and sense of beauty is what truly makes a vignette stand out. This dining room composition from Stephanie accentuates a love of horses and dogs. “The painting is from Doyle’s Auction House in New York City,” she says. “They have an auction of dog and sporting art every year before the Westminster dog show. The sculpture is from a Sotheby’s auction back in the 1980s, the red books have been collected from estate sales and antique shows, and the dog, chest and lamp are all from an antique show in Middleburg, Virginia, many years ago.” Set atop a century-old chest of drawers near her clients’ front door, the vignette helps define the entry foyer.
Aside from incorporating beautiful objets d’art that speak to your style, Stephanie says not to underestimate the effectiveness of books. “I almost always use books in a vignette,” she tells us, “as they help with height, depth and color.” She also cautions against overusing the design tactic, saying, “Vignettes are an important part of design. However, they lose their punch if everywhere you look is a vignette.”
Thank you to these five designers for offering design vignette inspiration!
See more stunning interiors and get additional home design inspiration in our “Homes” section.