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Decorating 101 – Vignette Styling

Tips for styling vignettes like a designer using simple decorating rules for mantels, tabletops, shelves, dresser tops, and nightstands.

I put my teacher pants on today, guys.

Yeah, I maybe had to brush the dust off of them but they were still there way in the back of my closet between a bridesmaids dress I’ll probably never wear again and those skinny jeans that haven’t fit me since 2009. (On a related note: Closet purging might be in the near future.)

Even though I haven’t set foot in a classroom in two years now (what!?), I assigned y’all homework on Monday like a total meanie.

And in that homework a.k.a. reader survey, soooo many of you guys told me you wanted to see some fully explained styling tips. I totally get it! When you’re staring at a blank shelf or mantel, it’s hard figuring out what to do with it.

The best part is the items you can style with are probably already lying around your own home.

Decorating 101 How to Style Vignettes

Maybe it’s because I felt like I needed more practice or wasn’t really the “expert” myself before, but I never thought about sharing decorating 101 vignette styling tips with y’all. It’s probably because I’m not a school-trained designer myself or anything. I have just studied what inspires me and tried to figure it out from there.

But I do have a system. And once you grasp these 6 simple styling tips, it makes decorating tablescapes, shelves, mantels, nightstands, any flat surface so much easier.

Tips for How to Style Vignettes:

  1.  Symmetry is your best friend.

If you want to avoid the look of clutter, always aim for symmetry. It is the most pleasing to the eye, and if you really pay attention, you’ll notice designers in magazines and on television shows always do it.


(From post: Thrifted Charcoal Mirror Makeover)

When in doubt, choose an “anchor” or a focal point for the center of your vignette, something large like a piece of art, a mirror, or an oversized interesting object.

Pick two items similar in height and size and place one on each side of your anchor piece. I often choose lanterns, vases, candle holders, something with a little height.

And finish it with some filler in the middle- books, flowers, an oblong bowl of greenery, whatever speaks to you. The middle is usually where you can get away with displaying collections- clocks, frames, bottles, it looks more curated that way.


(From post: Christmas Home Tour 2015)

2. Three and five are the magic decorating numbers. So you know that whole symmetry thing I just talked about? That’s why the numbers three and five are perfect for decorating. They naturally create symmetry. In this Easter tablescape, I started with three candle holders as my anchor, which created that symmetry. Then, I just filled bottles of flowers in between them. Everything comes to life with the filler, but without those three magical anchor candle holders there, it could end up looking cluttered.


(From post: Easter Brunch Tablescape)

Here’s an example using five.


(From the post: DIY Pumpkin Patch Sign)

The wooden sign is my anchor and focal point. The pitcher of wheat and pumpkin terrariums act as my balanced ends. And the books, wooden bowl, and pine cones are my filler. All together, it creates the symmetry.

3. Mix materials for texture. If you’re ever decorating and you’re following that symmetry rule but your vignette is still looking “flat” to you, try swapping out a couple of items to vary the materials. I always try to use at least one item of each material that is wood, glass, metal, and greenery. Add in paper and natural weave fabrics too, if you can make it work. The more variety of materials you have, the more texture you’ll create.


(From post: Modern Farmhouse Bathroom Makeover)

4. Always incorporate an item or two from nature. Whenever I’m struggling with a shelf display, I almost always can grab a flower or a little plant of some kind to place in the mix and it instantly fixes it for me. It’s easy to change out those little nature items with the seasons too. In the fall, swap out flowers for fall leaves or pumpkins. In the winter, incorporate pine cones, evergreen branches, and holly berries. Use delicate pastel blossoms in the spring, and experiment with brighter blooms in the summer. Ta da! Instant seasonal vignettes.

Summer Home Tour (8 of 10)

5. Layer a variety of different shapes and sizes. Every vignette should have small, medium, and large items. And it’s fun to experiment with layering different shapes too. This circular wreath on top of these square shutters with straight lines makes this buffet more inviting.


(From post: Fall Home Tour 2015)

6. Create balance. Think of a shelf like a seesaw (or teeter totter, if that’s what you call it). If you have a tall item on one side, you should have a tall item on the other. You want to evenly distribute the weight. On this shelf, the taller picture frame is opposite of the hanging dress to make it feel balanced. decorating101-7

(From post: Ballerina Girl Bedroom Makeover)

Did that help at all? Maybe? …Beuller?

Do you have any styling or decorating tips of your own? If you’re a designer yourself, feel free to share with the class because I’m all for learning more. 😉


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