I am perplexing to my husband for a number of reasons, but chief among them is the way I prioritize tasks around our home.
Specifically, he points out, I tend to put off chores like doing the laundry, loading the dishwasher and scooping the litter boxes. Yet I’ll get up from the sofa in the middle of a conversation to urgently move a candlestick a quarter-inch to the right, straighten a crooked picture hanging on a wall or move a vase from one table to another.
Clearly, my husband doesn’t grasp the vital importance of perfecting vignettes.
The French word “vignette” has several meanings, including a brief evocative story or description, or a photo or image that’s sharply focused in the center but fades at the edges.
In the home, I like to think of well-paired groups of accessories that can sum up the personality of an entire room as vignettes.
I have vignettes throughout my house. Here are some guidelines that I follow when putting them together:
▪ Common colors: A lamp with an aqua base seems to be part of most of the vignettes on the main floor of our home, making for a cohesive look. Orange is also a recurring theme, though in smaller doses, and only in the living room and den. My dining room has been restricted to shades of blue.
▪ Odd numbers: I almost always arrange things in groups of three or five. In some cases I’ll put two similar items together as though they’re one and add them to a couple of other items. I also sometimes break this rule altogether.
In my dining room, for instance, I have two crystal vases sitting next to a lamp, a dish and four brass candlesticks. That’s eight items, but I count the pair of vases and set of brass candlesticks as one grouping each, so it reads like four items.
▪ Varied heights: The eye won’t know where to go if everything is the same size. In my living room, I’ve grouped three vases that are similar in height but set the middle one on a concrete pedestal to make it taller.
Likewise, I leaned a small, framed silkscreen print against a larger framed poster that is, in turn, leaning against an even taller mirror on a credenza. A tall lamp and a tiny ceramic genie’s lamp balance it all out.
▪ Incorporate furniture and wall art: Think larger than just accessories. I’ve created a vignette by placing a lamp on a pedestal table, which sits next to a wrought-iron chair with a back shaped like a man’s face. Nearby hang two square pieces of framed art. (By the way, this again reads as three items: the chair; the lamp/table; the two pictures.)
I have no formal training in interior design. And you might think my vignettes aren’t anything to brag about. But, as a novice, I have found them to be a simple way of breaking down rooms into manageable portions when decorating.
And it’s so much more fun to play with room vignettes than to clean up after the dogs in the backyard.
What about you, readers? Do you do vignettes? If so, post some pictures to facebook.com/kcstar.house.home. We’ll select three of our favorites and send you one of the books pictured: “At Home With Madame Chic,” by Jennifer L. Scott; “Elements of Style: Designing a Home & a Life,” by Erin Gates; and Southern Living’s “Christmas All Through the South.”
To reach Cynthia Billhartz Gregorian, call 816-234-4780 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.