Often we spend so much time creating the perfect box with paint and furniture, that we forget about ‘filling’, the most important part of decorating a room. What gives a room it’s personality, it’s panache, it’s style?
It’s the personal treasures that we collect or inherit or receive as gifts that really complete a home. Whether a ceramic rooster (or 3 or 4), a collection of silver pieces from your Grandma, a painted box from a trip or a special handmade gift from your child, these are the elements that truly make a house a home.
ISPLAYING YOUR TREASURES
Is everything you own a treasured accessory? Probably not – we buy many things to fill in the spaces and they are trendy or picked because the color is right. We need those items to finish a room. But those few things that we are emotionally attached to need special attention – they are the things that deserve to be front and center and not scattered randomly around the house. I’ll show you what to consider when displaying your treasures so they really shine.
The first building block to successfully displaying your treasure or collection is to master the vignette. I shared a photo how-to in an earlier post showing some of the steps to create a strong table vignette.
The 6 steps to a successful vignette are:
- Begin with your vertical or taller pieces and place them first. Think of them as the pillars to support the rest of the structure.
- Add medium sized pieces in a variety of shapes and textures to keep the vignette interesting and vibrant.
- Tuck in the smallest pieces to draw people close.
- Leave enough blank space for function (a place to put a drink or book).
- To connect the tabletop display to whatever is on the wall, use the vertical elements to overlap and visually bind them together.
- Layer the components of the vignette both vertically and horizonally to create a cohesive arrangement.
The photo to the right (from my magazine photo archives) uses the lamp and taller carvings to bridge the space between the tabletop and art. The blue lamp adds a pop of color to an otherwise monochromatic grouping. The blue is reinforced by the vases under the table that subtly reinforce the vignette.
This bedroom tabletop creates a restrained vignette that leaves plenty of room for a bedtime read or glass of water. The rectangular box is contrasted with the more organic coral and the white lamp repeats that color. The height of the lamp serves for illumination as well as connecting the table to the mirror above.
The word vignette implies lots of ‘stuff’. However, that’s not necessarily true as evidenced by the example above. This very simple display focuses on just a couple favorite things – an elevated sea shell and a small ‘book art’ piece. The lamp again serves as the bridge.
When you are out shopping, look at the store vignettes. Every type of store uses vignettes to display their wares in one way or another. Practice evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the display to develop your eye for a well designed arrangement - too cluttered? too many colors competing for attention? too sparse? a variety of heights or everything the same?
SE COLOR TO STRENGTHEN YOUR DISPLAY
Sometimes a room’s color scheme is built around a favorite item – a painting, a flower arrangement, a collection of dishes. Sometimes the color scheme is supported and enhanced by a beautifully displayed collection. In the photo below, the display complements the upholstery and folding screen and the reds contrast strongly with the blue walls. The mantel pieces vary heights and textures while the shelves employ repetition and color to make their mark.
This room is a perfect example of how you can develop a scheme/theme around a favorite collection. The designer has pulled colors from Grandma’s (or Auntie’s or whomever’s) dishes to create this inviting room. Tea anyone?
Collections are stronger when displayed in a group so the similarities and differences of each piece can be enjoyed. You don’t have to make the display feel like a store shelf – go ahead and introduce a few other pieces to break up the rigidity of too much of a good thing.
These 2 photos show very different interpretations of the use of color in a collection. All one color = calm, soothing, receding. Multiple colors in a window ledge = happy, bright, energetic, playful.
I’ve included a picture of one of my collections – some milk glass pieces my mom passed down to me – paired with contemporary vases that are more my style. Notice the progression of size. Even though I like asymmetry, this is a bit severe and actually feels a little incomplete, so in the 2nd picture you can see how I addressed it – I think the addition of the picture strengthens the grouping and adds balance. The wide white mat helps connect the art to the mostly white collection.
HAPE AND TEXTURE ADD SPICE
Color is often the most talked about element in establishing a pleasing room. Equally as important are the use of shape and texture. Color may be the star, but there wouldn’t be a show without the supporting characters. Their contribution is subtle, almost subliminal, but a strong factor in a successful vignette, room and home.
Shape is defined as the outline of an item (as opposed to form which is the 3 dimensional “filled in” shape). When building a display, you can go one of two ways: use repetition of a similar shape of object over and over, perhaps varying size or texture; use contrast of shapes for a dynamic, dramatic presentation of shapes, round against boxy, etc.
In addition to the shape of the specific items, consider the shape the grouped items make. Generally, round items are considered calm and soothing; square items project solidity and stability; triangles or diagonals can be energizing and dramatic. If you build your vignette in a circular shape using bowls, glass orbs and rocks, you’ll find it imparts a feeling of restfulness and peacefulness.
Texture can be actual or perceived. Tactile items like soft, nubby throws or spiny sea urchins add actual texture. Visual texture can be created with pattern or patina like an aged silver teapot or wood grain gleaming with polish. Even though I’ll often tell you to add texture to vignettes to create interest, there are certainly times when it’s okay to break the rules. Look at the colorful glass bottle collection above. All the glass is smooth and shiny and yet it’s a very attractive display – there’s a slight addition of texture with a couple of dried plant stems, but barely enough to notice.
OLLECTIONS PROVIDE A DESTINATION
Use your collections wisely. Use your accessories to emphasize a resting place or support a seating area. Don’t scatter them around a room, group them together for impact. Create a destination, a feeling of coziness or arrival by using your treasures to complete a nook, a seating area, a dining sideboard. Draw guests to your favorite items by calling attention to them – if you collect something small like thimbles or shot glasses, gather them together on a tray, the top of a book or a box. Bigger items can group together on a mantel, a sofa table or an entry table.
Use all the tools at your disposal: variation of height, color, shape, texture, scale, books, easels and other props. And remember the strongest tool of all is your love of your home and your desire to be surrounded by the beautiful things you’ve acquired. You are imprinting your personality on your rooms by wisely choosing and editing your accessories and displaying them with style.
The next article in this series will be about working with plants and flowers in your home. Watch for it next week. If you missed the first in the series, it was about decorating your walls and you can find it here.
(By the way, the great initial art on my headlines is provided free by Daily Drop Cap - she adds a new letter and design each day. There is amazing talent out there and it’s great to come across great talent then be pleasantly surprised that it’s free. Visit her site and see the typography work yourself.)