There’s so much talk about maximalism and filling homes with objects you find beautiful or intriguing. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are the minimalists, who avoid stuff like the plague. Get that coffee table book out of here, they want clean surfaces and a life without tchotchkes.
And I think the people on the two ends are the loud outliers. Those screaming maximalism are creating spaces that are great for them, but are serious overstimulation central for the average person. And who wants to live a minimalist life without anything beautiful?
Somewhere in the middle are people like me. I don’t want shelves full of stuff or a home packed with plants. The idea of dust hiding around every corner grosses me out to the point of losing my appetite. Yet I also love the stories that items can tell. I love antiquing, strolling through the aisles looking for an object that catches my eye. I can’t go into a home store without finding something that I can imagine styled perfectly on a dresser — though most of the time I can resist the temptation.
How to Create Styled Vignettes Without Clutter
My goal is always to style a few choice pieces in a way that brings me joy when I see it, but that doesn’t infringe upon the actual functionality and cleanliness of my home. I still need somewhere to set my cup on a coffee table, and my dresser should stay mostly clear since that’s where I set items when I’m getting ready. I want to create vignettes that feel styled and abundant, but never cluttered.
Here’s how I find that balance.
Find the Item First, Then Style
Don’t go to Home Goods looking for coffee table styling items. Let the items come to you. They don’t have to be old, they don’t have to be new. But forcing a vignette will end in pieces that never actually resonate with you and, eventually, they’ll just become clutter.
Center Each Vignette Around a Meaningful Piece
I always like to have one piece that actually does have a good story. Maybe it’s been passed down by family or tracked down at an antique shop. It could even be a new piece that I spent months searching for because I knew what I wanted, but just needed it to come to life. That piece is your core styling item. In this vignette, several of the books — specifically the White House entertaining book and a Washington, DC book — are favorites that were either tracked down or gifted.
Create an Arrangement Slightly Left of Symmetrical
You want to create order and balance to avoid a styling moment from being too cluttered, so make it almost symmetrical. Asymmetry is more visually interesting, but I think keeping it mostly balanced helps make it look more intentional.
Check the Practicality
If you have to move a styling item to actually use your space, then it needs to go. For example, if you have to move a vase to put a coffee mug down, it’s out. If you find yourself repeatedly knocking over a small objet d’art because it stands in the way of switching on a light, say goodbye to it. Stuff shouldn’t make your life hard.
Style, Then Take Away
Similar to the old adage to get dressed, then take one item off. Style your vignette, then take one or two items away. That’s what keeps your space from feeling too full and too cluttered, and that’s the balance we’re trying to achieve.