Vignette Image Gallery
Vignette Image Gallery

A classic vignette strategy is to mimic shapes or themes in subtle ways. The painting in this vignette echoes the buttery tones of the calla lilies. See more pictures of vignettes.

Michael Grimm/Getty Images

When you hear the word "vignette," you may think of a short scene in a play or a quick character sketch. A design vignette isn't too different from its theatrical and literary counterparts. After all, an effective vignette, or tablescape, has its own stage (in the form of a side table, mantle or dresser) and tells a story. Budget-friendly and able to deliver a high-impact visual with minimal effort, it's one of the design world's go-to tricks to lending some drama to a drab corner -- whether that corner is in your living room or your child's bedroom.

The beauty of creating a vignette is that it's unique to you and what you want to express, and can be changed and rearranged whenever the mood strikes. Maybe you've been pondering what to do with your porcelain owl collection. Or you've been daydreaming about going to, say, Paris. Sacre bleu! You've just stumbled on your design inspiration. Now think about what you may have up in the attic or tucked away in a closet. An Edith Piaf record? Check. A replica of the Eiffel tower? Oui. A gold-framed mirror? Voilà! Suddenly, you've got the makings for a très chic vignette.

Now what? Like any improvisational great, before you start throwing together your items, you'll need to apply a few key principles, like identifying objects to anchor your vignette, the scale of your objects and dominant colors, to name a few. Also, we're going to have a heart to heart about those owls and collections in general. Don't worry -- we'll be gentle -- and you'll soon be the proud artiste of your very own vignette.