You may as well have missed the rise of the "vignette" as a force in home decorating. Rest assured, there are now even online competitions where enthusiasts vie for the best composition (odd numbers of elements are considered optimal), use of colour, and mix of objects. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let me explain what, exactly, a vignette is when applied to an interior display. Styled set pieces in the home are, in fact, a tried-and-tested cornerstone of home decorating. Think of how much value a still life of artfully placed items on a mantelpiece, a sideboard or a coffee table adds to the ambience of a room. What is new is our consciousness of these groupings as Instagram fodder.
Jen Bishop, who has been hosting a monthly vignettes contest on her blog, The Interiors Addict, for three years, is clear about its appeal. "My readers, mostly women, tell me they love it because it's a creative outlet away from the everyday pressures and routine of work and running a home," says Bishop. "It lets everyone have a go and makes this amateur styling world really accessible."
At the other end of the spectrum is Adelaide furniture designer Khai Liew, whose work has been collected globally, and is represented in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Australia and the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. His restrained aesthetic and perfect sense of placement is revealed in this slice of his living room.
"A vignette, for me, is always more than a pleasing group of objects," says Liew. "To me, it is a window into the very soul of the person. The act of acquisition, and the conscious or unconscious arrangement, is scarily revealing." He is mindful of the dialogue one work has with another. "I believe that every object or work, no matter how humble, deserves its space and is given a voice, so I tend to subtract more than I add."
But Liew is not one to be endlessly fussing, moving and shifting arrangements. "Things in my home tend to stay where they are, once placed," he says. "I am usually very careful of what items I bring to my house and into my mind."
Each object's form and material steers how Liew puts things together. Shown above are items made by Adelaide-based friends: the woven "leaf", titled Embrace, is by artist Hossein Valamanesh; the porcelain pieces by Kirsten Coelho; while the table and chair are his own designs. "They all just seem to sit so well together," says Liew. "And incidentally we – the makers – have all sat together in the same space as well."
STYLING TIP: "There's no right or wrong when displaying items in a house," says furniture designer Khai Liew. "Home's a sacred place; it's yours to do as you please, not worry about what someone else may think."