The Art of Arranging ‘Stuff’

If, like me, you are a follower of interior design blogs and feeds (to include Pinterest and Instagram to which I am a newbie) you will have been unable to avoid the many references to creating the perfect ‘vignette’. To explain, they are, in design-speak, curated displays of ‘stuff.’ Which basically means that ornaments and trinkets are back in vogue (though I’m fairly sure those cut glass animals are still not) and you are being encouraged by all who are in the know to display them to your hearts content. As long as you follow a few basic rules…

Luckily there are blogs out there that offer helpful tutorials which in theory I could follow religiously to build my own mini-arrangements of beautiful things. Kimberley Hughes from Swoon Worthy offered up a recent post outlining how to ‘style up’ a coffee table using a simple five step process. Abigail Ahern has done similar.  The Whimsical Wife also has some great advice. All have their own take on it but many, as you might expect from seasoned professionals, follow a fairly standardised process which involves (for those that don’t already know this life affirming stuff……)  mixing up height and texture, introducing a bit of ‘quirk’ and the inclusion of living things. And by that I think they are referring to plantlife rather than species from the animal kingdom unless you can encourage your pet to sit still for long periods of time… though in theory a goldfish in a bowl could work? (Disclaimer: Do check the pet-shop small print which may well read that fish are for life not just for vignettes…)

But seriously….(and I am well aware that many of you will not be taking this seriously – a camp in which my mother is a fully paid up member) everyone needs pretty arrangements of stuff, am I right? And thought needs to put to these arrangements…clearly. LOTS of thought. Mathematic formula actually. Else they look like this….

Or this.

Clusters of clutter jamming up corners of the house. When in actual fact you should have beautifully arranged, calm areas like this:


Image from Space Crush:How to style a console

Or this:

Jenny Tamplin: Vignettes

And so I decided I had better get vignetting.

Now the problems I encounter here are threefold. (Four if you include the chuckling mother in cahoots with S at the ridiculousness of me slavishly following the three/five step process as authored by blog-gurus. But let’s put that to one side for the moment. Because she is a mum who gets up at 5am with your crying baby. And that cancels out a few giggles at your expense.)

The first, and probably crucial, problem I have involves a total disregard from the man of the house for the artistry involved in the arrangement of static and non-functional still-lifes on a surface he sees as being solely for functional use. When I bemoaned my lack of ability to create a successful vignette he commented acidly “So that’s what all that crap is on the coffee table. There’s not enough room now for my dinner.” Which admittedly makes him sound more Flintstone than he really is but I accept his point. There wasn’t any room for his dinner. Or mine. Unless we ate our pasta from a saucer which frankly is a viable option and a sacrifice worth making for pure vignette gorgeousness. But lets be honest here. This particular vignette wasn’t pure gorgeousness. Or anything indeed very close. But it was a first attempt….

The second issue I find myself facing is the inclusion of little people within our family unit who, if allowed to swear, would probably follow S’s lead and say to me “so that’s what all that crap is on the coffee table, theres not enough room now for my colouring pencils.” Certainly it is very hard indeed to create any kind of artful arrangement that will sustain a morning of Baby A on the rampage as you can bet your bottom dollar he’ll have the thing over. Then crawl through the broken glass. (That was last Monday.)

And the third issue, and this is a first-world problem I’ll admit but I’ll plough ahead anyway, is the factor of our cleaner. Now, I always strongly dissuade anyone from allowing a hired professional of any sort – be they builder, plumber, gardener or cleaner – any opportunity to employ their initiative. It often ends badly. One builder I employed decided, without asking me, that a skirting made up of my chosen floor tiles would be a lovely idea on the wall in our bathroom. I hated it. Another builder decided to trot down to B&Q of his own accord and buy ‘cream’ paint for me despite a) me having bought paint already (which he believed not to be cream) and b) there being preceisely 3 thousand four hundred and sevently six possible hues of cream so the odds were stacked heavily against him ever being able to select the one I liked. Another time our buiders decided to build brick steps instead of rendering blockwork ones which is something we now live with and have grown to accept if not love. So with those three indicative examples please take my word for the fact tha professionals, however skilled they might be, do need to be watched at all times.

Our cleaner however is not watched at all times and whilst my back is turned appears to adore rearranging my sorrowful attempts at vignettes into arrangements of her own choosing. I come home to find my dressing table beautifully clean (thank you) but my various pots and trinkets arranged in a neat star-shaped formation with five centimetre gaps between each object. My mantelpiece in the lounge, which I have struggled to style and finally found an arrangement which I don’t think looks too bad, is rearranged on a weekly basis so that previously clustered glass bottles are set in a systematic soldierly line and Zimbabwean soapstone sculpture is turned on its side rather than straight on….something with irritates beyond rational measure. And worse than all of this, my above mentioned recent attempt at styling my coffee table by positioning a large wooden bowl and two stacks of books in a smart line upon it is re-styled each week into splays of books at each corner of the table with bowl set centre stage. Instantly (and wordlessly other than some under-breath mutterings) I put it all back in its formation but I have yet to muster the courage to actually tell her I don’t like the splays. And hints don’t seem to work. Despite returning each week to find the books stacked back into position the penny hasn’t yet dropped so it all gets re-splayed on a weekly basis. A battle of silent wills has ensued….and I fear it won’t be me that wins.


So I decided this week that I would try my very best to style a few areas of my home and will try to find the courage to explain to my cleaner that these are indeed the arrangements I would like to see in place after her visit as well as before. Failing that one approach might be to leave a few items out and just let her get on with it.

If you cant beat ‘em….and all that.



2 thoughts on “The Art of Arranging ‘Stuff’

  1. I recently bought ‘Styled’ by Emily Henderson, but so far I’ve just looked at the pretty pictures, and failed to apply any lessons to my woeful mantelpiece.

    I only recently found this blog, and have gone back and read from the beginning – can I just say that you are a fantastic writer, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed following your renovations!

    • Thank you Caroline! That’s really kind.
      Hmmmm, might check that book out! I used to follow her blog, perhaps I’ll resubscribe.
      Thanks for the tip! X

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s