The Other Vignette: A Guide to Styling Stuff Under Surfaces

updated May 4, 2019
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(Image credit: Tamara Gavin)

If your furniture is leggy — the great weight of it lifted high off the floor — you may have found yourself wondering if maybe you should put something under it? Like a basket? Or maybe books? Should you put anything? Can you put anything? The answers to your stuff-under-your-furniture questions can be found in this post.

While tabletop vignettes will never go out of style, the top portion of your tables, credenzas, dressers and more isn’t the only spot to add on style with accessories to your furniture pieces. The space under your furniture can make for pretty good design detail real estate.

But before you start moving all your favorite decorative elements to the floor, first decide if this styling tool is right for your space. Some things to consider:

(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

Why you should totally style a vignette under your a piece of furniture:

  • You’re trying to make a diminutive furniture piece feel more substantial.
  • You like a casual, playful, bohemian-styled space.
  • You’re low on space and can sacrifice a little airiness for more storage for your favorite things.
  • You want to draw attention to a favorite design element by placing it in an unexpected place (especially powerful in minimally designed interiors).
(Image credit: Pablo Enriquez)

Why you should skip this style trend and stick to tops:

  • If you’ve got a claustrophobic space where a lot of heavy furniture lives.
  • You really need an airy, fresh and open feeling space.
  • You know yourself and know you will absolutely never take the extra time to move those decorative elements to clean under your furniture piece.
  • You’ve already got A LOT of things going on in your space.
(Image credit: Kim Lucian)

Some “rules” and tips to think about when styling your own under vignettes:

Go with less stuff.
As a rule, under vignettes are much less cluttered and don’t feature the the “normal” elements of a top side vignette. In other words, if you were to take a vignette you styled for a tabletop — like a large leaning piece of art, a table lamp, a small stack of books and a smattering of tchotchkes — it’d look pretty weird. Under vignettes are almost always only one to two elements (sometimes more, but rarely).

Go with similar stuff.
It’s not mandatory, but a lot of the time, the elements are the same or very similar. Unlike tabletop vignettes that can thrive with a variety of different elements and details, under vignettes can look way to random and busy. Stick to the same category of things (all boxes, all books, all art, etc.) if you’re going to use multiple items under a furniture piece.

Negative space and proportion is important.
Just like you wouldn’t want a weirdly small piece of art floating aimlessly alone on top of a credenza, you wouldn’t want a too-small decorative box sitting solo underneath a piece of furniture. Just like with top side vignettes, your under vignettes take in account too much and too little negative space.

(Image credit: Carolyn Purnell)

These three options will never fail you.
When in doubt, a solo storage piece like a box, basket or small chest with a top/lid always looks great. Choose one that’s proportional to the furniture piece (not way too small that it seems like someone accidentally put a small box under your cabinet, but not so big you’re stuffing it underneath). An extra pouf or floor cushion can always look nice. And a stack of a few books artfully arranged can be a great addition to under a furniture piece.

Keep it streamlined and uncluttered.
Stick to storage display rules here especially. Don’t let things pour over the edges of a basket or box.

Plants look weird.
Look you can try a plant if you want to, but in general, plants just look weird under furniture pieces.

What’s your opinion on arranging elements under furniture pieces? A cool decorative tool to use for styling your spaces? Or too weird for your tastes? Let us know what you think in the comments below!