Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Room with Two Views

Design:  Steven Gambrel
Photo:  Eric Piasecki

I love a good vignette and this room in a home designed by Steven Gambrel is a really good one.  I know Camille from The Vintique Object also loves a good vignette.  I first analyze the objects in a vignette to see if they fit a theme, tell a story or share the same "language."  Camille looks first at things like shape, balance, texture and how they're actually photographed.  Both are important, we just start in different places.

I thought I would deconstruct the elements of this vignette one by one to share my thought process for analyzing or even choosing items for a vignette.  And I've invited Camille to do a post with her own take on the same room.  A room with two views.  For some people this might be intuitive, but if you have a vignette or particular element that doesn't work, the sum of our two posts might offer a way of better analyzing your own work.

The reflection in the mirror shows a staircase, so I would bet this room is the foyer and this vignette sets the tone for the entire house.  My first reaction is this vignette feels like an underwater landscape.  It would be perfect for a home on the water.

Cape Light painting by Anne Packard
It has the moodiness of a gray and misty day by the ocean.

I believe there's even a seascape painting on the table.

The color palette that evokes things we associate with the beach and the sea.

Each of the elements seem to have an aged, weathered quality.  The table looks like an antique.  The mirror might be new but it has an aged surface.  The lamp--not sure if it's ceramic or metal--also has a patina.  The large bowl seems slightly off kilter and has a finish that looks dull.

Looking at the individual elements, let's start with the mirror that's like a porthole.

The large bowl of whatever--it almost doesn't matter what it is--feels like a sea anemone or seaweed swaying in the current.

In the cloche there appears to be weathered rope that has strong nautical associations.

In the lamp I see a Viking's helmet.  But I also see wind-filled
sails reaching up to a mast out of view.

And how perfect is the wicker steamer truck that lists to one side like a ship in the swells of a stormy sea?  We know this piece has a history.  A new wicker chest just would have the same feel, the same language.

I'm not sure what's in the black case or tray sitting on the table but I think an antique telescope would be the perfect choice.

Careful thought went in to each of these elements and I think they're all perfect.  But I don't think it's necessary to construct a vignette using elements that fit the same theme or share a similar language.  Some of the connections may be purely personal but that's when things like shape, color, balance and texture become even more important.

To get Camille's view on these things, head over and read her post.

To see more of this amazing house, go here.


  1. I love this post and how you have dissected the elements and created a story that others may not see.
    I adore the wonkiness of the basket, it shows imperfection that is 'perfect'.
    Bec x
    P.s happy to be a new follower.

  2. What a great idea--I really enjoyed this. Interesting to see the way you both approached it. I see things more the way you do.

  3. What an interesting deconstruction of a vignette. I loved both your takes on it and found both your commentaries to be very helpful for creating vignettes. Great idea to do a dual post on this!

  4. Such a fun idea! Running over to Camille to read hers!

  5. So interesting. I think my approach is more like Camille's so I find your way of thinking really fascinating.

  6. Brilliant and illuminating, love this bi-nocular view!

  7. I like the balance and scale of the large objects...definitely feels coastal to me. The black and tan and shades of white feel rich but understated. Fun post.

  8. Wow! I love this house. It's amazing.
    Also, I like the large white bowl with I suppose grass of some sort in it. It's different.
    I wonder why the two holes in the ceiling are there. Nice analysis of the foyer arrangement. Now to Camille's.

  9. To me, this vignette is a little dark and heavy looking. If it is setting the mood of the house, I would say it is too sombre and moody for my liking. I do like the distorted reflection of the staircase in the mirror..though it does add a certain creepiness to the scene...good for halloween perhaps!

  10. I read your take and Camille's take on that stunning vignette. Interesting to read two different points of view. You both touched on everything but the lamp which I love.

    Enjoy your Holiday weekend!

  11. This was a great idea to have two different analyses on the vignette. I actually thought the object you called a box was a tray with some kind of sphere on it. In any case, The size of the mirror appealed to me most.

  12. I immediately re-pinned this when I saw it on pinterest but its amazing to read an analysis of it as a story/theme as opposed to just liking the juxtaposition of the unique objects. I love the viking helment analogy of the lamp! Happy Sunday

  13. You have quite an imagination Steve. I would agree that all these elements are perfect, but that you do not necessarily have to be true to a theme when constructing a vignette. Because as you say some of the connections may be purely personal. I love your photos of your interpretations...heading over to read Camille's point of view.

  14. I enjoyed reading BOTH posts, but I am more in tune with your take.
    You are someone who I would enjoy watching a movie with. You would be able to catch and appreciate everything that went into making the magic of the film.
    Yeah, you would see more that just birds chasing school children.
    Thank god I can come to your blog and find intelligence in this world of bathroom humor.
    So thanks.

  15. Started with Camille's post and was trying to imagine what yours would be before I arrived here. What a fun idea and you both have such an eye and imagination. I found the image to be intriguing and not at all somber. I seem to be drawn more and more to use of textures rather than colors in interiors. I especially loved your addition of images with similar textures or shades of grey. Wonderful posts!

  16. Hi, Steve - It is indeed a wonderful house. What I like about the vignette is how the proportions of the different elements work together, especially that mirror. A more timid soul would have been constrained by the two uprights of the panels behind the mirror.

  17. Bless you for posting this image - you have just helped me solve an entirely unrelated problem to vignettes! I painted my family room Farrow & Ball Shaded white and I hate how the white trim looks with it. I've tested softer whites but still the same problem. I had been wondering about going slightly darker w/the trim and your image gives me the go ahead!

    Backed to you post - great points about choices that go into a vignette.

  18. Great idea! Interesting to read both your takes on this setting.

    Like art, it's all so subjective, isn't it? They way we see our world
    is so very personal-I would have to take away the stuff in between the bowl and the lamp to make me happy with this design; hubby loves it as is. We both love, love, love the scale of it all.

    Best part: LOVE the portfolio! Three cuppas and two hours later, I have pored over those online images with lazy Sunday abandon. Thanks so much for the link! I have SO much to learn...

  19. Steve, I agree! This was fun. So interesting to me that you always look for the story or language first. I hope to start to do that myself. My favorite part of your post is the link between the Viking hat and the lamp. Now THAT is inspired.

    I also really like what Mark said about not feeling constrained by the moldings on the wall. That truly is inspired, as I know I would have tried to fit something between those two vertical pieces.

  20. I am impressed. I am now going to be going around a deconstructing my own vignettes. Oh we are in for some trouble.....

  21. Steve, I love how you did this and I have also really enjoyed Camille's breakdowns...once you deconstruct it you can recreate it in your own way, in your own space...great job here!

  22. It's a great vignette and very fun to see each item up close. I like a vignette where each item seems relevant to one another, not a theme so much, but a comfortable cohesive look. Fun post.

  23. really great work. i just read camilles on this same subject, and i like how at the end you said, it doesnt necessarily have to be this perfect. so true. but man does it work here

  24. I do this so instinctively it's extremely interesting to hear your thoughts about why this works.

    And your timing is perfect because I'm just heading up to the attic to bring down ????? to replace jars of summer.

    Wanna come with?

    xo Jane

  25. Nice work, Steve!! I actually have this image on one of my Pinterest boards. I think it is rather handsome. And, I love the scale of the objects. Everything is gutsy and big! Now that you mentioned it, that lamp is very viking-ish.

  26. Interesting perspectives from both you and Camille on this Steve - I think it's so interesting how each of us views things differently. That is the beauty of design. We interpret things differently which is really awesome. Your vision was much more creative whereas Camille had a much more technical perspective - again so interesting to me. This is fun - continue this again!

  27. I really enjoyed the details in your post

  28. What a beautiful vignette and love the pieces you found...gorgeous!

  29. how it works at my house-

    dang it the table is too big to go into the den-
    just put it in the hall-

    i don't know where i want that basket- hey just slide it under that table in the hall-

    where is granny's big bowl-
    i sat it on the table in the hall when cathy brought it back after her party-

    etc etc

    john in nc

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  31. Wow, I wish I had an ounce of your decorating prowess. I loved this post because I could read step by step the process of how the decorator might think. You are so talented Steve. Great Post!

  32. I like how John thinks :) You figured it all out for great is it to hear a different interpretation....must run to Camille and see what she "saw". Y'all are doing "yin and yang".

  33. A wonderful translation. How long did it take to find a good sea anemone photo? You are awesome.

    Now, I have to go see the rest of the house!!!

  34. I absolutely love everything about the styling of this. It's very 'understated nautical'. I hope I can replicate it in my living room with my tulip table.

  35. interesting take on this stunning vignette steve.
    you brought to light some of the thought processes that may have contributed to this scene, brilliant!

  36. I love the story behind this vignette and how you described the ties to the ocean. I think it is absolutely lovely and well thought out... and I must say, I am seeing the underwater landscape in the image through the mirror also! Cool!

  37. I like a good vinaigrette too. (a la Domestica Artistica)