Accessorize Your Kitchen with the Art of Vignettes

Vignettes, or small groupings of accessories, are great ways to add designer details to your kitchen. They need to be thought out well because the kitchen counter is a very busy place. Of course you have necessities that belong there, but a few accessories do make it feel more like home instead of a sterile commercial kitchen.

Bare Kitchen

When it comes time to accessorize, start by taking a good look at your kitchen in the raw state; in other words, without any small appliances on the counter, no salt and pepper shakers, and zero accessories anywhere.  Now, what is it that your kitchen is trying to say?  Is it in just the right colors to support a wine country theme?  Or, is it in a more rustic color combination calling for outdoorsy or country accessories?  Could French Country roosters add a touch of whimsy?  Or, would contemporary colored glass bottles look best?

Tex Mex VignetteOnce you have an idea what your kitchen is trying to say, select a theme name, and the more descriptive, the better.  Something like a “Tex-Mex” theme rules out grape vines and classic fruit baskets but allows all sorts of hot peppers, beans, cactus, pottery, salsa, avocados, etc. Once your theme is set, it’s time to get the functional items squared away before the fun shopping spree begins.

Now, set all of the small appliances that were previously on the counter with all of the rest of the functional kitchen items like canisters, knife sets, paper towel holders, etc.  This is the time to be brutal…. What do you really need out on the counter for convenience?  After you’ve placed what you can in a cupboard, carefully think through how you move around the kitchen.  Place the items still required on the counter in the best spot for that activity.  Think this through, moving things around until your kitchen works like a well-oiled machine. Now, take note of the empty spaces and any wall outlets that could be covered by sliding over an appliance or perhaps a well placed accessory!  Note too, any very bare wall spaces for artwork and get linear measurements as well as the height of any areas above and between cabinets.  With this information and your theme name in hand, along with any wallpaper or paint samples from your kitchen, you are ready to SHOP!

A good accessory shopper visits many places.  They try antique stores, craft shops, design studios, catalogs and the internet.  They stop at nothing to find the right stuff!  So be prepared….accessory shopping isn’t for the casual browser.  It takes time and determination to find just the right piece. However, when just the right piece is sitting in just the right spot, as Matt says, “The decorating world will stop spinning out of control, and everything will be all right!”

Colorful Upper CabinetsSo, let’s talk about, “just the right piece in just the right spot”.  For above cabinets, you have a couple arrangement possibilities.  You can fill in the entire area with a variety of heights and shapes of items, tied together by color or theme or garlands of greenery or berries.

Upper Cabinets with Open SpacesIf that’s too full for you, create groupings of accessories, or “vignettes” that you place in strategic locations, with some bare space in between for drama.

It’s best not to evenly space single items across a run of cabinets, like placing colored glass vases or woven baskets every 12”.  This lacks drama and cohesiveness.

Bean Jars on CounterFor the countertops, place a few theme related accessories in places that are out of the way, like corners or ends of counters – areas that are generally out of reach.  I like small pictures, plates or open cookbooks leaned or propped on plate stands to cover unsightly outlets.  Also, items that are functional as well as decorative are perfect, like canisters, salt & pepper shakers, spice racks and pitchers or bowls. Do allow some empty space so the counter doesn’t appear too crowded.

Contemporary Kitchen BeforeIn a contemporary kitchen we used the same principles. As you can see, there wasn’t much thought given to the areas above the cabinets.  Simple glass vases were added here and there on the ones that were mounted low.  The countertops had vignettes but they weren’t tied together with any common threads. The worst issue was the inside of the glass cabinets.  Sure glass doors are pretty, but then the inside must be addressed as if they were display cabinets.

Contemporary Kitchen AfterIn the finished design, we used the white dinnerware from the homeowner and added black accents.  This seemed to mesh well with the contemporary style of the kitchen. Plus with solid black and white, we didn’t have any patterns competing for attention when the cabinets themselves and the way they were mounted was already a point of interest.

contemporary AccessoriesThe soft, curved, contemporary shapes of the pottery vases and the smooth lines of the lilies were a perfect combination with the stair stepped, hard edged cabinets.

Countertop AccessoriesThe countertop vignettes were small because of the lack of counter space near the sink, so a functional cookbook and collection of flavored oils made sense as they were both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Accessorized Glass Door CabientsInside the glass door cabinets we stacked the dinner plates at the bottom for easy access, displayed a couple black plates with their daily use mugs on the second shelf, and the lesser used pieces were displayed on the top shelf.  The daily items were still within arm’s reach, but the entire cabinet now appeared as a display, making the entire kitchen look beautiful.

Aside from the cabinets and counters, floors and walls are always crying out for some decoration.  Try theme oriented or simple patterned area rugs for comfort and design.  For the walls, framed artwork is nice, but I’m sure you can find something unusual or dimensional in your travels.  Try wall mounted plate racks with special dishes, even dimensional wreaths or wall vases can be fun.  Matt thinks a TV is the perfect accessory for any room, the kitchen included!  In other words, nearly anything goes!  So, if your kitchen is looking a bit over, or under dressed, it might be time for an overhaul…an accessory overhaul!  It’s costs less than replacing the cabinets or the appliances, and even though it may not affect the outcome of your meals, remember, decorating has no calories!


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