Design 101: Tableaus

In my design work, I believe it is the little details that take something from good to great.  A good outfit becomes great with the right bracelet, belt or scarf. The same is true for a room.  It’s the “accessories” of a room that will make it memorable and more interesting.  Tableaus, which is a fancy French word for “an interesting arrangement of items,” are the accessories of a room.  The items can be almost anything: books, antique wooden jugging pins, plants, rocks or artwork.  The art is to arrange them in a way that is pleasing and intriguing to the eye.

Now what makes something interesting?  That’s the $64,000 question (boy am I dating myself there…), and in terms of what type of objects you select, it really depends on your tastes and interests.  Almost any type of item can make an interesting arrangement, however, tableaus look best when they have a “naturalness” to them, which is the challenge since they are by definition planned.  By the way, a tableau is not defined by size and can be large, and include furniture, or it can be a small collection of objects off to the side of a table.  Here are some tIps to making your artistic arrangement of objects look more natural:

  • When using multiples of the same type of item, use an odd number
  • When using multiples of the same type of item, vary the size
  • Blend different colors (light and dark, matte and shiny), materials (wood, fabric, stone, etc.) and textures (hard, soft, metallic, etc.)

For instance, the far left photo is a pretty good tableau.  It has a mix of colors, textures and objects, but when you add the pillow in the second picture it makes it a bit better by lightening up the dark heaviness of the wood and incorporating more soft textures.  However, the tableau feels more “complete” when you add the third piece of artwork as it has a pleasant way of filling the entire space.  The third painting is also much larger than the other two giving us a nice mix of sizes, and it makes the collection of paintings an odd number which is more pleasing/restful to the eye because it isn’t so perfect.

Hope this helps you around your home.  I’d love to see any tableaus you come up with yourself!  Have fun!

Tableau_1    Image    Image

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