Adventures in Vignetting

Some things I could stand to be better at:

1. Dressing myself.
2. Cooking.
3. Saving money.
4. Waking up in the mornings.
5. Eating breakfast.
6. Eating lunch.
7. Going to sleep.
8. E-mails.
9. Socializing.
10. Vignetting.

So basically I’m mediocre at nearly all aspects of daily life. Go me!

That last item, though—the last one I struggle with. All the other stuff seems like things I could fairly easily improve upon with a little focused attention and effort, but vignetting is more like a frustrating art where owning nice things and understanding concepts like composition and color and scale and being fabulous intersect. You’d think it would be simple: buy pretty things, plop them on top of other pretty things, and BOOM: prettiness occurs. Not so.

For some people, I think this sort of thing comes really naturally, but some of us have to work at it. And maybe some of us also get careless and flustered and feel ridiculous working at it. I mean, this isn’t a model home, it’s where I live, so when I put too much effort into arranging things just so I tend to feel stupid and petty and I give up and go on being mediocre. It’s a weird hang-up. I want my home to just look easy, breezy, beautiful, like I’m just naturally cool so therefore I have pretty stuff (duh) that all looks nice together (double duh).


Take this situation, for instance. When I brought home the new desk, the painting that had been hanging in that spot just stayed where it was (except leaning instead of hanging). I had that black lamp on the old desk, so it stayed, and then I thought, hey, here’s a Dala horse and a Dansk candleholder and a vase thing I can put pens in and I’ll just put all that up there, too! Great plan, D!

Except it wasn’t so great because it looked crowded and nothing really looked good together. Then, factoring the lamp on the desk and the lamp next to the couch, which don’t look so good together, it was feeling very lamp-y ’round this corner of my world, which doesn’t look so good FYI. Plus the painting is too big and overbearing here, so the desk looked small, and it didn’t provide enough contrast with the painting over the couch (which I recognize is not in the above picture, but trust me). See what I mean? It just…isn’t right.


I’ve been trying to streamline and simplify and pare-down, though, and I’m really happy with how things are looking now! Breaking it down from left to right:

1. The Telescoping Otis Light from OneFortyThree. I’ve been a huge (huge, huge) fan of Logan’s work at OneFortyThree for a longggggg time now, and I’m so thrilled to finally have one of his creations in my life! It perfectly solves the too-many-lamps issue, since it easily swivels from side to side to illuminate both the desk and the couch, and it extends! Now I can say, firsthand, that Logan’s work is as exceptionally made as I imagined it would be from stalking his transformation into a full-blown prolific lamp-making, plywood-bending superhero.

2. Plant from IKEA. I don’t know what it’s called, but it seems hard to kill, and that’s how I like my plants.

3. Christopher Gray Winter Logs Giclee Print from Erie Drive. I’d never heard of Erie Drive until very recently when the creative director and buyer, Alexandra Grenham e-mailed me, and then I was filled with lust and envy and very intense feelings to buy all the things! Alexandra has a really amazing eye that she’s used to curate this store with SO much great stuff, it’s a little overwhelming. I fell head over heels for this Christopher Gray print, though—I love the black and white (no shocker there), and the composition and balance of it. It’s bold and graphic, which contrasts perfectly with the other abstract paintings we have in the room. The quality of the print is really nice, too, which was an unexpected surprise. AND it fits perfectly in an IKEA RIBBA frame, which is really the only way I ever frame anything, ever. Love.

4. Nybro Crystal Volcano tea light holders, vintage Swedish from a stoop sale. Yep, it’s stoop sale season again (finally!) and these were my first scores! I love how big and weighty they are, and as we know from my deep and abiding yearnings for Ultima Thule, I pretty much love whenever glass looks like it’s melting all over the place. Mine were a total steal, but here’s one and here’s another one if you need a pair and have no impulse control (like this guy!).

5. Vintage studio pottery, thrifted. Amateur studio pottery is tough because I love basically all of it, but it doesn’t all look great together. This might be stating the obvious, but I finally figured out that they key is matching up the right scales and keeping things contained to a complementary color palette. There are lots of nice options here, but I’m cheap so I wait for them to show up on my thrifty rounds.

6. Dansk candleholder, stoop-saled! This was from last summer and was only $5, so I kind of had to. I’ve yet to find candles that actually fit in it, but it’s such a great shape that I don’t care. Tons of similar ones on Etsy and on eBay if you can’t live your life without one for another second.

7. Dog, scavenged.


Here’s a slightly better angle of that swivel in action and how the lamp, couch, desk, and two pieces of art all look in relation to each other. Feelin’ it.


If you also love the Christopher Gray print or other lovely notions from Erie Drive, then maybe you want to stick around because maybe the amazing Alexandra is maybe a fabulous and generous sponsor who wants to offer you a fabulous and generous giveaway very soon. Maybe.


This post is in partnership with Erie Drive.

About Daniel Kanter

Hi, I'm Daniel, and I love houses! I'm a serial renovator, DIY-er, and dog-cuddler based in Kingston, New York. Follow along as I bring my 1865 Greek Revival back to life and tackle my 30s to varying degrees of success. Welcome!

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  1. 5.15.13

    The desk looks great, but of course, it is Linus that steals the show! The lamp is amazing as well. Nice find.

  2. 5.15.13
    kay* said:

    i thrifted my first piece of pottery a few weeks ago, a jug/vase piece made in germany that i’m absolutely in love with. since then, in addition to wooden kitchen stuff, pottery has shot up to the top of my list of things to look for in thrift shops.

    my two cents – your vignette looks fab.

  3. 5.15.13
    Emily said:

    Add Linus to any vignette issue and all your problems are solved. Maybe clone him?

  4. 5.15.13
    Taliba said:

    I see a puppy-vignette meme in the future of the internet.

  5. 5.15.13
    Martha said:

    I love lamp. :) I like your styling, it seems like it is just about practice. Not that I know from personal experience necessarily, but that’s the way it is with most creative endeavors!

  6. 5.15.13
    Evangeline said:

    Love your scavenged dog.

    Also, I have a box of NOS Dansk candles. Would you like them? I thrifted them ages ago, but still haven’t found the holder for them. If you email me an address to send them to, I would consider it a karmic reward for your blogging and dog-scavenging.

    • 5.16.13
      Daniel said:

      That’s so generous, Evangeline! If you’re sure, I’ll get in touch, I don’t mind paying, either! Thank you!!

  7. 5.15.13

    “Dog, scavenged.” OH LINUS BABY AWWWW. Little lamb. Sigh.

    That’s a ZZ (zamioculcas) plant, and it will never die. I’ve had one for a few years now, and it’s ENORMOUS and I don’t know what to do with it. The stems are so heavy they won’t stand up anymore, so I have to wrap it with string. I need a better solution.

    • 5.16.13
      Daniel said:

      Fishing line?

  8. 5.15.13
    Judi said:

    OK. First of all: Still jealous of the desk. Second: I have just learned from this post that I cannot vignette (is that a verb? Don’t care!) AT ALL. I think you have innate vignetting skills that should be revered and celebrated. I also think you should come up to VT and vignette all our rooms. Please.

    More seriously…how do you decide where to allocate color and how much? My problem is always, either it’s too much or it’s all bland. (I have the same problem with numbers of things…too spare vs. the hoarding esthetic.)

    Oh, and “Dog: scavenged?” Excellent. I laughed loudly.

    • 5.16.13
      Daniel said:

      Vignette is definitely a verb, insofar as you made it one and it’s a made-up concept anyway!

      Oh man…I don’t know how to answer that question! I guess I prefer more neutral interiors (blacks, whites, woods, greys). I also love color, but I don’t really consciously think, like, “oh I need something red over there!” or anything like that! I’m constantly futzing and moving stuff around, and I guess I just wait for things to look right. When I’m doing client work I come up with a palette and everything, but for my own space, I just don’t really think that way. One of the first things I consider when I find something (thrifted or otherwise) is the colors, which seems like an obvious thing, but I think people sometimes overlook color if they like the shape and overall design of something. By trying to stick to color combinations that I like within single objects, I think it’s easier to mix and match my things and keep everything feeling cohesive, even if there isn’t a real plan.

    • 5.17.13
      Judi said:

      I think we can share the credit on that one.

      Also…I think you might have fixed my problem! I am guilty of both thinking, “oh, I need something red over there,” and “I like all these shapes, so they must all go together.” My most successful rooms are the ones which acknowledge that I too like blacks, whites, and woods, and also, moody colors that aren’t super definable, with a little red and orange. Oh look! I have a palette! I think I’ll take a couple hours and play with that this afternoon. And I’m definitely linking back here…thanks again, boy genius!

  9. 5.15.13
    Mom said:

    Noticed Erie Drive on one of my previous blog stalkings. AMAZING stuff. Could we just do our whole new condo from there? BTW, get your ass home and vignette the hell out of this house so it sells really quickly. How could I hire one of those professional stagers when I have you? Please don’t make me.

  10. 5.15.13
    Kirk Donovan said:

    I saw that giveaway coming a mile away. Can’t wait.

    Anyway, I’ve always wanted to ask you where you get your oil paintings. I remember one post about Mekko’s “growth” where you said you pulled it off the street. You have other ones in your apartment that are big, somewhat abstract, and would probably be expensive if you bought them first-hand. Do you thrift them? Craigslist? I never seem to find such gorgeous paintings anywhere and have been looking a while.

    • 5.16.13
      Daniel said:

      We have two other oil paintings (the one that used to be above the desk and the one above the couch), and they were both from my grandparent’s house, actually. My grandpa loved collecting art, so I think these were stashed somewhere in their basement. They’re both by an artist named Mary Livoni, who was a personal friend of my uncle. They aren’t really worth much to my knowledge.

      Thrift stores, Craigslist, and estate sales are often great places to get art, though! I’ve found a lot of our art in thrift stores. The hardest thing is being able to decontextualize the art from its surroundings—thrift store art seems to get especially sad treatment, and it can be hard to tell the good stuff from the bad. If you can stand to maybe spend a little more, often eBay and consignment shops and antique shops have a little bit better and more curated collection, and the prices are still good, all things considered.

  11. 5.15.13
    David said:

    Try removing the crystal things, and scoot the plant toward the center of the desk, just a bit. Please.

  12. 5.15.13
    wendy said:

    for the candle holder, look for candles usually used in a menorah. seems like many are designed to use very skinny (1/2″ or less diameter) candles.

    • 5.16.13
      Daniel said:

      I tried that, actually! They were too big. Maybe I need different menorah candles, though.

  13. 5.16.13
    alison said:

    Your magazine rack/ghost briefcase! Where might one find one of these?

    • 5.16.13
      Daniel said:

      No idea! Sorry!

  14. 5.16.13
    Patricia said:

    I’m with David. There’s that old saying about putting on all your jewelry, then taking one piece off. The crystal fusses things up too much. Everything else is spot on.

    • 5.17.13
      Patricia said:

      Be ruthless. They belong somewhere else, where they can truly shine!

    • 5.17.13
      Jill said:

      I didn’t even need to hover over that link to know what it was. FTW.

  15. 5.16.13
    Esther said:

    I think we might be, “things I could be better at,” twins. No really,

    And…your new vignette looks awesome!

  16. 5.16.13
    Elin said:

    In sweden we call those plants “wardrobe plant”, because you could stick it in a closet and forget about it and it would be fine. They don’t need much light, which is useful if (like me) you want plants somewhere other than your window sills.

    • 5.16.13
      Daniel said:

      I love that, Elin! Thanks!

  17. 5.16.13
    Leena said:

    I also think as Anna that it is a zamioculcas plant. My parents have one and it’s grown so big that it broke its plastic container. I think it can even grow in complete darkness, it’s a monster plant. :D

  18. 5.16.13
    Jack said:

    Oh don’t stress! Vignetting is a trouble for lots of people, I should send you some pictures of my attempts and surely you will feel better. But as usual, the thing you did looks good, in this case it was the thing above the desk, sometimes it’s a thing in a bathroom or a kitchen, but always good.

  19. 5.16.13
    Mary Sane said:

    Wow, the “makeover” looks great! LOVE the graphic print as well. And hello cute doggie!!

  20. 5.16.13
    Polly said:

    Love the comment from Mom…. Here’s the thing, based on my over 40 years of collecting, making vignettes is an always evolving process. You get inspiration from many places. I love World of Interiors magazine. I imagine this isn’t in your economic price range just now, but may I suggest that you get yourself to the antique shows at the Pier (November and March). There is a world of inspiration there and even for a NYer in a small living space a wonderful source for great things, to which you can aspire. Daniel, I find your ironic writing hilarious and eagerly await your blog updates. Keep up the good work!

  21. 5.16.13
    Taylor said:

    I have those crystals too (2 of them in different sizes) and am having a hard time figuring out what to do with them. They are beautiful, but a little on the awkward side. There’s no way I’m getting rid of them though as they used to belong to my grandma. Plus, have you seen them with votives lit in them?? Oh em gee. Do it. Do it now. Sooo gorgeous!

    • 5.16.13
      Daniel said:

      I know, they’re so pretty lit up! You can do whatever with them, I think. Insta-fanciness to any place where they rest, I say.

  22. 5.16.13

    I must say I’ve never seen “vignetting” used in this way… Generally, it’s a photography term, isn’t it? (see wikipedia).

    I too struggle with getting the right items put together in my home for the perfect fit. :-)

    • 5.16.13
      Daniel said:

      Yes, it is! I think maybe it’s just a word made up by interior designers and bloggers? haha.

    • 6.3.13

      Maybe so. Each niche has its own jargon. :-)

  23. 5.16.13
    Lena said:

    Very nice! I want a onefortythree light too (& a rocking chair & a credenza & a paper organizer & doll house funiture….) looking at his instagram always makes me wonder how he can design so many fantastic pieces in such a short time! & they are very affordable for what they are. Unfortunately I’m in Switzerland, I don’t think they even ship to Switzerland the shipping costs would be too expensive anyway…. So, you just should buy all his stuff so that I can enjoy looking at it in your pictures!
    I feel like that could be my list too, except the cooking and maybe writing e-mails.

  24. 5.16.13
    Rachel said:

    That is an amazing lamp!

  25. 5.16.13
    Lisa said:

    Love the print!
    I would put the plant in another pot. (That one looks like an Ikea plant in an Ikea pot. Very teenager boy-room for me). Then I would group the studio pottery and the candleholder with the plant. Now it’s high, high on each side of the desk. I think it would be nice if it’s either left or right-heavy. Love the crystal too, but pairing two similar doesn’t work in that arrangement. Maybe they look better on a coffee table? Than I would bring back the Dala horse and put on the other side. So: A little bit to the right with the plant, in a new pot, paired up on the left with the rest of the stuff. Skip crystal, ad horse. :)

  26. 5.16.13
    Jeremy Kanter said:

    I am fascinated by the weird clear briefcase thing. And also Linus.

  27. 5.16.13

    I too rely on scavenged (ha!) pets to detract from any perceived shortcomings. So good work on that. And I like what you did, including the fancy crystal thingies. :P I think that touch of fanciness is good with the more rustic looking everything else.

  28. 5.16.13
    jbhat said:

    Call me crazy, but I always like the tallest thing in a vignette to be on the right. Maybe switch the plant and the pieces, step back, and see if you like it. You would maybe need to scooch the frame over a bit to the left.

    Regardless, it’s a nice change from your temporary set-up. It looks good and the wall lamp is awesome.


  29. 5.16.13

    I agree! Sometimes I spend so much time on placing things in my house I end up feeling stupid and I give up. Why not spend the time doing it though? If it makes you happy, it’s worth it. And clearly, what you ended up with was worth it!

  30. 5.16.13
    Sandy P. said:

    Benita from Chez Larsson has a post that shows how to go about it. Take a look, it’s actually simple and interesting how she does it. You’re too hard on yourself. Hi Linus!!! Love him!

  31. 5.16.13
    Jen said:

    Although her style is different than yours, Emily Henderson has a few videos on creating vignettes (on mantels, coffee tables, etc.). I found them helpful for learning about scale and composition. One of the tricks I finally gave into was the stack of books. I used to think that looked too forced and styled, but dammit, I had to admit that it can be a great way to ground a vignette (sometimes things, especially small things, can look lost sitting directly on whatever surface you’re vignetting), and create different levels of height.

  32. 5.17.13
    Elsie said:

    Love the new print, great choice and huge improvement! But less is more here. May I suggest (as a pro art gallery curator,not a decorator) that you ditch the plant? It’s too big and makes no sense up there. And please edit your objets d’art so they don’t compete both lamp and art. I would try it with the just the Scandi (Nybro and Dansk) candle holders, their pure forms punctuating the monochromatic theme.
    When you tire of that grouping, the pottery and Dansk look nice and earthy together and complement the abstraction over the sofa. (That’s how my parents would have done it in the fifties with their Eames, Nelson and Ab-ex art collection.) Congrats, Daniel, you’re a natural, and I can’t wait to see what you think of next!

  33. 5.23.13
    Colin said:

    Ooo where’d that pillow on the couch come from?

  34. 6.13.13
    Kristin said:

    haha, my list is pretty much identical, so at least you’re not alone. although i’m pretty sure your list of “things i am awesome at” cancels all of those out.

  35. 6.14.13

    Great job! I really love that desk!!

  36. 7.26.13
    ploefff said:

    I thought I’d be nice and google a little for you in danish: The candles for the candleholder are special ones called “lyspinde(light stick)” or “blomsterpinde(flower stick)” that would burn without dripping even when angled. I could only find 1 place that sells them and he has no webshop but being in a super helpful mood I called him for price and contact info and here you go: 12 sticks cost $6,25 (dkk 35) and you can contact him at That’s also the website it means the light maker – I love that! I read you visited Sweden and should you ever find youself in this part of the world again he hosts candle making classes so you can make your own. The adress is at the top of his website.

    • 7.26.13
      Daniel said:

      Hey cool, thank you!! That’s great to know about!!