The art of interior styling is part innate talent, part skill, and part luck. You might have torn out a bunch of photos from your favorite mags of beautifully styled bookshelves, or coffee tables with just the right amount of artbook-to-tchotchke ratio. But something as seemingly effortless as grouping objects together can require a great amount of practice and ingenuity. You probably want that styled look that doesn’t appear contrived. Here’s our mini guide to why certain vignette moments work and why some don’t.

The first thing to keep in mind about interior design as a whole is that it should make you feel comfortable but it should also tell a story about you. Things don’t have to be overly precious (we advocate realistic living conditions) but they should be intentional. Think about what you have and decide whether it represents your style, your life, or if it’s just… “there”. Whether it’s your coffee table, a console, or bookshelves, treat your best pieces as if they were gallery pieces – trim away the items that are crowding it out (maybe it’s a bunch of old magazines stacked on the table, or candles that were from last month’s dinner party). Use stacked books and magazines to create height differences upon which to place objects (again to draw the eye to those gorgeous pieces).

As for other quick tips to organize the chaos, our slideshow provides some vignette styling essentials. Trays are a great way to group various objects together in a neat way. Tone and color are an important thing to keep in mind when styling – metallics are always a good compliment. And finally play around with things. Don’t worry if your first styling attempt falls short of expectations, take a look at online inspiration for help, and keep trying. Styling can be easily changed, so if you don’t like the color coded look of the books on your shelf, you can try something else.