My big windows on the world all need cleaning. the ones in the back are easy because you can stand on the deck and just wash them, but the ones in front of the house are two stories up. The ground in front of them is soft and muddy from the constant rain and someone stole our two-story ladder. Eventually, they will become sunglasses … or I’ll have to hire someone to clean them. Not this year, though. Or next. Too many other things need doing.
I am in the middle of a mental muddle.
I have a big collection (not, fortunately, as big as it used to be!) of antique Asian art and hundreds of dolls from the 1930s through 1970s, all in pretty good shape. Some are still rather new, tags and all.
No one wants the pottery, which is heartbreaking. To me, these are pieces of the past. I hold one of these pieces and I can see the world in which they were born. I wonder how many hundreds — thousands? — of people have held them and in how many homes they were things of beauty. But unless I can find homes for them, these irreplaceable pieces will disappear from the world forever.
When you get to my age and the age of my friends, no one is collecting. Everyone is trying to find homes for things because we are suddenly sharply aware that we aren’t going to live forever and those pieces of porcelain aren’t going to live forever on the mantel or the shelves or cabinets. The idea of all of these things going to some big dumpster makes me a little bit sick.
Seriously: if you know someone who wants them, free, no strings, please let me know. I’ve run out of local places with room for them and my friends are my age and don’t want more of anything.
Does is really matter if the world has one more Han pot or Tang horse? I don’t know.
What about all the dolls of youth. Toys represent the world in which we live more than anything except maybe books. They show how we viewed children, especially girls and their roles in the world. I would love to know they will survive!
I use all kinds of plates and dishware as decorative elements all over my house. It makes sense in the kitchen and dining areas, but I also use them in my bedroom and bathroom and in my bookcases.
This is an arrangement of prints and plates on my small bedroom wall
On the large wall of my bedroom, I used a mid-century mirror from the Algonquin Hotel in NYC as the centerpiece. I surrounded the mirror with prints and plates to create a large vignette across the entire wall.
Long shot of the wall
Detail of wall vignette
Plate with print
Another detail of plates mixed with prints
This is my ‘toilet room’, as you can see by the toilet paper holder in this decorative vignette
This is a decorative baker’s rack used to display plates and chatchkus in the bathroom
Plate and small pitcher next to the Jacuzzi in the bathroom
Plates and candy dish over my bathroom cabinet
Whimsical teapot and teacup in my bookcase
Teacups and matching dessert plates used with bookends to create a fun moment in my bookcase
I love to use all kinds of dishes and serving pieces as part of the decor in my home. I find it’s an inexpensive way to fill the walls and the shelves all over the house.
In Part 1, I showed you the kitchen area, where you would be most likely to find dishes as part of the decor. Now we’re moving into my family room, my dining room, and my foyer, where I also use decorative plates and other dishes, such as candy dishes.
I fell in love with this plate set and found the perfect place to use it on my dining room wall
This is the full vignette mixing artwork and plates on my dining room wall
The dessert size plates from this artistic set set
These plates are in the wall cabinet in my dining room. I use the other dishes from these sets when I have company.
Two beautiful mid-century modern candy dishes
Two more mid-century modern candy dishes in my dining room
One of my favorite mid-century candy dishes used in the hanging shelves in the dining room
These two mid-century candy dishes are in the large, decorative bookcase in the family room
Red and blue mid-century candy dishes accent my artwork in the family room
This Crate and Barrel platter works beautifully with my art deco decanter and a modern glass box in my foyer. They sit on a 1906 stove with a glass top over the burners.
Growing up, we had some beautiful sets of China that we actually used to eat on. My mother also displayed pieces of her china sets whenever possible. So I love dishware and always try to buy interesting and beautiful pieces for meals, but also to use as part of the decor. It is an inexpensive way to add interesting chatchkas to your home – and my home is full of chatchkas, often arranged into decorative vignettes.
Here are some of the dishes I’ve used in my kitchen, eating area and sun porch, on shelves, on tables, and on the walls.
This cabinet is mostly decorative and I rarely use those items.
This cabinet is totally functional and houses my everyday dishes and cups.
Decorative cup and salt shaker
Two decorative plates in my kitchen bookcase
Another decorative plate flanked by salt and pepper shakers
I also use plates as wall decor.
One narrow wall flanking a window from the porch to the kitchen
The other side of the window into the kitchen/porch
The same fish plates used on top of the cabinets above the stove area in the kitchen
Plate on small wall in eating aarea
Matching plate on the opposite small wall in eating area
I still have many of my mother’s and my old china sets that are too country or too formal for my homey but modern house today. They also don’t fit in with my mostly aqua and turquoise color scheme. But I still love them and want to share them with you.
Formal dessert set I got for my first wedding in 1974
The charming and less formal set I bought for my first home in New York City in 1974 (from Italy)
Magnificent but whimsical floral plate of my mother’s
Another of my mother’s beautiful china sets
One of my favorite dessert sets ever!
Tiny plates my mom used for decoration in a hutch
My favorite of all my mother’s china sets which we used in our summer, country style house in CT
I collect very old Chinese porcelain. I used to have a lot more of it, but in the name of de-cluttering, I divided my collection and gave the other half to my best friend who I knew would appreciate it.
Han Dynasty 206 BC – 220 AD
The Chinese government has not always been diligent in managing their national treasures. Sometimes, it was a political decision. Many times, foreigners have stolen the best and most beautiful, which is why you will see so much Chinese art in English and American museums. They didn’t give it to us; we didn’t buy it. We stole it. What a shock they aren’t as in love with us as we think they ought to be.
Very fragile — and broken. All I have left is this single photograph.
In recent decades, the issues have been pragmatic — lack of money. There is so much that needs preservation. The U.S. has difficulty preserving our 250 years of history. Imagine how hard — and expensive — if your nation’s history goes back thousands of years. And your country is huge and densely populated.
Suddenly, preservation becomes more than slightly daunting.
Counter point – Modern Limoges ca 1965 alongside Song dynasty vase (China Song Dynasty 960-1279 AD). I use the vase for single roses. Perfect size.
Private collectors — like me — who have become custodians of some of these very old things have an obligation to care for them. We have to make sure they will be inherited by others who will treasure them. That’s not as easy as you might think. Not everyone “gets it.” And many people have no room; they have their own stuff and can’t help with yours.
I could have sold my pots but I didn’t want them to go to the highest bidder. I wanted them to be where they would be loved. If that sounds weird, you have never collected antiquities.
Antique Famille Rose Porcelain plate
When you hold one of these pieces, you in the most literal sense hold history in your hand. Imagine how many people have held this vase, this statue, this oil lamp. How many lives this pot has touched. Imagine!
There was a time when many items in my world were priceless. Many of them were items without significant dollar value, but they had great emotional or sentimental value. Then came a time when I realized these priceless things had morphed into dust collectors. I enjoy them, but they are long past priceless and have become part of the stuff I will I would happily give to someone who would treasure them — and dust them — rather than me.
Antique Famille Rose porcelain plate
Very old Han pot, Han Dynasty (206 B.C.–220 A.D.)
Funny thing about the way things change. The stuff that was priceless becomes clutter. Attractive, elegant clutter. Much of it becomes burdensome instead of priceless, unless priceless also means no one is willing to pay to take it away. I suppose that might be another interpretation.
Now, life is priceless. Maybe, honor, too.
Garry went to New York to help clean out his parents home on Long Island. He went with my explicit instructions: do not bring home anything. We have no room. NO ROOM. None. Anywhere. Not on the shelves, the cabinets, the tops of the bookcases. Nowhere.
He was pretty good about it. All he brought home was one lovely Japanese tea set. Five cups. I assume one was broken. Plus the teapot, sugar bowl, and creamer. Lovely. Dragon style, which is a favorite of mine.
Not long ago. I gave away a nearly identical tea set as a wedding present, but clearly I am supposed to have a Japanese tea set. It must be a genetic thing. This is not my first … or fifth … Japanese tea set. I have had antiques. New ones. Sets made for children. Many sets made in weird shapes which were surely never meant for the actual serving of tea.
I recognized that I could not escape this tea set. I rearranged the stuff in my glass chest and somehow managed to fit it in. I’m so glad there were only five cups. One more, and I would have been lost.
It’s a beautiful set. Made of the finest porcelain so lightweight it’s almost not there. Beautiful, but my problem is not a dearth of beautiful things. I have far too many beautiful things and I wish someone else wanted them. I’d happily give them away, including some rare, very old Chinese porcelain.
Does anyone need a lovely, handmade Japanese tea set? I’ve got an extra.