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.
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.
Detail of wall vignette
Plate with print
Another detail of plates mixed with prints
Plate and small pitcher next to the Jacuzzi in the bathroom
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
Two beautiful mid-century modern candy dishes
Two more mid-century modern candy dishes in my dining room
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.
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
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.
Magnificent but whimsical floral plate of my mother’s
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It is not leftovers that have stayed too long in the refrigerator.
You may know (or not) I have been a collector — in a small way — of antique Chinese porcelain and Asian art. As a collector, I love flea markets and yard sales. It’s part of the collecting mystique, that one day someone will be selling a great antique piece for a few dollars and I will be there to grab it.
It happened. Twice, to be exact. One pieces I got was a small, 200-year-old Qing dynasty pitcher. In pretty good shape. Got it for five dollars, sold it for $150. Ka-ching!
The other was a little dish which I’ve kept. It’s decorated with blue and yellow chickens. It’s a rice bowl, the sort of thing a working man might carry to work and use to eat his lunch. The piece fits loosely into the category of famille rose. Or famille verte. I haven’t decided if rose or green is the dominant color.
They are both a style rather than a dynasty, though the vast majority of piece in this category are between one and two hundred years old. Most of these pieces are elaborately decorated, but simple pieces were made for regular folks.
Chinese porcelain was secular. Art for art’s sake. Decorative. Non-collectors may assume Chinese porcelain was lavish. What I would call “imperial porcelain.” Certainly some very fine porcelain was made for the wealthiest members of society, but much of it was not. The Chinese were very egalitarian, believing that everyone needed art, the same way everyone needs food.
Food feeds the body. Art feeds the soul.
Art — dishes, figures, vases, ginger jars and so much more — was made for peasants, servants. Middle, and upper classes. Beauty was not a privilege of the few, but part of life for everyone.
The concept of art for everybody delights me. Too many people think art is a waste of money because it has no “function.” Merely being beautiful isn’t enough for them.
In this bowl indeed has a function, but it wasn’t painted to make it more functional. It would hold a man’s rice without hand-painted chickens. But me? I prefer it with chickens. In fact, I just love those chickens!
To participate in the Ragtag Daily Prompt, create a Pingback to your post, or copy and paste the link to your post into the comments. And while you’re there, why not check out some of the other posts too!