Although furniture has a profound influence on the ambience, mood and tone of a home, it’s not just big things that matter in interior design. It’s the charm and beauty of little things that impart life to a room, in the same way that jewelry and accessories can make or break a dress or suit.
As I’m an antiques enthusiast, this might explain my addiction to collections. After all, you can only own so many antique sofas or dressers or armoires or side tables. But my armoire has room for dozens of antique linens, ceramic teapots, silver match safes and ruby glass muffineers (sugar shakers).
Ceramics are one of the very best things you can collect. They’re functional (especially compared with silver match safes), come in a wide range of prices and, when used lovingly and displayed creatively, bring design magic to a room.
If you collect ceramics, you have the opportunity to re-create this magic again and again, changing and shaping the decor of a room as your mood changes — or as you simply move something to a different place. Here, the same pitcher casts a different spell as it is paired with different items.
Notice, by the way, that when I arrange a tablescape, I usually use uneven numbers. Three or five things artfully placed on an end table create a better composition than two or four.
A plethora of plates creates a different kind of alchemy. Maybe you love collecting white plates and platters of all kinds, like the ones seen here, and don’t want to hide them in your cupboard. As your collection grows, arrange them on a wall in a large grouping.
When I create a wall arrangement, I clear a spot on the floor and play with how I want the composition to look — I experiment with shapes and configurations until I get it the way I like it. Taking a picture of the arrangement on the floor with my cell phone allows me to refer back to it as I transfer it to the wall.
By the way, you’re going to need plate hangers to accomplish this. They’re available in many antiques stores, malls and even hardware stores.
One of the most versatile ceramics to collect are pieces inblue and white. They mix well with almost any color scheme and with any style or period. Here a fantastic collection is amassed on a console in an entry hall, creating a vivid and welcoming first impression.
As with many ceramic collections, antiques and newer pieces live comfortably together — your collecting addiction doesn’t have to be imprisoned by a time frame. But keep your collection personal and meaningful by limiting yourself to the pieces you really love and passing on the pieces that are just so-so.
Another example of blue and white versatility is seen here, where a pair of lovely Chinese vases has been made into lamps, adding grace to a fabulous Spanish colonial living room.
If your ceramic pieces are valuable, there’s a way to wire them without drilling a hole in the bottom. A good lamp store can do it for you.
Collections of a single type of ceramic, like this antique Roseville pottery, makes an enticing and personal statement, and a Welsh cupboard is a great venue for their display.
I like to give attention not only to the pieces themselves, but also to their context. The dark background gives this collection a certain richness, but the pieces would also look elegant against a pastel color like pink or yellow.
We usually think of flowers and candles when decorating a dining table for guests. But a pair of antique Staffordshire dogs can take center stage and work a different kind of enchantment.
Experiment with mixing your favorite figurines, a special pitcher or Chinese ceramic fruit into the decorations for your dinner table. It’s a lot of fun.
Serving coffee using a very special antique blue and white transferware coffeepot, mixed with English Imari cups and saucers and a fantastic old Spode milk pitcher, is a wonderful way to live with these marvelous old ceramics. Some collectors would understandably cringe at this use, and keep their treasures locked behind glass doors. There’s always a risk in putting old ceramics to use. But if you’re very careful, the risk can be minimized and the enjoyment maximized.
Whenever you use an old coffeepot or teapot, make sure to gently heat it up with hot water, and never put boiling water into it — let the water cool down a bit first. It may seem like a lot of trouble, but old ceramics cast a special spell and take you back in time if you use them.
Whether they are repurposed, used for their original purpose or displayed safely in a cabinet, ceramics can be magical to decorate with. Words like “alchemy,” “sorcery” and “prestidigitation” all easily apply, as evidenced in this very cool living room punctuated with a great mix of ceramics.
If you’re an antiques lover and you have some wonderful old porcelain or pottery hidden away, get the pieces out of the dark, dust them off and work some of your own decorating sorcery. Or if you’re looking for a new way to indulge your penchant for collecting, acquiring antique ceramics is a great addiction.