Interior Decorating · Interior Design

Dish-eveled How to Use Dishware as Decor

I have to confess that I have a serious dish addiction. It started nearly 30 years ago, when in order to set up my bridal registry, I stepped into the wonderland that was the fine china floor of Kaufman’s Department Store in Pittsburgh. I walked around staring at the gleaming bounty displayed on the shelves with the wide-eyed glee and restraint that Augustus Gloop approached the chocolate river in Willie Wonka’s factory.

In the midst of a what can only be described as a pottery high, I shamelessly registered for and subsequently received 12 complete place settings of Royal Doulton China. Who knows what I was thinking at the time? I have never ever had the room, the occasion or the inclination to host a formal dinner for a dozen people.   The fact of the matter is that I don’t even really like my wedding china. What can I say? I was young and unsophisticated and picked the pattern to coordinate with the pink, blue and peach southwest 80’s décor of my first apartment–enough said!

Despite this initial misstep, I continued to accumulate dishware with the abandon of Smaug acquiring his treasure hoard. However, it wasn’t until I discovered the charms of antique china that my dish addiction truly became a porcelain problem.  Oh sure, it started out innocently enough with just a few tea cups I inherited from my maternal grandmother, but soon I was out on the street trying to score the hard stuff like platters and tureens.


As you can imagine, my collection quickly exceeded both my husband’s patience and my storage capacity. So what’s a dishy dame to do?

What a dish?
What a dish?

The answer to this question came with the revelation that since plates are quite beautiful and compared to artwork, quite reasonably priced, they can be used as décor pieces. Once I realized the potential of this idea, I went to town decorating my walls, shelves and tabletops with my prized dishware, thereby creating what I lovingly refer to as my pottery palooza.

I’m a real sucker for a type of china called transferware for décor because it often features all kinds of scenic depictions that function almost like mini paintings. Transferware uses a technique, primarily developed in Staffordshire England during the mid-18th century, of transferring a copperplate etching onto the pottery via tissue paper. It was made in many different colors, blue being the most common– the blue willow pattern being the most well known.

These are both examples of different versions of the Blue Willow pattern. Much to my husband’s chagrin, I’m always on the hunt. I found this lemonade pitcher in an antique store in the Cotswolds in England. There are no manufacturer marks, but the tag said it was early 19th century so who really knows? I just thought it was charming.


The platter is probably early 20th century made by Homer Laughlir in the USA. Despite my dishware “hoard,” I am not a serious collector.  I don’t buy pieces based on their rarity or value. I just buy pieces that appeal to me.

bw platter
Blue Willow Platter

I tend to group like items together. I added red accents to my primarily yellow, cream and black family room by placing a variety of red transferware items on the top shelves of the bookcases.


I even have a red transferware chamber pot that sits on the hearth but if anyone asks, I say it’s a planter

This antique Masons Vista Red pattern tureen made in England was a great find as it was in excellent condition–no cracks, chips, and very little crazing. It is unusual because it survived in tact, complete with it’s lid, ladle, and tray.


Not wishing to leave any room plateless, when I recently redecorated my guestroom, I used a collection of black transferware plates to highlight my great grandmother’s oak dresser and mirror



Of course the kitchen is a logical place to display dishware. This is a new yellow and black combination transferware china from Villeroy and Boch called Audun. It’s a pattern with mix and match pieces. You will not be surprised that I have a full set of them that we use every day.

Glass kitchen cupboard and back splash with Villeroy and Boch Audun dishes



Lest you think that I am only obsessed with transferware,  in my living room I have a display of Wedgewood creamware. Creamware is a cream-colored earthenware also developed in Staffordshire, England in the mid 18th century.


These are all Wedgewood creamware patterns with different textural borders.  They are simple and elegant and would look good in any kind of decor from modern to traditional and anything in between.

Even a single plate displayed on a table, nightstand or shelf can add color, shine, and pattern to a vignette.

breakfast room buffet arrangement


Below are some examples of plate hangers and easels you can utilize to display plates.

Ebay, Etsy, Ruby Lane, and Replacements are all great places to look on-line for dishware. Also, if you are specifically interested in transferware, Nancy’s Daily Dish  is a great site to find all kinds of fabulous pieces. Anywhere is a great place for a plate and with these ideas for displaying them you too can go from dish-eveled to dishy!

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