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French Ceramics on the Table: Pinterest Inspirations

Rustic French ceramics invoke a country chic like none other. C’est magnifique, n’est-ce pas? I recently went on a Pinterest binge, pinning all sorts of French country tables, decorating and centerpiece ideas for special occasion, and everyday stylish French living.

French country dining room

Of course, I love supporting French ceramic artists from the prolific Richard Esteban and Poterie Ravel to the unique pieces of Sylvie Durez and Patrice Voelkel. With so many wonderful ceramics, it makes lots of sense that many French country-inspired designs feature open shelving to display pieces when not in use. This blue and white dining room is particularly striking, don’t you think?

French country blue and white dining roomFrench ceramics in country kitchen

French ceramics also mean whimsy. Take Richard’s polka dot dishes – no matter the weather outside, these polka dot bowls, mugs, plates, and pitchers are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. The bright colors also enliven the creams, whites, and medium browns of many French country color schemes.

polka dot dishes
French country colors

 For centerpiece ideas, a flower arrangement is classic French country. Use a pitcher vase or metal bucket for a more rustic touch.French country tableteal pitcher vase

 

And then there are French chickens and roosters, a perpetual favorite. This blue and white rooster has true vintage flair. I can see similar designs working well as wall art or even place mats.

French rooster The key to French country is accessible, beautiful tablewear and a homey, rustic vibe. The open storage for dining areas and kitchens alike allows the perfect combination of function and decoration. What are some of your favorite French country decorating inspirations? Leave a link below or check out our inspiring home decor and France boards on PInterest for even more ideas.

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Fancy a Striped Vase #DIY?

Striped vases seem to be everywhere on DIY sites as people look for a quick and chic way to craft home accessories that fit their style. Dwellings by Devore transformed a glass vase with electrical tape (it looks pretty amazing). On Two Twenty One, vases mix with painter’s tape and gold spray paint for horizontal, vertical, and swirling stripes that really stand out. And anyone looking for inspiration for how to incorporate a striped vase (or two! or three!) need look no further than Houzz. There are striped vases of every shape, size, and color palette.

I completely understand why people love the handmade look of a DIY striped vase. Manufactured, printed vases seem too perfect, too sterile. Handpainting lets for a little variation and true personality. Plus you can really experiment with colors and spacing for a unique look that fits your own style. I think that’s why so many people love the striped vases by Talavera Vazquez. Solid ceramic, the variety of sizes, shapes, and colors makes them a wonderful, authentic addition to a home. A large striped vase by a fireplace or as a centerpiece stands out; a collection of vases in mixed patterns looks modern instead of fussy.

special_vase_orange_stripe

striped vasestriped vase

No matter if you’re making your own vases or leaving their creation to expert artists, stripes are an excellent way to play with shapes. Tall and thin, wide, round, curved, fluted: there’s no shortage of striking vases that add a chic finishing touch to a room. I think that’s why there are so many striped vases around online—they have timeless appeal and always feel modern.

Blue Striped Round Vase Do you have a striped vase DIY success story? Favorite shapes or sizes? Other tips for using them to decorate? Leave a comment below to share! We’ll add our favorites to our Pinterest boards for stripes and vases.

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French Ceramics for Hot Summer Fun

French ceramic pitchersI’ve made it to Boulder, CO and it is H.O.T. I know the country has been experiencing a heat wave this summer, but “hot” in San Francisco is above 70°F, not close to 100°F. It’s been a bit of an adjustment, though there is something wonderful about getting to be outside at night without a jacket of any kind. Having to unload a truck worth of ceramics in the heat… that’s less exciting.

What does the weather have to do with French ceramics? Well, with the extreme temperatures, items like water jugs become a necessity to stay cool and hydrated in the sultry afternoons. That’s where Poterie Ravel’s fabulous water jugs and pitchers come in. Perfect for water, iced tea, or a batch of mojitos, these French ceramics are the ideal mix of practical and beautiful for the summer. Poterie Ravel itself is located outside of Marseille in southern France; the ceramic artists there definitely know about beating the summer heat when temperatures start to rise. Water jugs aren’t just decorative accents, but heavily used French ceramics to keep everyone cool.

Of course, these French ceramics work wonderfully as a centerpiece idea for dining indoors or out. Fill the jug with water for your guests or with flowers for a colorful table accent. A pitcher vase always looks rustic and casual, ideal for times when it’s too hot to think clearly. Used on a picnic table, these substantial French ceramics will also keep a tablecloth from blowing away in the breeze. The whites and ivory shades that Poterie Ravel uses for many of its French ceramics feel crisp and cool, perfect for hot days. I also love the water jugs with natural clay exposed at the bottom, evoking the garden pots that Ravel is so well-known for.

Looking for something refreshing to fill your favorite pitcher or water jug this July? Try cold-brew iced tea, no hot water required. I think adding mint and a bit of simple syrup makes for the perfect summer drink. What are your go-to beverages to beat the heat? Leave a comment below and let us know. I’ve got to get back to organizing French ceramics, though thankfully they are now all inside!

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Set a Rustic Tuscan Table with Ceramic Pitchers and Other Essentials

The charm of a rustic Italian table is unparalleled. Pitchers filled with wines and water are scattered to ensure everyone has plenty to drink. Platters piled with homemade delicacies are passed, then passed again. Exposed wood, ironwork, and handmade Italian ceramics all work together to enhance the flavors and experience.

Want to translate the homey, inviting feel of a Tuscan table to your home? Italian country décor invokes the same materials as Tuscany: large hand painted plates, ceramic salad bowls, Tuscan vases, wrought iron, glass bottles, and natural colors. Now you’re ready to invite over friends and family to feast the night away.

One of the easiest ways to get a Tuscan feel to your table is using ceramic pitchers. The thick clay keeps drinks cool in the summer and makes it easy to pour just one more glass of wine. Detailed patterns also make it easy to distinguish white wine from red wine, or adult beverages from those that are kid-friendly. A ceramic pitcher filled with wildflowers also makes for a great centerpiece, lending casual elegance to your table.

Sturdy serving pieces are also an essential for Italian country dining. A ceramic salad bowl large enough to toss greens for your entire group could also be used for a fragrant pasta dish. Platters stacked with cuts of meat or appetizing vegetables beg to be passed until diners can eat no more. Little bowls filled with sauces compliment everyone’s hand painted plates, large enough to comfortably fit a little bit of everything while adding a festive note to the table.

To feel truly like you’re in Tuscany, look for a wide-planked wooden table built to withstand the feasting of generations. If you’re satisfied with your current eating surface, a handmade tablecloth will transform it for your Italian feast; look for shades of orange and gold to compliment darker dishware. Add a Tuscan vase on the sideboard, some candles in rustic holders, and you’ll have the feel of Italy without getting on a plane. Buon appetito!

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Behind the Scenes: French Ceramics at Poterie Ravel

One of my favorite parts about my four years with Emilia Ceramics has been developing a rapport with ceramic artists all around the world. In this series of posts, I’ll give some insights into what happens behind the scenes to make these beautiful hand-painted ceramics come to life.

The most recent addition to the Emilia Ceramics collection, Poterie Ravel has been around since 1837. A fifth-generation family-run business, this French ceramics studio was founded in Aubugne, France, and made tiles and other terracotta products for the home. When Gilbert Ravel took over the studio from his father in 1935, he changed the direction of the company to make planters that had more modern designs. The focus moved to high-end interior and landscape designers; the result is a world-class workshop full of ceramic artists that handle 8 tons of product a day, most of it creating their famous large-scale pots. The next time you see a giant terracotta planter at a major hotel, airport, or other public place, look and see if you can find the Poterie Ravel logo – chances are you’ll find one.

Today two sisters, Marion and Julie Ravel, run Poterie Ravel. Their ceramics are definitely art, a process that begins with the clay itself, which is extracted from their own quarries. Small pots are thrown entirely by hand (including all the French ceramics in my collection), while the massive planters are molded by a ceramic artist using a plaster mold and a piece of wood. All the pieces big and small are finished by hand for a smooth surface and the terracotta pieces left unglazed. Other pieces, like the unique pitcher vases, platters, and serving bowls, are hand painted in vibrant natural glazes before being fired in one of their four gas ovens.

About 20 ceramic artists work at Poterie Ravel, including Etienne (pictured below) and Gil, who I met on my last buying trip to France.

One of my favorite parts about Ravel’s French ceramics is that every piece is stamped with the Ravel logo, date, and initials of the artist. After I had made my selections of these French ceramics, I found out that Etienne had made some of the platters, Gil some of the pitchers. I love how each piece tells a story; this kind of personal connection is definitely one of my favorite parts of working with local ceramic artists.

Poterie Ravel is one of the oldest ceramic studios in France, and the attention to detail is truly incredible. Anyone looking for centerpiece ideas needs look no further than one of their unique bowls or statement-making pitchers and vases. It took me four years to be able to offer their French ceramics as part of the Emilia Ceramics collection and I think it was certainly worth the wait!

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Add Style and Luck with Roosters in the Kitchen

Chickens and roosters in the kitchen are a classic theme. The trend is partially because a rooster in the kitchen is thought to bring good luck; and chicken decorations provide the perfect company. Whether your style is rustic farmhouse chic or streamlined and modern, there are multiple ways to incorporate some of these fun feathered friends into your kitchen, no matter its theme. Here are some suggestions for whimsical, fun (not tacky) rooster and chicken decorations in your kitchen.

  • Rooster wall plates: Blue and white rooster plates are classic, invoking fine china and delftware. A traditional black rooster plate from Chianti, or a colorful rooster ceramic platter are other great options to decorate your walls or above your cabinets.
  • Rooster centerpieces: Many spacious kitchens devote some counter space to a decorative ceramic rooster or two. This rustic blue and white rooster is just one example of a more stylized piece. You might prefer a more realistic looking rooster in ceramic, depending on the rest of your kitchen décor and color scheme.
  • Rooster weather vanes: Invoke a traditional countryside feel with an iron rooster weathervane as a wall decoration or countertop centerpiece. This example from Houzz proudly lords over the pantry, pointing the way to the food.
  • Soft rooster and chicken decorations: Why stop at just ceramic roosters? Kitchen towels, potholders, curtains, rugs, and cushions are all ways to expand on your kitchen theme. Big bold graphic prints grab attention, like this rooster rug. Small chicken prints are lively without being overpowering, no matter where you choose to use them.
  • Rooster art: For true rooster lovers, a fowl-themed painting can be the perfect touch for your kitchen (and compliment those blue and white rooster plates nicely).

    Or have a rooster on your backsplash above the stove or sink, like this example painted to look like tile.

  • Rooster utensil holders: With all the unusual utensil holders out there, roosters are a playful addition to your kitchen that’s also quite useful. This blue and white rooster ceramic utensil holder is full of personality, looking cheerful before your first cup of coffee until after you’ve washed the dinner dishes.
  • Rooster salt and pepper shakers: These are definitely a chicken décor favorite and make great gifts. Who can resist the colorful feathers on these handpainted rooster ceramic pieces by Gorky Gonzalez?
  • Rooster pitchers: In Italy rooster pitchers are a traditional housewarming present, meant to protect the home against danger and trespassers. Use a full size rooster pitcher for water or wine at meals or as counter decoration. A little ceramic rooster creamer adds cheer to your afternoon tea or looks sweet filled with a small bouquet of flowers.

Are you a rooster lover? What are your favorite ways to incorporate these roosters in the kitchen?

Rooster kitchen images courtesy of Houzz.

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Celebrating Easter with Tulips!

What does springtime and Easter mean to you? Among other things, for me they signify longer days, tulips, and daffodils, all three of which seem to bring a general feeling of optimism into my life. Growing up, I loved that April brought tulips and daffodils to my mom’s garden. They appeared like magic, announcing spring with instant color and cheer. There’s just something about the sharp contrast of bright yellow and orange petals against green stems and leaves — so fresh, so alive, so promising of all that’s to come.

I recently came across these photos from an event that I went to last spring. My good friend had volunteered to do the floral arrangements for the dinner and she asked me to bring vases from the Emilia Ceramics collection to display the flowers. There were about 20 tables to decorate, plus the reception and bar area, so I brought a wide variety of vases and pitchers from France, Italy and Mexico. We used colorful, yet small Italian pitchers, large Italian vases with handles, rustic French pitchers, and striped vases from Mexico. A wild, yet beautiful mix of tulip varieties brought all these vases and pitchers together.  Everyone loved the centerpieces! Using hand-painted ceramic vases instead of plain glass looked bohemian and rustic — bringing an authentic and homey vibe to the otherwise staid decor.

Here I am, sitting with all our arrangements. I especially love using these Italian pitchers for displaying tulips — they are the perfect size and shape.

Hope you have a great Easter weekend, filled with spring hopefulness, loved ones, and lots of tulips!

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Italian Style, Italian Ceramics: 5 Top Tips

Italian style seems so effortless, from a relaxed afternoon sipping espresso in the piazza to zipping around town on a Vespa. I know that life in Italy isn’t all what we see in the movies, but there’s still an enviable charm about “la dolce vita.” It’s one of the reasons that Italian ceramics are consistently top sellers – people long for a way to incorporate some of this laid-back style into their own homes.

So how can you add a little Italian style into your home? Here are some tips I’ve picked up over the years when it comes to Italian ceramics:

1. Matchy matchy. Italian style dinnerware comes in many textures, colors, and sizes. Some people have a favorite Deruta pattern and only buy pieces from a particular artist or manufacturer (much like what my grandmother’s generation did with china patterns). I encourage mixing and matching various styles instead of becoming dependent on one specific Deruta pattern, which could stop being produced before your collection is complete or as soon as you break a few dinner plates. Ceramics that are painted by hand will always vary anyway, so why not embrace the variety!

2. Start small. All transformations take time, so gradually introducing Italian ceramics into your home with a piece or two is a smart way to go. An Italian earthenware utensil holder adds color and personality to your counter while keeping ladles, wooden spoons, whisks, and all your other kitchen tools in easy reach. Other options are perhaps an Italian ceramic centerpiece platter for your kitchen or dining room table, a spoon rest for your stovetop, or a handmade Italian ceramic vase in your living room.

3. Money doesn’t buy happiness. Sometimes a price tag can be informative… “made in Italy” on a platter that costs $19.99 for instance, probably means it was signed in Italy. However, that doesn’t mean you can always equate expense with quality. I think this assumption is one reason people spend so much money on Vietri dinnerware. While well-known for emulating Tuscan style, I think that Vietri ceramic fails to capture a truly handmade spirit. While quality is definitely worth paying for, a large price tag doesn’t guarantee quality. Skip Vietri dinnerware and find Italian ceramics that showcase the artist’s personality and match your aesthetic.

4. Color counts. Instead of trying to get the patterns of your Tuscan style dinnerware to all match, chose a few colors and build a collection around those. The variety will add depth and interest to your table, particularly when it comes to layering pieces. From Deruta patterns to Italian majolica pottery, you’re sure to find colors that work with your style. Warm yellows, soft greens, vivid blues, and rich reds are just the beginning.

5. Pack a design punch. Statement pieces are another quick way to transform a room or entire home. Instead of an entirely new collection of Italian style dinnerware, incorporate some stylish serving platters. Italian ceramic planters are another favorite as are wall plates or large Italian earthenware vases. Tuscany here you come!

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Will You Light My Candle? Why Candle Holders aren’t Simply a Thing of the Past

Mimi’s need for light in La Boheme became the beginning of a tragic love story, but these days, candle holders can seem like quaint relics of the past. That’s because today, candles are considered occasional accessories or backup lighting for when the power fails.

But it’s still true that candles create instant ambiance and the candle holder itself only adds to that. Whether an intimate candlelit dinner for two or a soft lighting source for a soirée, their warmth and scent invoke comfort and closeness. Anyone who loves candles knows that giving them the perfect setting is important.  To this end, you may want to pair them with Italian ceramic candle holders or Mexican votive holders.

Candle holders really do so much more than just hold candles. They’re a great household accessory, like jewelry for your table or shelf. This Italian ceramic candle holder, by Ceramiche Bartoloni, adds a splash of color to a bedside table or dresser. Prepare your patio for an outdoor fiesta with a unique blue and white candlestick holder like this large hurricane lamp by Gorky Gonzalez. Regardless of size or quantity, these timeless classics compliment all kinds of decorating styles and do so much more than hold candles.

The versatility of candle holders makes them ideal for gifts, especially for people who are hard to buy for (my mother springs to mind – it was just her birthday recently). For friends, coworkers, or family members, a candle holder makes a great housewarming, birthday, or hostess gift. Personalize your gift by finding a fabulous candle holder that matches their personality! Funky and festive candle holders are great for a fiesta feel, though they also look fantastic in more minimalist settings. For rustic authenticity, these Mexican candle holders are sure to please. And for the quirky friend who love a unique piece, you can’t beat this whimsical candle holder from Provence.

And of course there’s the classic combination of  blue and white, which is great for making a subtle statement in a more subdued color palette. Try a blue and white candlestick holder alone or in a pair, either way it will make the perfect addition to your home décor.

So whether you like a traditional Italian ceramic candle holders or prefer a contemporary blue and white candlestick holder, try this great gift idea: Fill a basket with one or more candle holders and candles that fit inside. Be sure to give multiple candles (maybe in a variety of colors or scents), so the recipient can get the most out of their candle holder gift. It’s original, useful, and very personable.