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Surprising Salt & Pepper Sets, from Vintage to DIY

Beloved by collectors and food-eaters alike, salt & pepper sets come in a stunning variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. So I thought we’d take a look at some of the more notable salt & pepper ideas from the past and present.

 vintage salt & pepper sets

Vintage sets range from the mundane to the truly whimsical; I particularly love the smiling ears of corn in this collection.

 salt & pepper sets

Vintage shakers from the late 1800s go in a completely different direction. These ornate silver salt & pepper sets and massive salt cellars give just a taste of high-class dining during the fin de siècle. They would look right at home in Downton Abbey, don’t you think?

silver salt pepper shakers silver salt shaker

But salt pepper shakers can do much more than just hold familiar spices. Offbeat Bride recommends using ceramic salt and pepper shakers as wedding cake toppers. Great idea since you can then actually use them as a daily reminder of your wedding.

flamingo salt & pepper shakerssalt & pepper set

 

Another way to repurpose glass salt & pepper sets? Turn them into bud vases; these would look lovely along a windowsill or as table decorations.

salt & pepper shaker bud vase

Glass shakers also can be turned into mini-terrariums for the small-scale gardener.

glass salt & pepper shaker terrariums

Do you have a particularly impressive salt pepper shaker collection? Is there a particular theme, like with these blue & white salt & pepper shakers?

 blue & white salt & pepper shakers

Let us know your favorite kinds and check out our Pinterest board for more of our favorite salt & pepper sets, both modern and vintage.

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The Best Ceramics to Buy for Your Collection

I’ve been thinking more about the variety of people who collect ceramics since my last post on Design Miami/Basel 2012. While acclaimed new artists or valuable antique pieces might be ceramics to buy for an established collection, what ceramics should you buy if you’re just starting out?

The first question to ask yourself is simply what do you like? Do you have a favorite color, animal, shape, or country? Many people who buy ceramics online are looking specifically for pieces with Italian roosters, while others have collections that are just blue and white, yellow, or another favored color combination. Maybe you want your collection to reflect your French country décor or make your home feel like a Mexican hacienda. If you’re struggling to find a guiding principal for what ceramics to buy, it’s more important to focus on what you actually like instead of something that’s been designated “valuable” by the dealers.

I don’t think there are any secrets or hard and fast rules about ceramic collecting, but here are my top tips for getting a good start when it comes to buying ceramics, no matter what you like:

Start small.

A great ceramics collection doesn’t happen overnight, even though you can buy ceramics online. Pick a few pieces that appeal to you and that you’ll use. Coffee mugs are ceramics many buy to start off a collection – with all the personalization it’s easy to find a few that you like (and find the space to keep them).

Reward your rituals.

Mugs are also popular ceramics because people tend to use them every day. Think about your daily rituals and what ceramics to buy that you can easily incorporate into these rituals. Morning toast is more special on a handmade ceramic plate; cereal tastes better in unique small bowls. When you buy ceramics that you actually use, your collection will grow organically and you’ll be able to enjoy it everyday.

Have pieces to share.

There’s nothing better than having friends or family sharing a meal together. When thinking of ceramics to buy, a few great serving dishes are simply a must. Large serving platters handle entrees or lots of little appetizers.

Serving bowls are ideal for salads or pasta dishes. And then there are cheese platters and footed platters (perfect for displaying fruits on the table).

Think about display.

Don’t keep your ceramics collection hidden deep in closed cupboards! Hanging ceramic platters on the wall when not in use or keeping mugs on a rack or exposed shelf allows the ceramics you buy to become a daily part of your décor. Large collections can take over a china cabinet, kitchen wall, or sideboard, adding some personality to any space in your home.

Do you collect ceramics? What ceramics do you buy? Leave a comment to let us know!

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French Ceramics at Design Miami/Basel 2012

Did you make it to Design Miami/Basel 2012? This international forum on art took place in Basel, Switzerland June 12-17 with a whole host of furniture and other objects on display from almost 40 galleries, Design Talks, performances, and more. I was curious to note the strong presence of French ceramics in this year’s show and decided it was worth taking a closer look.

One of the things I like about Design Miami/Basel 2012 is that it’s not just about contemporary design, but pieces and movements from the 20th century to today. The strong French design presence with works by Jean Prouvé, Maria Pergay, and Roger Tallon (who designed Air France interiors, the French high-speed train TGV, and the Mexico City subway, among other major public commissions) really dominated this year, according to The New York Times. These iconic designers have an industrial feel that somehow also translates into timeless appeal. Pergay’s work with stainless steel is truly stunning, like her “flying carpet” daybed and other shiny furnishings – if you’re not familiar with her work (as is the case with many Americans), I recommend looking up her unique creations to see more for yourself.

But this design fair isn’t just about furniture. French ceramics were just some of the many smaller pieces on offer, with other ceramic work from places like Korea, Sweden, and Japan. On the last day of the fair there was even a talk called “Collecting 20th and 21st Century Ceramics” which discussed the evolution of the form and international ceramic styles.

As with other discussions around design and French ceramics, function and form come into question. Is this an art, a craft, or a combination of both? Looking at some of the pieces on offer, I am personally drawn to those that can be used. The delicate porcelain bowl, the smooth flowing vases with solid color glazes, and the stacked plates all are true highlights of this design fair in my opinion. They look great on display, but also in use.

Thus, inspired by all the great design of Design Miami/Basel 2012, I present you my own selection of French ceramics that fit into the aesthetics displayed there:

The simplicity of the celadon pitcher and fluted bowl by Poterie Ravel are definitely elegant, while cheerful yellow plates and bowls add unexpected fun to these appealing French ceramics.

Sylvie’s modern, minimalist Sunrise platter is a one of a kind gem that bridges that gap between form and function, looking beautiful on the wall or the table. In keeping with smooth glazes and solid colors, look no further than the burnt honey round vase, petal platter, and cheese plate by Richard Esteban. These French ceramics all have a touchable appeal and exude a real warmth.

With all these accessible, artistic French ceramics, it’s hard to decide on a “best in show” for French ceramics that fits in with the pieces on display at Design Miami/Basel 2012. But I think the winner would be the chalk white shallow dish by Patrice Voelkel (pictured at the top of this post). Stark and minimal, yet also inviting, it’s a piece worth collecting even if not displayed in a design fair tent.

What do you think of the offerings at Design Miami/Basel this year? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Top Salt & Pepper Sets, Collections for Any Table

I’ve talked about avid collectors before, but I think that Theresa Giottonini takes the cake when it comes to salt and pepper shakers. Her collection of 1,021 salt & pepper sets is staggering, filling shelves of her living room. She started her collection in the 1980s and it’s been steadily growing ever since, reports The Californian.

Theresa doesn’t just display her salt and pepper shakers, however. They become the stars of the table whenever the family gathers for the holidays or just a meal. Animals are a favorite, from chickens to monkeys, owls to seals, starfish to hippos. Of course, she’s not the only big collector of this table staple. Stephen and Mara Attles in Florida have over 1,200 salt & pepper sets, a collection that embraces much more than just ceramics, says The Tampa Tribune.

There’s even a Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum in Tennessee with over 20,000 sets. These are some serious collections.

But collectability aside, salt and pepper shakers remain an easy way to add whimsy to a table. Even if you’re not a serious collector, a variety of options means flexibility for indoor and outdoor dining, a family dinner, or a special occasion. So what options besides plain ceramic salt and pepper sets are there?

Animals

A favorite when it comes to salt and pepper shakers. Roosters, chickens, bunnies, and frogs are just some popular ceramic salt and pepper subjects. Several different sets together creates a mini zoo along a big table, amusing for kids and adults alike.

pepper grinder with sea salt

Grinders

There were several grinders on The Independent’s recent salt & pepper set roundup. For those who swear by fresh ground pepper and salt, a wooden mill is a classic tabletop addition. Modern electric mills might be more uniform, but I’m not a fan of the noise.

 Pinch Pots

Have your spices (why stop at just salt and pepper?) in shallow dishes so that everyone can pinch the exact amount required. I’m seeing more and more restaurants using mini salt dishes that have the perfect amount for the table, no more. This can be perfect for meals like pozole or taco night, letting everyone spice their dinner to the correct hotness.

Two in One

Since you’re supposed to pass the salt and pepper together, why not just keep them in one unit? Clever designs involve twisting chambers and grinders with two buttons or two directions. Practical for outdoor dining as it’s one less thing to carry, whether to the patio or on a picnic.

These are just a few ideas; what are your favorite salt and pepper shakers? Post a comment and let us know!

Salt and pepper collection image courtesy of Paper Cat.

Pepper grinder image courtesy of jules:stonesoup.

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Salt & Pepper Sets Flying off the Shelves

When setting up the pop-up shop in Palo Alto, I always wonder what that year’s best sellers are going to be. Vases? Planters? Mugs? Platters? When giving gifts these are all popular favorites for sure. But this year the best sellers have been small but mighty: salt and pepper shakers lead the way, closely followed by cream and sugar sets.

Why the salt and pepper shaker frenzy? For one, salt & pepper sets are small. It’s obvious, but if you’re shipping presents across the country or just trying to find a great host gift, little things make a big impact without weighing too much. Ceramic salt and pepper sets like these by Gorky Gonzalez are sturdy enough to travel well, but not clunky or bulky. One customer said she was going to use the rooster salt and pepper shakers she bought as a stocking-stuffer for her in-laws. They’re the perfect fit. What a great idea!

But salt and pepper shakers aren’t just small, they’re also practical. The same goes for cream and sugar sets – people can really use these items whether it’s everyday or for special occasions. Functional gifts are always appreciated instead of a knick-knack that just adds to clutter. Multiple salt and pepper shakers mean you can have a set in the dining room, kitchen, and patio table in the summer. Another customer told me when he gave the bunny salt and pepper shakers to some old friends they immediately said they’d use them in their second home on Cape Cod. There’s always room for one more set somewhere.

I think though the reason people gravitate towards ceramic salt and pepper and creamer sugar sets is that they’re just so much fun. The spots on the bunnies, the wide-eyed chickens, the squinting roosters, and the grinning frogs are totally full of personality and charm. Since each set is hand painted, no two are exactly alike. Their originality makes salt and pepper shakers great for any collection as well. From people who collect Italian ceramics to those that love roosters or chickens or bunnies or frogs, these small additions always bring a smile to people’s faces. And best of all, you don’t always have to give them away – the perfect salt and pepper shakers make a fun gift for your home too. Now just to pick out your favorites!