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French Ceramics from Kiln to Table

Provence countryside France

Farm to table dining showcases the best tastes of the season, whether vine-ripe tomatoes or hearty greens. But in Provence, farm to table doesn’t just apply to food – just look at French ceramics! Rustic plates and dishware perfectly match local flavors, combining effortless French chic with a homegrown vibe.

Take Richard Esteban‘s tableware sets. His plates and bowls are a playful mix of motifs and patterns. Stripes, polka dots, animals, even race cars! I fell in love with these plates and bowls when dining with Richard and his family in France. Their outdoor table is typical; al fresco dining is de rigueur for the area when the weather is warm enough. I particularly loved the roaring outdoor fire and the sprawling tree that kept the table shady and cool on even the hottest days.

Outdoor dining at Aigues-Vives Provence

Richard Esteban plates and bowls

   Richard Esteban pottery

Like his farmer neighbors, Richard works with the land – though in his case, he harvests clay, not vegetables. This rich red clay body only shows on the bottom of his plates and bowls, though it’s the shining star of his new wine bottle holder. The vibrant mineral glazes also embody Richard and his team’s “kiln to table” philosophy, resulting in natural tones that are the perfect compliment to Provence’s rich, green countryside. The butter yellow base color for most of his plates makes these French ceramics easy to mix and match. Stack stripes with polka dots or mottos like vive le bon vin (long live good wine); the results are just as relaxed as Richard’s home and studio.

Richard Esteban pottery

Arnaud makes French ceramics

The rustic elegance of Richard Esteban’s French ceramics holds a certain je ne sais quoi that I think is uniquely French. Mix and match some decorative dinner plates, pour a bottle of wine in to a pitcher, slice up a baguette – see, you’re almost there yourself! Now enjoy a delicious meal, lingering to chat long after the food is finished for your very own Provence-inspired moment. Bon appétit!

French ceramic bowl

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The Best Decorative Dinner Plates for Summer Dining: 3 Tips

Summertime means incredible fresh fruits and vegetables, grilling adventures, and leisurely outdoor dining with friends and family. Even if you’re not planning to eat every meal outside this summer, it’s the perfect time to embrace playful motifs that celebrate the season. Bring on the bright colors and interesting textures!

decorative dinner plate
Looking for the best decorative dinner plates for your summer meals? Here are three rules to follow when updating your table this season:

1. Matching is so yesterday. It’s really true: plates and bowls don’t need to match. Mix up your classic dishware sets with square plates, oblong bowls, and other unusual shapes. Highlight that incredible dessert by serving it on distinct plates from the rest of the meal. The eclectic vibe will make your meals feel more relaxed and personal.

 rectangle serving platter

2. Color rules. Have at least two colors in your dishware sets; the variety makes even the most ordinary weekday meal feel more fun. If working from a base of white plates and bowls, mix in colorful serving or salad plates. Bold reds, cool blues, bright greens, brilliant yellows – there are no wrong answers. Patterns are also an excellent way to incorporate texture and more color without getting too crazy.

decorative dinner plate - orange stripeyellow dinner plate

3. Avoid plastic plates and cutlery. Nothing ruins that gorgeous masterpiece from the grill quicker than trying to cut it with a flimsy knife. The same goes for having your plate fly away in the wind. Unless you’re carrying your dishware multiple miles on a camping trip, take the time to use decorative dinner plates and solid silverware. The guests at your next barbeque will thank you.

dishware set

Need some ideas for what to serve on your decorative dinner plates and tableware sets that is suitable for summer? Check out Emilia Ceramic’s Pinterest boards for delicious recipes and ways to entertain as the days get longer.

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New Hand Painted Italian Ceramics from Ceramiche Gialletti Giulio

deruta_signjewelry_boxes

When thinking about hand painted Italian ceramics words like durable, intricate, original, and historic come to mind. From the locally sourced clay to fabulous, colorful glazes, Italian ceramics certainly stand out. That’s one of the reasons I was so excited to find Ceramiche Gialletti Giulio, a studio run by the brothers Antonio and Carlo, in Deruta, Italy. Another historic center for majolica, the highly ornate designs and lush colors of Deruta ceramics are justly famous. After I met the amazing team of artists at this third generation family workshop in the summer of 2013, I knew I had to share them as part of the Emilia Ceramics collection. Unpacking the boxes has been amazing.

For centuries hand painted Italian ceramics were used by wealthy families for their meals and home decor. Deruta became known for the intricate decorative work on their ceramics, setting their plates particularly apart from the rest. Gialletti Giulio’s exquisite plate collection continues this tradition, with intricate borders in an amazing array of colors. I love how the patterned borders create a strong statement when stacked together.

Italian hand painted ceramic platesItalian hand painted plates The decorative patterns really shine on their one of a kind jewelry boxes too. The flower-inspired motifs remind me of mandalas. You can also see every brushstroke, which makes these pieces even more special. These jewelry boxes are definitely a great gift idea for anyone who loves Italy and needs a small piece they can see every day on a dresser or tabletop.

Italian jewelry box

Other great daily reminders of Italy also include a variety of home accessories like salt and pepper shakers, oil and vinegar sets, and soap dispensers.

Italian salt and pepper setServing platters are another versatile, high-impact piece whether used as a centerpiece or holding your main course for dinner. Watching the artists work at Gialletti Giulio was much like visiting my other Italian artists; these are truly people who are meticulous and have a passion for their craft. I can’t wait to see what I unpack next so I can share even more of their amazing hand painted Italian ceramics with you all.

Italian serving platter

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Showroom Spotlight on Decorative Dinner Plates and Stylish Dining

cactus and rooster platesOne of the best parts of the Emilia Ceramics Showroom is arranging ceramics in ways that people actually use them. I love the way that stacks of decorative dinner plates look and have had fun displaying lots of plates and bowls. The results look good enough to eat (off of)!

The dishware sets by Gorky Gonzalez are consistent favorites with customers and looking over the many styles, sizes, and patterns, it’s not hard to see why. Their mix of colors means there are plates for every taste. There are plain dinner plates for the minimalists and richly decorated salad and dessert plates for those who like more personality with their place settings. Gorky’s whimsical designs make for decorative dinner plates that people use daily instead of only for special occasions.

decorative dinner plate rooster plates Gorky’s studio has an entire team of artists who paint his plates and bowls. Although there is a traditional design that the artists follow, Gorky encourages them to add their own creativity and style to the piece. So no two fish or cowboys look exactly alike, giving each plate its own intentional charm. I particularly love the new caballero plates with their mustached cowboys in a variety of sizes and the Mexican cowgirl (la charra) serving plates. They definitely add some spice to the other characters in Gorky’s tableware sets.

cowboy decorative platecowgirl decorative serving plate

Stacking smaller plates on dinner plates is an easy way to add style to the table, whether it’s a family brunch or formal dinner. Having a variety of colors and patterns creates texture and can quickly change the feel of your space. Often people mix the designs of the smaller dessert and salad plates, having a set with a variety of animals or figures. I think it makes everything just a little more dynamic. If patterns or figures lack appeal, simply mixing colors can be an easy way to update a table and add a personal touch to the meal. Pair a stack of plates in rainbow hues with neutral table linens for a table setting that really pops.

decorative dinner platesNow that fall is truly here, I know people are starting to think about all the entertaining that cooler temperatures bring. For me the biggest question will be which plates and bowls to leave off the table—and with so many great options from Gorky, it’s definitely a question that will take time to answer!

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How to Set Your Table the French Way (Hint: Use French Ceramics)

French dinner tableAs I prepare for my upcoming trip to France and Italy, I find myself thinking about all the French ceramics I’ll be seeing shortly. It can be quite overwhelming when having to choose from all the wonderful pieces that my French artists create. But it’s not all work, of course. Take my visits to Poterie d’Aigues-Vives. After the hard work of choosing is over, I love sitting around the table with Richard Esteban and his family, feasting on a delicious meal presented on his signature dishware.

 

Even if a trip to Provence is not in your future, it’s easy to bring France to your home this summer. After you find some crusty bread, tangy cheese, and open that bottle of wine, you’re well on your way. Ready to complete the vibe? Here are my tips for setting your table like Richard does:

 

 

Patterns should mix.

plates and bowls

Plates and bowls don’t need to match; stack striped plates and polka dot bowls together for flair and fun. Keep colors complementary and let your imagination run wild. If you’re feeling bold, get other patterns and textures into the mix with your plates and bowls. Dishware sets never looked so unique!

Platters should be heaped.

French ceramic serving platter The French like to enjoy a leisurely meal, particularly when enjoying dinner outside after the day’s work is done. Fill French ceramic serving platters with fresh vegetables, crisp salads, perfectly done fish, or other bounties of the season, then enjoy time around the table (no need to run back to the kitchen). Strangely, I find that even though the mealtimes are longer in France, I always eat less since there’s time to truly savor every bite.

Pitchers should be filled.

French pitcher - teal

A meal isn’t complete without the proper drinks. At Richard’s that means a pitcher filled with red wine, another filled with water, and sometimes a third with fresh lemonade. Decanting allows your wine to breathe and the spout makes for easy pouring, no matter the beverage. I find that having all the drinks on the table also helps people stay there longer, chatting once the food is gone.

Color is essential.tableware sets

Accessorize your French ceramics to truly bring Provence home. Flowers are an ideal addition to the table; use a small rustic vase for more country charm. Colorful napkins, placemats, or tablecloths are also great for pulling a table together. Don’t try too hard to match, but do keep your colors in a similar tonal range for best results.

Now that your tableware set is ready and your decorative dinner plates filled, it’s time to enjoy the best part of any French-inspired meal: the company around you. Bon appétit!

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Bartoloni’s Lemons: More than Simply Decorative Plates

Looking for a decorative dinner plate that will bring cheer to your table? With Italian hand painted plates, your search is over. From square limoni plates to large serving platters, the lemon motifs by the Bartoloni brothers are a sure winner for kitchens and dining rooms alike.

lemon decorative plate

There are many factors that make these decorative plates so appealing. The rich colors are one; for example, the cobalt blue background contrasts pleasingly with bright yellows and greens on the blu limoni plates. The bright white of the limoni due square plate is more subtle, but just as vibrant with its two lemons (or limoni due) in the center and aquamarine border along the plate’s edge.

white lemon square plate

The unique rounded square shape also adds character to these Italian hand painted plates. They work well for serving appetizers, desserts, or side dishes with causal elegance. I’ve used them for artisanal meats and cheeses at dinner parties as well as delicate French macarons. No matter what they serve, these plates empty quickly – I think it’s because they make food look so delicious!Italian hand painted plates

Of course, hand painted dinner plates also appeal because of the human touch in their creation. Hand painting means that no two plates are exactly alike. The individual brush strokes, incredible detailing, and overall liveliness make for useful and usable works of art. For this reason lots of people like to hang the blu limoni plate as a wall decoration when not using it to serve. It’s just too vibrant to hide away in a cabinet.

Ceramiche Bartoloni’s lemons grace more than just plates, with mugs, pitchers, soap dishes, and spoon rests that continue the theme. Whether used as an accent or a central motif, these lemon plates are the perfect way to brighten a room with a touch of Tuscan charm.

lemon muglemon pitcher

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Making Creative Dishware Sets with French Ceramics

As we wrap up the season of holiday entertaining, I find myself thinking about dishware sets. Instead of the couple of plates and bowls you use daily, entertaining has most people emptying the cabinets to serve the 8, 12, 30 people gathered for dinner, brunch, or afternoon cocktail party. If you’re not used to crowds in your home, finding enough of the proper servingware can be the biggest challenge. That’s where having flexible dishware sets comes in.

One of my favorite current trends with tableware sets and decorative dinner plates is having pieces that mix and match. Individual dinner plates with fun designs or vibrant colors make each place setting really stand out, and add incredible depth to a table. Layering dishes with different complimenting colors and designs is another deceptively simple way to create a dynamic table setting.

For color and pattern, I feel like French ceramics have a playful spirit, polka dot plates bowlsparticularly those from Provence. Whimsy endues polka dot plates and bowls by Richard Esteban as well as the delicate pastel washes of Sylvie Durez’s one of a kind French ceramics. Then there are details like Poterie Ravel‘s pitchers splattered glazes or the delicate edging of their bowls. Patrice Voelkel’s French ceramics go another direction with jewel-toned glazes and local black clay. No matter what speaks to your aesthetic, these plates and bowls are truly unique and make any table stand out.

Of course, French ceramics are useful throughout the year, not just around the holidays. Their festive spirit injects joy into all occasions, from toast covered with your favorite jam for breakfast to celebrating a birthday or anniversary. Appetizer dishes hold daily snacks, pitchers bouquets of fresh flowers, and bowls everything from ice cream to cereal. Richard’s plates and bowls are an excellent example of the versatility of French ceramics. The soft yellow base glaze makes food look delicious and the playful dots, stripes, bird, or dog motifs add lively personality to these decorative dinner plates.

Paired with weighty pieces like the barn red milk pitcher or a rustic casserole full of tonight’s dinner, it’s hard to resist these French ceramics.

How do you dress up your table for the holidays or everyday dining? What are your favorite French ceramics? Are there dishware sets you absolutely adore? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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Find Your Plate Style with the Right Ceramic Dishes

When it comes to plates for dinner, what do you reach for? Large, plain ceramic dishes? Small, intricate decorative plates? Colorful pottery dishes? While white is a universal standard for plates, there are so many other options out there that it can seem overwhelming to think outside the “white plate box.” Looking to update your existing plates or invest in a whole new set of ceramic dishes? Here are three decorative styles for plates, inspired by the homelife buying guide for dinnerware. Which suits your home best?

Your Style: Supreme Simplicity

Elegant lines and simple shapes are the hallmarks of your ceramic dishes. Your idea of a perfect table setting has matching plates that don’t detract attention from your delicious meal. Smoothly glazed serving dishes, like a French chalk white serving plate or ivory footed serving platter, are good choices that blend into your existing tableware. Another approach is to highlight your more subdued dishes with boldly patterned Italian decorative plates for mains and sides. The detailed designs of these serving plates add just the right note of sophistication to your table.

Your Look: Rustic French Country

You want plates for dinner that would feel right at home in Provence, mixing personality with functionality. The butter yellow plates with colored polka dots by Richard Esteban are a great example of this plate style in action.

From dinner plates that say “Vive le bon vin” to dessert plates decorated with stripes or songbirds, these plates find their compliment with polka dot mugs, bowls and rustic casserole dishes.

All you need now is some wine, cheese, and fresh baguette.

Your Preference: Lively Color

You get bored with monochromatic pottery dishes, instead mixing and matching colors, shapes, and textures. Embrace your colorful leanings by having plates in all different colors or sticking to a palette of three complimenting favorites.

Patterned edges on salad plates are ideal for layering over the solid colored dinner plates by Gorky Gonzalez, creating a vibrant table before you’ve even brought out the food. Looking for another way to play with color? Incorporate plates with roosters, fish, or other whimsical designs. They’re a fun way to begin or end any meal.

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Vase Arrangements to Celebrate the Season

It’s starting to get chilly, leaves are turning, and the pumpkins are starting to arrive – it must be fall. But as the weather cools off and summer blooms disappear, what will you put in your vases? Fall decorating embraces jewel tones, branches, and fruits of the season, making it easy to create stunning vase centerpieces for your table and other arrangements throughout your home. All it takes are some colorful vases and creativity. Here are some tips to get your started:

Go big for dramatic effect. The entryway is an ideal place for a tall ceramic vase with a show-stopping arrangement, like this example from the Norwich Bulletin. Use a large vase on a side table and start with some branches, perhaps from your own yard. Incorporate grasses, large scale blooms, or even faux greenery for an arrangement that will last all season long. A tall ceramic vase also is ideal for the mantel or a shelf in your living room.

Be messy. Vase centerpieces that are too perfect don’t fit the natural feel of fall. Think about how plants actually grow and use that as a guide for your floral arrangements. Whether it’s a single branch with berries or an entire bouquet with chrysanthemums, yarrow, rose hips, and zinnias, play with levels and depth for a vase that’s visually interesting.

Use leaves. Why not take advantage of the colors right outside your home? Plenty of centerpieces feature leaves, which can then be scattered out across the entire surface of your dining table or sideboard. You can also create a dry leaf arrangement in a small vase for living room accent. Pick a blue ceramic vase to really highlight what’s inside.

Embrace color. The rich, warm colors of fall – russet reds, golden yellow, deep brown, dark green, and a spectrum of orange – give plenty of scope for beautiful vases. When arranging your flowers, group similar colored blooms together to give a feeling of unity in a mixed color bouquet. Another option is to stick with a monochromatic arrangement that compliments your décor. Also think about an autumn colored pitcher instead of a vase for a more rustic look.

Don’t forget the beauty of simplicity. A bunch of dried decorative grasses or wheat can be the perfect use for a tall ceramic vase with no other ornamentation. If you have vases throughout your home, mix elaborate displays with more simple arrangements for better texture and depth.

Add fruits of the season. Nuts, berries, pumpkins, apples, even grapes are the perfect addition to your seasonal vase display. For example, display these pumpkin peppers instead of flowers for a creative touch to any space.

Happy fall decorating!

Crabapple vase image courtesy of panga_ua.

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New Arrivals of Old Friends: Ceramic ZigZag Planters Have Returned!

There’s nothing better than getting a shipment of ceramics from one of our artists. I always feel like a kid on Christmas when the boxes arrive and pieces need to be unwrapped and sorted. While it’s great to see the new pieces (like the gray and yellow zig zag tibors), it’s also lovely to replenish my stock of sold out ceramics like the zig zag planters by Talavera Vazquez.

But why is it that ceramic pots for plants remain such constant top sellers? Marla Hart at Studio City Patch explains it neatly in admitting to her addiction to outdoor pots. I think she’s right when gushing about how easy ceramic pots for plants make gardening: you can have a single large flower pot or a whole yard’s worth, whatever your green thumb desires (and can handle). Groupings of small flower pots on a porch or patio add interest and color; large flower pots can even accommodate small trees and bushes that you can later move if you decide to change your landscaping.

Outdoor plant containers are also a good idea for drought conditions like many people are experiencing across the country this summer. You can carefully monitor the dryness of the soil and water your plants without waste; ceramic pots for plants that are glazed in white or other light colors help reflect the sun’s rays and keep those roots from crisping. Because outdoor pots can be easily moved, it also means you can keep delicate plants in the shade during heat waves.

The ceramic zig zag planters are a fun way to keep your plants looking good; either plant directly inside (there’s a hole for drainage) or use these pots to hold another, smaller terracotta pot. The fluting at the top of these zig zag planters makes them perfect for ferns, spider plants, and flowers that like to spill over the sides.

The new sunflower planter also from Vazquez has the same shape; I think this large flower pot looks splendid filled or empty. Other new arrivals include the small flower pot with polka dots and another ceramic pot in lime green by Richard Esteban. Both of these planters are one of a kind and would look great in a window indoors or outdoors.

Richard Esteban’s clay flower pots with exposed bases are another way to add French provincial charm to your favorite plants. Of course, there are still the large flower pots with stripes by Vazquez and wonderful large flower pots with fruit motifs from Tuscia d’Arte.

With all the planters I now have on hand, I keep thinking about expanding my own gardening efforts. I might be on my way to becoming addicted to outdoor plant containers and flower pots myself!

Shop our entire selection of planters here. 

 

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Finding New Ceramic Wall Plates and Pottery Dishes in Mexico

I’ve been in Mexico visiting artists like Gorky Gonzalez and can’t get enough of the sun, the food, the… roosters. From ceramic dishes to the blue and white rooster that stand alone, I’ve seen roosters (and other fowl) everywhere.

But it doesn’t end with blue and white rooster plates; that’s just the beginning. New triple dishes feature hummingbirds and roosters to join the cactus, palm tree, and fish motifs already in my Gorky collection. I love these ceramic dishes because they’re so versatile: good for dips, condiments, olives, or nuts, they also function as a place to keep jewelry, keys, or the contents of your pockets (no more lost wallets and phones for you!). With both double and triple ceramic dishes, use a variety to add spice to your next fiesta.

With the new black rooster plates from Italy, I’ve been struck at the global nature of animal motifs in ceramic wall art. Chickens, frogs, fish, and flamingos join butterflies (like the pottery dishes by Angélica Escarcega), flowers, and people for quirky and lively decorative plates and bowls. Visiting the artists let’s me not only stock up on popular pieces (like those fun salt and pepper shakers) but also see new ideas from ceramic wall plates to tibors (ginger jars). One of my favorite things is seeing the painted but unfired pottery dishes – the kiln totally transforms them from pale, flat ceramics into the glossy, touchable pieces we all love.

Watching the artists paint every piece is also incredible. Whether it’s geometric patterns or those blue and white roosters, plates, bowls, trays, and other dishes come alive with every brush stroke.

Whether you prefer monochrome or full color decorative plates, look for new arrivals from Gorky, Angélica, Capelo, and Talavera Vazquez in the next few months. There’ll be some old favorites and some new surprises with ceramic dishes that are truly works of art.

Want to see more of my Mexico adventures? “Like” Emilia Ceramics on Facebook for photos and updates.

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Adding French Country Charm to Your Home

Who can resist the unique combination of elegance and simplicity that is French country charm? It’s not just the French manor house or the French country cottage, but somehow both at once. This irresistible combination of seemingly conflicting style elements manifests in French ceramics as well as décor. Colors, shapes, functionality, and charm all work together to make something truly unique, whether it’s a fun polka dot mug or a striking ceramic serving platter.

Want to inject your home with some French country chic? Give these five tips, many inspired by the French Country Decor Guide, a try.

  1. Get regional with color. French country can mean Provence, with warm, sunny colors, or the paler hues of northern France. These regional differences mean that it’s easy to find French country elements that already fit into your existing design aesthetic (French ceramics are a perfect example). The strong colors of Provence can include terracotta reds, dusky violets, Mediterranean blues and turquoises, and soft butter and creamy saffron yellows. Go north for colors with a touch of grey, including soft sage greens, milky whites, creamy pinks, and pale blues.
  2. Mix old and new. Antiques are a hallmark of French country, whether it’s a chair, bed, or accent piece. With a country estate-inspired bedroom for example, gilded edges on the bed make for a soft glow that contrasts with crisp sheets and textured walls. Or reupholster that great chair you found with a lush fabric and add it to more modern furnishings in the living room or study. Rich patina and distressed finishes make everything seem softer and slightly relaxed.
  3. Repurpose with abandon. If something is beautiful, it’s worth holding onto, even if no longer needed for its original use. Repurposed items can be anything from glass jars as table decorations to metal buckets acting as planters. I see this with French ceramics often – a chipped bowl becomes a place for change or a decorative element on a shelf. A ceramic serving platter holds keys and sunglasses by the door. A polka dot mug turns into a pen and pencil holder on a desk.
  4. Show off what’s in your kitchen. Why hide those gorgeous plates behind closed doors? A French country kitchen will often have open shelves that turn your dishware into decoration, as well as make things easier for the cook to access. Display your collection of French ceramics with pride, making them a part of your daily life.
  5. Let simplicity rule. French country is not about clutter or overwrought design. Smooth curves, clean lines, and subdued accents are all its hallmarks. I see this in some of my favorite French ceramic serving platters, whether the curves of the petal platter by Richard Esteban, the stark chalk white of the serving dish with handles by Patrice Voelkel, or subtle white streak on the lemon yellow round platter by Poterie Ravel.

French country kitchen image courtesy of thekitchendesigner.

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Decorative Pottery for Your May Flowers: More than Just French Ceramics

The saying goes that “April showers bring May flowers,” and with this year’s especially wet spring, the flowers are blooming with abandon! With all that’s growing, it’s the perfect time to get decorative with some flower pots, ceramic planters, and other stylish containment for your favorite blooms. Annie Selke recently tweeted about kicking your spring garden decor up a notch with great planters and I couldn’t agree more. To add to the excitement, the ever-popular Mexican planters by Talavera Vazquez are back in stock. Here are some easy ways to inject decorative pottery style into your home and garden:

Be square.

Just like unusually-shaped plates, a square planter can add a touch of unexpected style. The square hidalgo planter (pictured here on my sister’s patio) is a great example. Black and white, it’s chic and festive at the same time. Besides the square hidalgo planter, striped or zigzag planters are other fun options. Squares don’t have to be big either – this small rustic green planter by Richard Esteban is perfect for a desk, countertop, or perched on a window ledge.

Be French.

French ceramics can transport you to Provence in an instant… And for me, nothing feels as French as ceramic hanging planters, which add green to any wall or lattice and create a stunning outdoor area. This hanging planter with polka dots and squiggles is a fabulous example of decorative French pottery that’s also functional. It reminds me of a party lantern (and who can resist a party?).

I also love the new wall planters by Richard Esteban that I picked out while in Provence last September. Totally rustic and understated, with raw glaze peaking out from under soft, touchable glazes, they don’t compete with beautiful flowers, but add to them. See all three color choices here: Wall Planters.

Be layered.

Raised beds add dimension to any size garden, but why stop there? Use clay flower pots to move plants to unexpected places (and help preserve delicate blooms from the cold when fall comes). Mixing flower pots into beds can be a fun way to use ceramic planters, adding a splash of color that compliments what’s growing inside. I love this large sunflower planter because it adds vibrant Mexican color to the garden or patio. Don’t have a garden or large yard? Cluster different sized pots right next to each other to create a garden of any size, no matter how small.

Be innovative.

Garden décor isn’t just about black and white zigzag planters or ceramic flower pots. Chairs, tables, stepping stones, borders, and other accessories make a huge difference to the space. Lay out paving stones in a spiral to create a unique patio area. Create a wall of succulents if you don’t have any yard to work with. Turn that giant tree stump into a small flower garden. With all the creative ways to use outdoor space, you can make the outside of your home just as special as the inside.
Succulent wall

Have creative gardening ideas or uses for decorative pottery when it comes to plants? Leave a comment and let us know!

Succulent wall image courtesy of Jzawdubya.

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A Plate for Every Occasion

I love a good-looking table, whether it’s for a champagne brunch or an intimate dinner. Besides serving dishes, plates are the big stars when it comes to making a table with personality. Easily overlooked, these dining essentials can be a simple way to inject some excitement into your meal. Let’s look at the different types of plates and the roles they play when it comes to making a dining experience that everyone will remember.

Serving plates

Often the biggest plates, a serving plate handles main dishes and sides with ease. Your roast or pasta primavera never looked so tasty. Serving dishes are also a party essential for finger foods and desserts. A sideboard with cheeses, bread, canapés, and other nibbles makes even the most causal gathering feel just a little more festive.

Dinner plates

These are the workhorses of the plate world. Dinner plates aren’t just for dinner, of course, appearing at most meals (though I stick to a bowl for my morning cereal). Mixing dinner plate patterns can be a fun way to make your table a little more unique. Kids especially like plates with pictures or different designs (though these plates can still have a grown-up feel). Whether you choose solid colors or patterns, use dinner plates as the core building block for your table design.

Salad plates

Slightly smaller than dinner plates, salad plates are a great way to keep courses separate. Whether you eat your salad before the meal or after (like they do in Europe), this plate is the perfect size for greens. If using salad plates for a starter, stacking them on dinner plates makes for a colorful table.

Dessert plates

The smallest plate in the set, dessert plates are sized to make your sweets look the perfect size.

I also use dessert plates as bread plates at a more formal dinner party or for toast in the morning. Fun motifs make dessert plates just a little sweeter, giving the perfect finishing note to the meal.

Wall plates

Any plate can be a wall plate, though often they have intricate designs or pictures. Unusual shapes (like this Limoni rounded square plate) also make for great display plates. Hanging or mounting plates can be a fun way to decorate a kitchen or dining room, making your favorite plates part of your daily life. Wall plates also make great gifts for any occasion (and serve a dual purpose as tableware and art – how’s that for smart giving?).

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Blue and White Rooster Plates: Beyond Function and Decoration

When it comes to decorative plates, the sky is the limit in terms of designs. Animals, fruits, flowers, and abstract designs, as well as ornate or simple patterns – I’ve seen them all and appreciate the creativity and skill that goes into each one. Some of the most successful that I’ve seen combine multiple themes, say blue and white along with roosters. On a plate. That can hang on your wall. Or be used to serve and enjoy meals. Talk about multitasking!

When it comes to decorating in a specific theme, committed collectors show just how much of a certain theme exists out there. I was amazed that the fine folks at Cock-a-Doodle Café in downtown Oakland could find all those different rooster pieces. It’s obviously a labor of love. Recently, thanks to the Internet, I found an incredible Henriot Quimper blue and white rooster plate that’s actually more like a basket. The design is playful, simple, and almost childlike but becomes more sophisticated with the ornate branch detailing and scalloped edging. It’s a quirky piece from the 1960s, but it got me wondering – what other kinds of blue and white rooster plates are out there? Is this a niche that I’ve overlooked in all my rooster love?

The joys of Etsy are myriad and their rooster selection is quite eclectic. Decorative plates abound from incredibly detailed to free-form designs that vaguely look like fowl. There are full color plates, red rooster plates, blue and white rooster plates, plates that are actually shaped like roosters (or rooster heads), and even a clever rooster plate meant to hold deviled eggs. That’s what I call a specialized piece!

The personality behind some of these truly unique rooster plates reminds me of the ceramics by Gorky Gonzalez. The blue and white rooster is proud in its octagonal serving dish; it seems almost a shame to cover him with salad or another delicious main dish. My customers also love the companion blue and white rooster bowl as wall decoration, adding rustic charm to the kitchen.

But for those who like ceramic wall plates with more color, look no further than the playful little rooster plate by Ceramiche Bartoloni. These rainbow-tailed roosters are bright and cheerful, adding an authentic Italian charm to the table or wall.  The colorful Gorky rooster bowl also looks great displayed upright in a shelf or while serving a fun Mexican-inspired meal.

No matter your preference, when it comes to the decorative plate, here’s to finding the pieces that fit exactly what you’re looking for, whether that means roosters or some other animal-themed ceramic wall plate. What plate, bowl or mug theme are you currently on the hunt for? Comment below with your favorite design themes.

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New Year, New Growth in Ceramic Flower Pots

morning in the garden . . .Happy New Year! It’s the time of year we make optimistic resolutions, invest in new gym memberships and generally pursue good intentions for at least 6 weeks until old habits kick in. Change is good, of course, but drastic and dramatic changes in our daily routine are hard to sustain. So how to make 2012 get off to a fresh start that will actually last past February (and doesn’t involve the gym every 12 hours)?

Changing our environment is a great way to make a sustained impact this year. So think green. Literally. With ceramic flower pots and beautiful plants you can instantly alter your environment, bringing lush vibrancy to any room in the home or even brighten up the office. Decorative pottery is always an easy way to change the tone of a space, so add plants to the mix for a more dynamic personal touch.

If you don’t have a green thumb, don’t worry. “Greenifying” your home doesn’t require extensive gardening knowledge. Start maybe with some bulbs in ceramic flower pots – buy them at your favorite florist while they’re blooming and stick the whole pot into a piece of decorative pottery (like the round Paloma planter).

There are lots of hardy ferns and vines that only need minimal watering and look fantastic in the square hidalgo planter. The black and white is incredibly striking with green.

Succulents are another low-maintenance way to fill ceramic flower pots. An oval planter, round ceramic flower pot, or rectangle shape fits several different plants, creating a miniature garden with cacti, air-plants, aloe, and other curious shapes with names too long for me to remember. I love the air-plants at Paxton Gate here in San Francisco, they can go anywhere from wall to centerpiece.

Plants help filter the air and are cited in studies for everything from helping with fatigue to making people feel happy and focused. If you work in an office, hang this great ceramic planter by Richard Esteban on your cubical or office wall with a cascading vine or lush fern. Or add the square hidalgo planter to a corner of your desk. If your bathroom gets enough light, add a small ceramic flower pot or two there as well for a bit of color in an often lifeless space. Orchids thrive in the humid environment your showers create, making them easy to care for.

No matter what you fill your ceramic flower pots with, here’s to a happy, thriving, and green new year for all!

Plant image courtesy of hortulus.

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Need a Great Gift Idea? Try Red Plates and Platters!

it's raining presents
I’ve been getting the pop-up shop ready for holiday hustle and bustle, so gift giving has definitely been on my mind. I know that holiday entertaining is another key part of December, but gifts are sometimes harder to plan and execute. Who are the people on your list that are hard to buy for? A boss, coworker, child’s teacher, or your in-laws perhaps. Every year I see people solving these and other tricky gifting dilemmas with handmade ceramics, often paired with thoughtful accessories aimed to please. Top favorites? Plates, ceramic serving platters, and serving dishes.

Here are my top tips for plate gifts from red plates to ceramic serving platters– I hope they’ll inspire your giving this month!

  • Host a cookie swap. This holiday party trend is so smart – everyone makes their favorite cookies then meet to exchange the results, going home with a vast array of homemade treats in the end to eat or give to others. Have guests bring along recipe cards (or gather them electronically) and provide other snacks and drinks so that you don’t overload on sugar. A red plate like this modern serving platter by Gorky Gonzalez strikes the perfect festive note for your favorite treats. Or give a red plate as a gift with a delicious cookie array on it to inspire future delicious use.

  • Sweet like candy. Of course, cookies aren’t the only sweet ofWould you like some fudge? choice. Candies, whether homemade or from your favorite confectioner, are another go-to gift that are sure to please anyone with a sweet tooth. For a great boss gift, load up this long red platter with fudge or another favorite sweet and wrap it in clear plastic with a festive bow. The result can be kept on the desk to share with others or taken home, using the functional ceramic serving platter for future entertaining.
  • Growing gifts. Does your mother-in-law like to garden? Give her seed packets on a stack of salad plates so that she can grow her own salad in the summer months. Planters are another good choice for those who love to garden indoors or out, perhaps given with a beautiful potted plant or flower.
  • Simple pampering. Soaps, lotions, body wash, and other such items can be perfect presents for friends. Save body products from being mundane by giving them on a long serving platter. The blue and white looks great in the kitchen or bathroom and gives your gift a more personal touch.

  • Favorite snacks. Plates are used for eating, so load up ceramic serving platters with delicious foods. Items that keep like jam and jelly are always a good bet, or try cheese (I love Cowgirl Creamery‘s selection) and salumi from Boccalone. This can be an excellent combination of hostess gift and party contribution that is sure to please.

Falling gifts image courtesy of Harsh Patel.

Fudge image courtesy of Jolene Van Laar.

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Displaying Your Favorite Italian Plates

One of the best things about ceramics is their ability to combine function with art. A masterfully-painted design you can eat off! That said, there are some plates and platters you would rather just look at – I grew up with handpainted Italian plates like these on my parents’ walls. Wall plates are making a comeback in the decorating world. And there’s no law that says if you display your favorite Italian plates on the wall you can’t take them down to use them when the need arises.

There are many ways to display your favorite handpainted Italian plates (or really any plates you want to decorate with). Here are my quick tips for making your wall plates shine.

  • Use the Right Tools. A v-shaped hanger is best for delicate or antique plates, recommends Martha Stewart. Spring-loaded hangers are another option, but the best wall plates already have holes in them: that’s one of the things I love about these Italian plates from Tuscia d’Arte. You can use strong monofilament or wire for security and hang from a picture hook strong enough for your plates’ weight.
  • Go Beyond the Wall. Of course, you don’t have to display wall plates on a wall. Italian plates make a great addition to a sideboard, table, or cabinet when displayed upright on small plate easels. These little display helpers come in a variety of colors and sizes to match your style and plate size. Layer Italian plates with other objects like candles, pitchers, pictures, or other art for personalized decorating.
  • Be Creative in Groupings. A single plate can be beautiful, but a collection of Italian plates packs a decorative punch. Arrange wall plates in columns flanking a mirror, in clusters above a table, over a doorway, or on dedicated plate shelves or racks. Pick plate shelves (they have a groove in them that keeps plates from slipping) that compliment your existing décor and finishes as well as sets off the colors in your wall plates.
  • Think about Scale. A single tiny Italian plate over a fireplace looks lost, but a collection with multiple platters and plates fits the space nicely. Use smaller plates for smaller spaces, like this interestingly shaped Italian plate that compliments a houseplant on an end table. Large pieces need space around them to prevent a cluttered feeling.

  • Mix it Up. Rotate your hanging plates for a quick décor refresher, perhaps seasonally or whenever the fancy strikes. Don’t feel like your plates need to completely match either: groupings that have a common color, shape, or style make for even more attractive decoration.
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New Tabletop Trend: Decorative Ceramic Plates

What’s trending on your tabletop? Do you love a massive centerpiece or a more subdued minimalist design? It’s probably no surprise that I’m a big fan of hand painted dinner plates blended with other personal accents to make a unique statement. And recently I’ve noticed that more and more restaurants are using decorative ceramic plates, vases, and colorful table linens to punch up the dining experience.

I recently read this great article on tabletop trends for restaurants at FE&S. Tabletops really set the tone for a restaurant, whether it’s bare wood and paper napkins or crisp white table clothes and polished silver utensils. More and more restaurants are moving to unique statements with decorative ceramic plates instead of boring white china. Ready to up your dinner party ante? Let’s look at some trends you can take from restaurant tables and put into your own home.

Prioritize Plateware. Presentation of food isn’t just how it’s arranged on the plate, but the plate itself. Restaurants are moving towards more playful and unique small plates for things like dessert or appetizers instead of sticking to a uniform (and boring) white. A natural artisan style is great for small plate restaurants like chef Stephanie Izard’s Girl and the Goat in Chicago. Here they use hand painted plates to enhance both décor and food. In your home, choose decorative ceramic plates for both fun accents and main dishes; the durability of majolica means they’ll last for years to come.

Match Plates to Food. Restaurants want to amp up their “wow” factor when it comes to presentation and part of that is having the right size plate for the job. If you serve an individual appetizer on a full size dinner plate it will look lost and lonely. Think about large bowls, platters, and decorative ceramic plates for serving with style while small plates work great for salads or individual desserts. Layering hand painted ceramic plates is another great way to add texture to your table.

Shapes Matter. I love using plates and bowls that have a surprising shape. Visual interest is increased with variety, so mix decorative ceramic plates that are square, rectangular, and oval. Octagonal plates by Gorky Gonzalez are a great addition for serving a special dessert.

Less is More. A cluttered table can seem overwhelming. Minimal trends in restaurants like bare tables with textured placemats work great in the home, letting you focus on the details. Try bar towels for napkins, high quality silverware with striking design, and maybe a hand-painted pitcher of water or wine.