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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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Chevrons and Zig Zags: Designs with Staying Power

Lilies on Chevron
Bold, graphic, and classy, the zig zag pattern and chevron craze is definitely not just a 2011 phenomenon. From shower curtains to rugs, and pillows to chevron ceramics, (like lamps and flower vases), there are many ways to incorporate this great print into your life and home in a way that doesn’t feel trendy. Here are some of my favorites:

Chevrons in your hands: The many iPhone cases out there are truly staggering, but these great zig zag, stripe, and other patterned cases featured on Look Linger Love are a class above. You can even get them personalized! How’s that for stylish and unique?

Zig Zags on the wall: I saw this clever chevron wall treatment featured on Made By Girl as Jen transitions to apartment living. Even if it’s a rental, why not invest in a statement with great wallpaper (there are so many removable options on the market now) or a stunning accent wall? Green Your Decor has a fabulous list of other places to make chevrons vertical: curtains, shower curtains, and even paintings are flexible ways to enliven a space large or small.

Chevrons good enough to eat: That’s right, edible zig zags are here. This pattern looks stunning on a modern wedding cake by My Sweet and Saucy. The grey on white is subtle, the overall effect clean.

Illuminating zig zags: Why let the walls have all the fun? A zig zag ceramic table lamp, like this black and white lamp by Talavera Vazquez, is a fun and practical piece. Whether by the bed or in the living room, you’ll literally enlighten your current décor. If chevrons are too much, try a striped ceramic table lamp or a patterned blue and white lamp.

DIY chevrons: My newest blog discovery, The House of the Smiths has a lot of great DIY tutorials, and I love this one about making a chevron rug perfect for spring. Who knew zig zags could be “beachy”?! Like to knit? This Missoni-inspired chevron pattern by Zakka Life is fun for a scarf or blanket. With a stencil or tape, you can make almost anything chevron.

Zig zag patterned home décor: Whether a large blue zig zag ginger jar or chevron blue vase, I love combining the boldness of zig zags with the subtlety of blue and white. Chevron pillows, chairs, and rugs represent great textile versions of this combination, like these examples by Platinum Blonde Life. Chevron tall vases, zig zag wine bottle holders, ceramic canisters, and even planters are all ways big and small to join the fun.

What’s your favorite way to use chevron or zig zag patterns? Leave a comment and let us know.

Yellow chevron image courtesy of maureen lunn.

iPhone case image courtesy of Look Linger Love.

Chevron cake image courtesy of My Sweet and Saucy.

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Polka Dots: A Trend to Love

I love polka dots!

Polka dots continue to wow us, both in fashion and home décor. Cheerful and fun, large and small, you can find polka dot mugs, dresses, wallpapers, French ceramics and just about any accessory you can think of. I even saw some polka dot sunglasses the other day.

While sporting polka dots is the trend this winter, it’s important to use moderation, says chicology. Instead of an entire ensemble, use polka dots as a fun accent: a skirt, a hat, even a chic scarf or umbrella. Perhaps it was the overkill of polka dots that lead to chatter about Rihanna’s new video looking a little too much like photographer Sølve Sundsbø’s work. Dappled in dots, the star is striking, but so are the photos from a 2008 editorial shoot Sundsbø did for Numero, as the side-by-side comparison on Fashionista points out. Just goes to show that you can still get creative with polka dots (and the value of giving credit where credit is due).

Home décor is another area where polka dots shine, from kitchen wares to furniture. French ceramics by artists like Richard Esteban are playful with their bold polka dots. The polka dot mugs, bowls, ceramic serving platters, plates, pitchers, and hanging planters make it easy to add a splash of polka dots to your décor without going too overboard.

But why be subtle? The bold patterning of polka dot wallpaper can really turn a room into a statement, says Decorators Best. Try a simple two-color print, or you can get more crazy with multicolor dots on a plain background (great for a kid’s room). Graphic black and white polka dots look modern, while a subtle grey and white adds just a hint of texture and sophistication. Generally there’s something simple and sweet about polka dots on textiles that keeps it fun no matter what.

My favorite place to see polka dots remains the kitchen. Lighthearted polka dot mugs or coffee bowls are a great way to start any day, whether it’s with your favorite hot beverage or cereal. The butter yellow ceramic serving platter with multicolored dots dresses up any party. And the new midnight polka dot pitcher is a real knock-out. With the whimsy of these French ceramics, it’s easy to make every day just a little brighter.

Polka dot image courtesy of {AndreaRenee}.

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Ginger Jar Lamps: Illuminating Design and Functionality

Ginger jars are a decorating staple I’m seeing in more and more chic interiors. Great lines and a definite presence along with the wide variety of designs and bold colors makes ginger jars (known as tibores in Mexico) perfect for a console table, shelf, or even flanking entryways and staircases. The Pajaro Tibor, an extra large ginger jar by Talavera Vazquez is particularly striking on a patio — adding instant and festive flair.

But sometimes you need pieces that are both functional and beautiful, like ginger jar table lamps. Bold and bright, ceramic ginger jar lamps literally light up a room. It’s no surprise that people are talking about how much they love them. To The Tens mentioned ceramic ginger jar lamps in a recent post as a great accent or gift (for a hostess or yourself) and I couldn’t agree more. Fun and functional, ginger jar table lamps help make a room feel cozy with accent lighting that creates depth and warmth perfect for a living room or bedroom.

The current trend is a pair of ginger jar lamps flanking a bed. I got an email from Carol, a customer in Kentucky, who got a pair of the burnt orange zigzag lamps. “They are just beautiful. I e-mailed a picture to Krisia, my architect. She said, ‘They make me happy, do they make you happy?’ … We are all about fun, and we’re having it, for sure.”

There’s nothing better than hearing from people who love their ceramics enough to write and tell me about it! I love the idea of helping people make their homes truly their own.

Want some more reasons to add a ginger jar lamp (or two) to your home? Try the Las Flores lamp for festive yet relaxed sophistication. This ceramic ginger jar lamp with its blue and white is popular for living rooms: its charm is hard to beat, particularly on a stylish side table.

Size matters too, so if regular ginger jar table lamps are too big for your space, try a small blue and white ginger jar lamp instead. Same design power, smaller footprint in your decor. Don’t forget to top off ginger jar lamps with a stylish shade that compliments your style as well as the lamp itself. With so many different colors and designs, here’s to seeing more and more ginger jar lamps in 2012.

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Blog Round Up: Planters


Green thumbs unite! Ceramic planters are a favorite with so many gardeners and it’s easy to see why. Planters made from earthenware (aka ceramic planters) keep soil moist longer — perfect for those of us who forget to water. And they provide a sturdy base for our favorite plants, from ferns to flowers to vegetables. At Emilia Ceramics, we love ceramic planters for their decorative flair as well. But we’re not the only ones… Let’s check out why people love ceramic planters in 2011, for our last blog round up of the year.

Fresh American loves planters with style, indoor and out. Whether a zig zag planter or a huge cube for small shrubs and trees, it’s important to match your planter to its contents. Check to make sure there’s enough space for adequate roots when choosing a ceramic planter. It’s best to find a ceramic planter with a hole for drainage, but you can always add a layer of rocks or gravel to keep your roots from getting too wet. Other planter ideas range from DIY to statement pieces for your patio, porch, or even living room and kitchen.

Of course, you don’t have to use a zig zag planter for just plants. The Jet Set Gypsy thinks the oval striped planter pictured above would look great filled with limes for margarita making and I tend to agree. Ceramic planters are perfect places for fruits, mail, or even stylish office supply storage on a desk.

Of course, fun patterns are one of the reasons to love handmade ceramic planters. This Designers Palette loves chevron ginger jars, but I can see a similar design statement with a wonderfully graphic planter. Want something a little more warm or organic? This rustic Italian ceramic planter, like many others by Ceramiche Bartoloni, is gorgeous for either starting out seedlings or housing daffodils and other favorite flowers.

Let’s not forget wall planters either. For trailing vines or a decorative display of seasonal flowers, hanging ceramic planters are another colorful way to create a garden inside and out. Blue and white, polka dot, or multicolored planters make any wall space instantly more green in the summer and add interest during dreary winters.

It’s been an especially popular year for zig zag planters; In fact, at Emilia Ceramics we’ve recently sold out — who knew zig zag planters would be such popular gifts this holiday season?! More are on the way, but with stripes, prints, polka dots, fruits, and other motifs for ceramic planters, it’s easy to find one that matches your style as we transition from 2011 to 2012.

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Easy Black and White Kitchen Décor

black and white kitchenWhat’s your kitchen décor theme? While Italian countryside, French chic, American rustic, and others inspired by favorite cuisine or region are always popular choices, the appeal of sleek, modern design is also hard to resist. And what says contemporary décor better than black and white? The hallmark of modernity, black and white has rightly remained a classic color pairing that looks superb in the kitchen.

One of the advantages of black and white is that you can bring in another color for a bold accent that really stands out. Bright red pops with black and white, invoking the great look of a 50’s retro dinner or contemporary minimalism, depending on the style of accents. Cobalt blue remains a popular addition to black and white, but I’ve seen fabulous things done with everything from grey to bright green for truly unique kitchen décor.

Want some easy ways to bring black and white into your kitchen? Black and white floor tiles, cabinets, and countertops are all great places to create this stark simplicity. However, you can also channel the modern design feel with neutral colored furnishings as a back-drop for a few well-placed black and white accents, from butter dishes to vases. Here are some of my favorite accents for kitchen décor that’s both dramatic and dynamic in its design.

Black and white butter dishes. Keep butter at room temperature for easy spreading and add a decorative note to the table or counter with a black and white butter dish. Instead of having this practical piece fade into the background, a black and white butter dish adds personality and a touch of contemporary décor, like our festive Hidalgo pattern by Talavera Vazquez.

Black and white spoon rests. There’s nothing worse than getting tomato sauce all over your stove. But spoon rests keep those ladles, wooden spoons, whisks, and spatulas under control. Use a black and white spoon rest on the counter or stove top for easy cleaning with style.

Black and white trivets. Hot plates or trivets are another way to inject flair into black and white kitchen décor. Who has time for plain ceramic tiles or cork mats? Mix it up with a black and white trivet that looks great as a centerpiece when it isn’t mealtime and matches other black and white pieces by Talavera Vazquez.

Black and white wine bottle holders. A favorite host gift, wine bottle holders are practical additions to any kitchen, keeping bottles cool and your table free from drips. A black and white wine bottle holder can also hold utensils or even flowers on the countertop, making it a super versatile piece.

Black and white vases. Add fresh flowers to your kitchen table, window, or counter with sweet black and white vases. I love this black and white vase for the kitchen (in the photo with little yellow flowers) — the stripes are fun and it’s small enough not to get in the way of the chef. A great fusion of beauty and style into modern design.

Kitchen image courtesy of Thekitchendesigner.org.

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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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Blog Round Up: Ceramic Vases

There’s nothing like a bouquet of fresh flowers to instantly brighten a room. Of course, choosing the right vase can make or break a floral arrangement, from a dramatic centerpiece vase to small accents with bud vases. The best vases also hold their own when empty, adding a decorative punch to any room in the home.

Since everyone’s talking about the holidays, let’s not forget that vases make great gifts — people can always use another interesting shape or size in their collection. Colorful vases or plain, they are definitely a design staple. So to continue our blog round up series on great design in 2011, let’s look at who else loves vases in all their gorgeous forms.

Stripes. Black and white stripes are definitely a hallmark of 2011, coming off the runway and into the home. Design Muse called it “jailbird chic,” while The Swell Life suggested using black and white striped accents to decorate for Halloween (love it!). Of course, stripes don’t have to just be black and white – one of my favorite pieces is the blue striped vase by Talavera Vazquez. It’s definitely a centerpiece vase, holding its own whether empty or full of sunflowers, tulips, or roses.

Shape. Curved, linear, or squat, the variety of vase shapes is matched only by the variety of flowers to put in them. DesignLike featured both short and tall ceramic vases in their review of the best handmade pieces to use at home and give as gifts. Elle Decor loved the simplicity of the blue striped simple vase – it’s great for a small bouquet and doubles beautifully as a toothbrush or pen holder. If you’re into interestingly shaped vases, the round Paloma vase is a great addition to any vase collection. This blue ceramic vase lends itself well to flowers that spill out over the rim, like daisies or mixed wildflowers.

Decorative Prowess. Of course, vase centerpieces have long been a decorating staple. Use bold pieces like tall ceramic vases to create an attractive table for a dinner party or everyday sophistication. Atmosphere Interior Design talks about vases as a stylish kind of “chachka”, something worth displaying or collecting. The Morsel Designs loves blue as a dominating decorating color, featuring blue and white vases filled with blue hyacinths.

Speaking of blue and white, I couldn’t agree more with guest writer Mackenzie from Design Darling when she talked on Look Linger Love about the great combination of navy blue and hot pink — not to mention the fact that she featured the Emilia Ceramics blue zigzag vase and blue striped vase as the perfect additions to this decorating scheme.

I know that I’ll be giving some gorgeous vases this year as gifts, now just to decide which ones!

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Preparing for the Pop-Up Shop!

This will be the third year that Emilia Ceramics opens a pop-up shop for the holiday season. You’d think I would know exactly what I was doing by now, but the truth is that the challenges involved in opening a retail store never get easier. But I do feel less overwhelmed this time around and a lot more excited. I cannot wait to have this lovely shop filled with pottery, set up my Christmas tree, turn on some good tunes, and start interacting with customers! That’s always my favorite part — getting to talk with shoppers who share a passion for handmade and hand-painted ceramics. I often meet world travelers who are familiar with the ceramic artists I work with, or have suggestions of others I should meet the next time I’m abroad. Nothing beats the affirmation of watching as customers fall in love with a special vase from the Emilia Ceramics collection or discover the perfect gifts for family and friends. It makes all the effort of setting up a pop-up shop worth it!

This year Emilia Ceramics will be at Town & Country Village in Palo Alto. We are in space #37 which has most recently held Scandia Down. For those that know the shopping center, it is on the opposite side of the building from Peet’s, Jamba Juice, and Hobee’s, situated between Ambassador’s Toys and Kara’s Cupcakes. Here’s a map.

We are moving in next week and will be open by next Saturday, December 10th. Our hours will be 10am – 6pm Monday through Saturday and 11am – 5pm on Sunday.

There is more information available on the Emilia Ceramics Website.

I will be updating the Emilia Ceramics Blog in the coming weeks with photos from the new shop. Stay tuned and if you’re in the neighborhood, please come visit!!

In the meantime, here are a few photos from the Emilia Ceramics shops in the past two years to whet your appetite!

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Countdown to Holiday Parties with Mexican Ceramics

Can you believe it’s already December? After the shopping frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, now we hit the fun part of this time of year: holiday entertaining. Cocktail parties, sit-down dinners, and cookie swaps vie for the round of work and family parties, leaving us ready to put our feet up come January.

Here, we’ve put together some original ideas to help you entertain with style. Plus, we have suggestions for memorable host gifts to bring to events outside your home. Here’s a countdown of Mexican ceramics with flair – they’re perfect for holiday entertaining, whether an intimate dinner or blow out bash.

5. Platters. Start off a party right with delicious appetizers arranged on ceramic serving platters. Having food stations spread throughout your home keeps the party from clumping around a central food table and makes food easier to replenish when items get low. Use a rectangular serving tray to keep two-part foods (like spreads and dips) together visually and physically. Large serving platters are great for a spread of meats and cheeses next to fresh bread. Try a rectangular serving tray for vegetable crudities or to showcase sweet treats at meal’s end.

4. Mugs. Warm drinks need the proper equipment, so have festive Mexican ceramic mugs on hand. They’re both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Whether it’s a gran taza filled with hot chocolate as you prepare the night’s meal or mugs filled with spiked coffee after dinner, a mix of mugs means your guests won’t get confused as to whose drink is whose. Mugs also make a great host gift since everyone can find a use for them, no matter their hot drink of choice.

3. Serving dishes. If you’ve been slaving over a gorgeous roast, show it off with the proper ceramic serving dish. An oval serving dish is perfect for meats and the handles make it easy to get it to the table. Ceramic serving platters and dishes are also perfect for centerpieces; this Vazquez serving dish looks fabulous on the table, whether filled with fruit or left empty.

2. Ceramic salad bowls. You need something cool and crisp to compliment a hearty meal, so fill ceramic salad bowls with a mix of greens that goes with everything. A substantial salad bowl can double as the perfect place for chips before dinner or cookies afterwards.

I love this ceramic salad bowl with barely visible handles that make it easy to pass. Because it’s so versatile, this is another Mexican ceramic piece that’s great for gift giving.

1. Trivets. Protect your surfaces in style with colorful Mexican ceramic trivets. These spice up an empty table even before the meal begins; you can mix and match the variety of colors for holiday cheer. Small and portable, these trivets have quickly become a favorite small gift for anyone who loves Mexican ceramics, entertaining, or cooking.

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Blog Round Up: Ginger Jars

Why do so many people love ginger jars? Also called a ceramic urn or tibor (in Spanish), these timeless vessels have definitely been making a splash in the decorating world lately. I love the versatility of ginger jars with a lid when it comes to decorating possibilities: take off the lid and it’s a vase for a stunning bouquet; put the lid back on and it looks perfect on a shelf, end table, or in a favorite nook.

But I’m not the only one who loves ginger jars. Perusing recent posts on design blogs, I’m amazed how many people are talking about ginger jars — from antique Chinese ginger jars to modern tibores by Talavera Vazquez. Here’s a quick roundup of great ginger jar finds; it’s fantastic how they can really work with so many different kinds of home décor. What’s your favorite?

Color. Curated by Color and Love Design are into blue and white. Cooper Grey loves the striking qualities of black and white. Both these combinations feel clean and fresh, no matter the setting from living room to bathroom, entryway to kitchen (or even on the patio). Blue and white can be nautical or sophisticated, black and white minimalist or causal, and ginger jars blend into both of these arresting color schemes easily.

Shape. Is there a difference between temple jars or ginger jars? Houzz explains the subtle difference in these shapes as well as their various uses. What we often call ginger jars have been used to keep the ashes of loved ones, ginger, salt, and other spices. Seaside Style talks about her mother’s collection that started her own obsession with traditional ginger jars. She’s mixed a Chinese ginger jar with seashore-inspired accents as well as more modern piece with antique furniture. I’d also agree with Dressing Rooms about the “timeless elegance” of ginger jars both old and new.

Graphics. Stripes, zig-zags, chevrons, and other organic inspired designs makes for ginger jars that feel modern yet not too edgy or minimalist. Shop Sweet Things loves the variety of patterns available in modern ginger jars. California Home and Design adores chevrons and mentions pottery ginger jars as an easy way to incorporate this pattern into your home without being overwhelming. And Jen Ramos of Made By Girl keeps one on her office bookshelf as a stylish graphic counterpoint to her collection of bookends, vases, and other great art work. So many uses for ginger jars, so little time!

Look for more blog roundups as we finish up 2011, definitely a year of great design.

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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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Italian-ize Your Holiday Entertaining

Can you believe that Thanksgiving is next week? The entertaining season has officially begun and will not wind down until New Year’s, so it’s time to take a deep breath and get ready to party! From blue Italian vases to fun rooster serving ware, having the right accents for a dinner party (or any gathering) will help make it an instant success. One of my secrets is to use the festive colors of Tuscan ceramics to bring instant warmth to any space. By making your guests feel warm and comfortable, you ensure that your party is a success.

At our upcoming family gatherings, there are three pieces that will definitely get a lot of use: Tuscan pitchers, Italian vases, and, serving platters. Here’s a quick rundown of how this trifecta of entertaining essentials can help your next party be something you actually enjoy as well.

Tuscan Pitchers

Big or small, pitchers are super versatile, being both decorative and functional. Larger ones are perfect for serving wine or water at the table. A Tuscan pitcher allows your favorite red to breathe and keeps a chilled white cool on the table. Not only does it add an element of Euro-cool to your party, it also keeps wine from dripping down the bottle and onto your special tablecloth.  

Having friends over for brunch? Fill up the rooster pitcher from Ceramiche Bartoloni with mimosas to start the day off right; it also handles milk or plain orange juice with Tuscan flair. Use smaller Tuscan pitchers to create a relaxed accent with a simple bouquet. I love having one on the kitchen counter for an unexpected splash of color that still feels natural in the space.

Italian Vases

I always have fresh flowers when I have company over; whether it’s a truly stunning bouquet or multiple smaller, single color arrangements, flowers make for a conversation piece at a fancy cocktail party or informal get-together.

Large Italian vases support the stems of robust flowers beautifully. Of course, these statement-making Italian vases look great empty too, perfect on a shelf or side table.

I like arranging buds in small Italian vases to add color to the table without blocking the view for your guests. These bud vases also make fantastic hostess gifts –  adding a sweet touch of Tuscany to a bathroom counter or bedside table.

Italian Serving Platters

What’s a party without well-plated food? Having the perfect serving platter for your hors d’oeuvres encourages guests to nibble at will and shows off that great cheese you found or those tarts you slaved over. I like using unusual shapes of serving platters and visually enticing colors to really show off the menu. This year, why not use a large Italian serving platter for slices of turkey after you carve the Thanksgiving bird? Of course, they work well with any kind of roast meat year-round.

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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.

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Creative Gardening with Blue and White Planters

For those of you with a green thumb, fall brings a whole new phase for gardening. If you live in a cold winter climate, it’s time to tuck everything in that will winter over as well as bring inside your outdoor planters. Fall is also the time to plant bulbs, like daffodils, tulips, crocuses, and hyacinths. One method is to just push as many bulbs into the ground as possible, says The Vancouver Sun Blog In the Garden. By March and April, these colorful flowers will show up, making any garden bright and Spring-ready.

But what if you don’t have space outdoors for a bulb garden? I love this article’s ideas about bulb novelty planting – suggesting decorative and creative ways to showcase bulbs, like putting them in shoes, blue and white planters, even designer shopping bags!

Bulbs in planters let you move them around as well as make unexpected accents on your patio or porch. All you need for container gardening is adequate drainage and enough room for the plant to grow, so bulbs really are just the beginning of your imaginative gardening. I’ve seen red, green, blue, and white planters used to add contrast to roses, ferns, even vegetables! I like how planters work in all kinds of environments, from apartment window boxes to accenting a sprawling home garden.

Ready to make your own bulb planter? Plant bulbs pointy side up and make sure to put them deep enough in the ground. You can choose a wide variety of flowers, either filling your blue and white planter with only bright scarlet tulips or mixing different colors, sizes, and types. Miniature varieties would work well in a hanging or wall planter. Think too about planting tall flowers in the center of a round or square planter, with shorter ones around the edges for maximum appeal.

I’ve talked before about some different ideas for blue and white planters; it’s a color combination I can’t get enough of. My herb garden is still going strong, but why not think about creating a living spring bouquet in a favorite blue and white planter of your own? Happy fall planting!

Tulip image courtesy of Duncan Harris.

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Favorite Recipes to Fill Ceramic Salad Bowls

I love parties. Throwing them, going to them, it doesn’t matter. A friend’s potluck bash got me thinking recently about all the things I could make to share with a crowd. Making food for parties is totally different than cooking for yourself. For example, I wouldn’t be apt to make a dip to eat myself, but if some guests are coming over, I might make some humus, guacamole, onion dip, or fresh salsa to go along with pita or tortilla chips. I also love the excuse to pull out some Mexican or Italian ceramic chip & dip dishes and class up the entire experience. Dip bowls are just too appealing to pass up!

But what about uses for other Italian serving dishes? A ceramic salad bowl is versatile for lots of dishes from salads to soups to pasta. This tortilla salad recipe from 101 Cookbooks looks delicious and would be great served in a huge ceramic salad bowl. I love salads that use something besides lettuce for the base, whether beans or unusual greens.

Italian serving platters are great for meat dishes, appetizers or even desserts. A juicy roast, delightful canapés, cookies… I’m getting hungry! I find that when you have all these Italian serving dishes around you start looking for more excuses to use them. It makes daily meals just a little more gourmet as a result, just as with any other exciting new kitchen tool.

But back to the potluck dilemma. With all my Italian bowls in the kitchen, I was finally inspired to make a pesto pasta salad. Fresh basil from the farmer’s market really makes it a taste sensation, especially with fresh broccoli and squash. The empty bowl at the end was a testament to the fact that I’d made the right choice. Try my friend Andy’s recipe below and see what you think for yourself. It’s great on pasta both hot and cold; you can use any leftovers to make delicious omelets or jazz up scrambled eggs.

Pesto Recipe

2 cups fresh basil leaves

2 garlic gloves (lightly crushed)

1/2 cup olive oil

2 Tb pine nuts

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2-3 Tb freshly grated pecorino cheese

Blend first 5 ingredients in a blender or food processor. Incorporate cheeses by hand when blended.

I’d love to know what recipes you use to fill your ceramic salad bowls – please post comments with recipes or links to good cooking websites you like!

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Simple Touches of Tuscany for Any Home

Every year about this time I long for a trip to Tuscany. For starters, there’s the Tuscan Sun Festival with its incredible array of concerts, art, food, and celebration of both the local and international community. I like how this festival was begun as a way to bring like-minded people together and how it continues this celebration in such a warm, welcoming part of the world. Perhaps I’ll make it next summer…

But even if I’m not in Italy right now, I can savor little bits of it in my home. Tuscan décor is known for reflecting the values of the people who live there; it’s tactile, welcoming, and yet rooted in tradition. It evokes a homey vibe, with lots of flexibility for individual character and quirks. That said, it is not surprising that Tuscan décor is a popular choice for kitchens and dining rooms.

There are some beautiful homes entirely done in Tuscan style, like this one I saw in House Beautiful recently. The gorgeous wood, attention to detail, and soaring architectural details make this home truly stunning. What strikes me about this home in particular is its mix of styles and periods, enabling it to reflect Tuscan style within a truly comfortable space.

So how can you bring a little of Tuscany into your home without doing a complete redesign? Here are three tips for incorporating Tuscan décor into your entire home, from kitchen to living room.

  1. Raw materials: Tuscan homes are built to be used, so incorporate hard-working and rustic materials like stone, wood, wrought iron, and ceramic into the space. Surfaces are tactile and inviting, so continue the comfortable feel with touchable fabrics and textures.
  2. Deep, rich colors: From blues and greens to browns and golds, the colors of Tuscan décor reflect the landscape of the region. Capture this organic influence in dark wood and richly colored ceramics, like Tuscan vases and serving ware. The glazes used to decorate Tuscan ceramics are made from all natural mineral pigments, resulting in a wonderful interplay between the land and the beautiful artwork that comes from it.
  3. Functional Beauty: Tuscan décor has a rustic elegance about it that makes it not just beautiful to look at, but to use as well. Take Tuscan vases: these vessels don’t just hold flowers, they compliment them, with rich colors and whimsical designs that add to the floral arrangement. The playful motifs you see on most Tuscan ceramics, like animals, fruits, flowers, and harlequin characters, reflect this interplay between joyful living and everyday function. From big to small, every Tuscan ceramic piece is packed with personality, bringing a touch of authentic Italian warmth into your home.

Tuscan balcony image courtesy of Star5112.

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Be Fashion-Forward with Black and White Home Decor

I know it came out in March, but I just heard about the documentary Bill Cunningham New York — it looks super interesting for anyone who loves fashion. The valiant New York Times fashion photographer combs the streets taking photos of what people are actually wearing right now. “I’ve said many times that we all get dressed for Bill,” says Anna Wintour, editor in chief of American Vogue, and just by looking at the body of his work, this isn’t an outrageous claim at all. The New York Times review of the film likens him to a war photographer, running to get the shot and capture a little slice of humanity.

Cunningham’s “On the Street” photo presentations are fantastic — just check out this one about black and white stripes taking over summer streets. The graphic nature of this summer’s popular black and white, he says, is “marvelous to photograph.” And with the resulting montage of black and white umbrellas, maxi dresses, long skirts, and accessories, it’s easy to see why.

Crisp, clean, and always eye-catching, black and white is a classic in both fashion and home decorating. So how can you incorporate this trendy-yet-timeless look into your personal style?When it comes to decorating, I love black and white vases and ginger jars. Bold graphic prints that pop, like these black and white vases by Talavera Vazquez, make a perfect addition to any room. I recommend displaying black and white vases in a room with strong reds or blues around it. They also make a striking gift, perhaps complete with a bouquet.

As Cunningham says, black and white stripes have been building for the past few years, and now have reached a crescendo. So why keep all the style inside? Black and white planters compliment the vibrant colors and textures of plants with a touch of elegance. If black and white stripes or zigzags are a little too eye-catching for your patio or porch, try the softness of a traditional floral design like this black and white planter.

Of course, sleek lines and crisp edges are hallmarks of black and white. That’s one of the things I love about the shapes of my black and white collection with its vases, lamps, planters, and platters. And unlike clothing with bold black and white horizontal stripes, you don’t have to worry about how your ceramics will look on your hips; they’re always flattering!

Movie poster image courtesy of Alejandro De La Cruz.

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6 Unique Uses for Your Gorgeous Ceramic Bowls

How do you make delicious food even more appealing? Serve it in something gorgeous. Unique dishware, like a handmade blue and white bowl or serving platter, adds flair to any table. Whether it’s a family dinner, cocktail party or casual barbecue… any get-together is made more festive when decorative details are included – how do you think Martha Stewart built her empire?

When it comes to serving and eating from ceramics, I am especially drawn to unique bowls. Maybe it’s the round shape, so lovingly thrown by hand on a potter’s wheel. Or maybe its the various uses for bowls, which differ from one culture to the next. Mexican ceramic bowls, French coffee bowls, Italian pasta bowls, really bowls of all shapes, sizes, and origins cry out to be brought home and enjoyed. And because I believe it is important to really use these beautiful vessels, here are some creative ways to get the most of your ceramic bowl collection.

  • Drinks. French coffee bowls are an obvious choice for a large café crème or a chocolat chaud. Nothing beats dipping a fresh croissant into your favorite warm beverage of choice. Then again, I know kids who love having their chocolate milk served in a bowl – it always seems bigger that way.

  • Fruit. I love the complimentary beauty of citrus fruit displayed in blue and white bowls. Whether its a rustic blue bowl from the south of France or a blue and white floral pattern from Mexico, ceramic bowls are perfect for highlighting the natural beauty of oranges, lemons, and limes.
  • Jewelry. Use mini bowls to keep rings, earrings, or even necklaces. One of my customers told me she uses Mexican ceramic bowls like these by Gorky for her cocktail ring collection.
  • Snacks. If healthy food is readily accessible, you’re more likely to eat it. So why not load up Italian bowls with fresh fruits or nuts for an afternoon pick-me-up? A series of small Mexican ceramic bowls can also be great for serving dips for crunchy vegetables or a trio of salsas for your taco dinner.

  • Salad. A large green or fruit salad really comes to life when you serve it out of a big and beautiful Italian bowl. Traditional pasta dishes are also an obvious way to get the most of a large ceramic bowl. 
  • Dessert. While some may actually use their French coffee bowls for coffee, I am much more apt to use them for ice cream sundaes. Whether Greek yogurt with honey, nuts, and fresh figs, or piping hot cobbler à la mode, an assortment of ceramic bowls compliment a delicious finish to any meal.

Coffee bowl image courtesy of St0rmz.

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‘An American in Paris’ was Only the Beginning: Living Vicariously with French Home Décor and European Design

America has always looked to Europe for the latest trends in fashion and home décor. From gowns by Charles Worth (an Englishman working in Paris) starting the trend for Haute Couture in the 19th century to our modern day fascination with Hermes, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton, European style adds instant cachet. As we know, fashion is more than just clothes, and this influence can be felt in everything from Italian ceramics to French home décor to Scandinavian design.

While looking at all those design blogs, I came across one that bridges the gap across the Atlantic. Decor8 is written by an American currently living in Germany, who brings together inspiring design from these as well as other countries. Her recent trip to Amsterdam made me long to be walking along the canals and eating at the small cafes. I know I’m not alone as an American pining for a European lifestyle that seems synonymous with a relaxed attitude and stylish way of life.

By importing European style, are we also trying to import a way of life? Will using French home décor make my home a small slice of France, complete with long lunches, an appreciation for fine food, and consistently delicious coffee? Or by using Italian ceramics, will I channel Tuscan sunsets, rustic aesthetic, and friendly bonhomie?

Why not? Personally, I think that having a long break at lunch instead of rushing to wolf down a sandwich while trying to catch up on emails is much more civilized. My friends in Paris tell me that more and more the business world there is becoming “Americanized” – I wonder how much the fight for the 35-hour workweek in France was in response to this fear. It seems that everyone associates a better quality of life with Europe, so it makes sense that we’d all like to hold onto it. Europeans do this by setting up safeguards against sweeping changes in lifestyle, Americans by adopting Swedish, Italian or French home décor to create a private European oasis.

So how can you bring some of this European flair to your abode? Draw on inspirations from your own European travels. A mix of fabrics, furniture designs, and accessories (like Spanish and Italian ceramics, Belgian linen, or Swedish lamps) takes what inspires you most about Europe and makes it truly personalized. Whether it’s sleek Scandinavian furniture or ornate Louis XV rococo, Parisian chic or Provencal rustic, French (or Spanish or Danish) home décor is certainly here to stay.

Cafe image courtesy of LenDog64.

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5 Sites for Summer Design Inspiration

With the recent warmth in San Francisco, I’ve actually been making use of my outdoor space (which is quite a novelty). Perhaps Mark Twain never actually said “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco,” but anyone who’s spent the summer here knows that the sentiment still rings true… most of the time.

All this sunshine makes me think of new design ideas and ways I could update the look of my home, both indoors and out. Perhaps it’s time to do some redecorating? Here are some clever and inspiring home designs I’ve come across in my quest for a fresh outlook:

  • Material Girls. A design blog for interior décor, I love the bold colors in this recent post about unique design details that make a space truly out of the ordinary. The striped multicolored floor is incredible, as is the hallway with yellow and white striped walls meeting green chevrons on the floor.
  • Design Mom. In a recent posting, the author ruminates on the modern accessibility of interior design advice. It’s true that with modern communication you can get expert help from anywhere in the world and sometimes having an outsider’s opinion is all you need to get a fresh perspective. Other posts include useful advice and inspiration on places where interior design and motherhood intersect, which is a challenge for many stylish moms I know.
  • Making it Lovely. Slowly transforming a house is a time-consuming process, yet this blog has inspiring tips, photos, and suggestions for every room as the author does it herself. Because I’m a sucker for ceramics and have a little collection myself (cough, cough) I enjoyed her post about how to best arrange a ceramics collection.
  • Apartment Therapy. An old roommate of mine showed me the book years ago and I’ve been addicted ever since. Perfect for summer decorating are these farm inspired ceramic pieces. White minimalism goes with almost every design, so why not add a whimsical egg holder or milk jug cup measure set to your kitchen?
  • Freshome. This site always has the wildest photos and design ideas, ranging from things I could see in my own apartment to totally crazy how-could-you-do-that (yet inspiring) designs. This cheese-inspired staircase is just one example. The round cut outs and child-friendly treads are beautifully thought out, making the stairs more than just a home necessity.

I’m curious about other design sites you are addicted to: any further reading suggestions?

Design collage image courtesy of Bill S. Living room image courtesy of Posh Living, LLC. Office image courtesy of Jeremy Levine.

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Inspired Mexican Tile and Houseware

I’ll admit to occasionally surfing the web looking for inspiring pieces, like Mexican plates or Italian mugs. This week, hankering for some different Mexican painted ceramics, I stumbled upon Tierra Y Fuego. A company that stocks Mexican tile and housewares, I simply must share some of their products with you.

What first struck me were the sinks – one of my favorite examples of authentic Mexican painted ceramics. They offer a huge variety of styles and types: Round, oval, or rectangle, these pieces use Talavera designs in vibrant, bold colors. Why not make hand washing even more exciting with something handcrafted and unique? They add instant personality the bathroom.

Even cooler were the over the counter basin sinks that have hand painting inside and out, truly a visual delight. The hand forged iron stands compliment the rustic component of these Mexican painted ceramics, perfect for a second bathroom or decorative purposes. I dream of having a bathroom someday that incorporates one of these.

Perhaps for the wilder lovers of Mexican painted ceramics are the toilets. That’s right, as in commodes. I had never considered this use of Talavera – they even come with matching sinks for the full package! Definitely statement pieces for any home.

Talavera tile is hugely popular and Tierra Y Fuego certainly showcase a range of these Mexican painted ceramics, all made by hand. They have animals, traditional designs, and even almost Italian flower and flourish patterns. Of course, there’s a wide array of solid color to compliment any of their collection. With a variety of sizes and discounts on bulk orders, you can add color and personality to anywhere in a home from kitchen to bathroom or even a stairway. There’s even ceramic trim and molding – genius!

There are also a variety of Mexican plates in the Talavera style and other smaller items including floor tiles. Be sure to check out the step-by-step process these terra cotta pieces take (with pictures). Looking at their customer reviews, they seem to ship quickly and pack well, always something I look for in a ceramic company. Now, how to figure out how to justify one of those sinks…

All images courtesy of Tierra Y Fuego.

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The Story Behind Gorky Gonzalez Pottery

The story of Gorky Gonzalez has all the necessary ingredients to inspire an epic movie. Young man is inspired by antique artwork, takes a journey across the seas to learn from revered masters, meets his wife, returns to his homeland to rescue a forgotten craft, and passes his prosperous business on to his son. Gorky Gonzalez pottery is world-renowned and it’s easy to see why! Let’s take a deeper look at the story.

In the early 1960s, Gorky Gonzalez discovered an antique piece of pottery in the Majolica style.  The discovery set him on a course that would ultimately lead to the rescue of this forgotten craft, which had been abandoned because of its association with Spain and colonialism after Mexican independence in the 1820’s. In 1965, Gorky won a scholarship to study pottery in Japan under the artists Tsuji Seimei and Kei Fijiwara, considered two of Japan’s living treasures. There he learned the bizen and shigaraki techniques, expanding his ceramic repertoire.

Gorky returned from Japan with his wife Toshiko, who became an integral part of his new pottery business. Now, along with their son (known as Gogo), they have a bustling workshop that has preserved the original, traditional designs from the colonial period. Many say that their studio Alfareria Tradicional is the most important Majolica workshop in Mexico. In 1992, the President of Mexico awarded Gorky the National Award of Sciences and Arts in the field of Popular Art and Traditions for “his exceptional contribution to Mexican popular art.”

What makes Gorky Gonzalez pottery so unique? It melds fun characters with sophisticated techniques and brings together defining elements of Italian, Spanish, Japanese, and Indigenous-Mexican roots. Pieces have appeared in publications and exhibitions worldwide, including a recent appearance at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. Gogo has also created his own line of Gorky pottery in a more contemporary style.

Gorky pottery is handpainted and handmade, so no two pieces are ever exactly identical. They use clay from the nearby Sierra de Santa Rosa (as ceramists have been doing for centuries, even before the Spanish arrival in the 1500’s). I love how Gorky ceramics seamlessly blend traditional and contemporary techniques and styles to make something truly distinctive.

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How Tuscan Food & Decor Can Whet Anyone’s Appetite

Local flavors are key to any cuisine, but if you’re lucky enough to have eaten in Tuscany, you know that it’s full of delicious traditions that are hard to explain if you haven’t tasted them yourself. One of the things I love best about this region of Italy is that simplicity fuses with elegance, both in flavor and presentation of even the most basic dish. It’s no wonder that Tuscan décor inspires so many kitchen designs – who wouldn’t want to emulate the flavor and decor of a region with food that tastes this good?

Aurora Baccheschi Berti discovered the beauty of Tuscan cooking and decorating while vacationing in Tuscany in the 1970s, never realizing she’d ultimately move there, she explains in The Telegraph. She and her husband fell in love with and bought the castle of Vicarello, moving there in the early 1990s and embarking on ten years of restoration work to make it into a true home. I love the way she describes finding “a whole new approach to cooking, where the honest flavours of locally produced ingredients lend even the simplest of traditional dishes an unexpected elegance.”

Obiously emulating true Tuscan décor would be so much easier if we were  surrounded by the land, people, and colors themselves. This is a place where art is living, in a very real sense. Plates, bowls and platters are beautiful but also practical, a philosophy I have always shared.

Just reading the description of the food in this article makes me want to be in Berti’s kitchen. She tells how a local friend and mother figure inspired and taught her to make tortelli: “Using 20 eggs, she would make one immense sheet of pasta – large enough to cover my huge kitchen table. She never measured or weighed a single ingredient.” Perhaps needless to say, her cookbook My Tuscan Kitchen sounds like it’s packed with delicious recipes.

So how to bring some of this Tuscan delight into your own kitchen? The rich blues, greens, and golds that dominate the Tuscan landscape add to any décor. A signature of Tuscan ceramics is their playful motifs: fruits, flowers, animals, and whimsical, comedic characters like those on the traditional harlequin plates. Decorators can give you more professional advice perhaps, but I say it should have a homey vibe, one where you can tell that surfaces and objects are used and loved. Kitchens are where not only food is made but people gather – serving homemade food from a beautifully-painted platter, enjoying coffee from a colorful mug, even using a simple spoon rest as you cook can bring out the Tuscan flavor in your food, your hospitality, and your home, no matter its dominant décor.

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French Country Décor Finds A City Home

It’s amazing what a concerted design effort can do. I was so impressed by the redesign of a loft in a former factory building I saw on ParkslopePatch.com, inspired by French country decor . This family’s transformation of their living space makes it feel like anything but an urban environment! I particularly love the kitchen and dining area, as well as the use of salvaged materials to make a rustic and livable space.

Typically the rich colors of French country decor find inspiration from the mountains to the ocean and all the nature in between. Fibers, wood, and weathered stone inspire warm neutrals. Yellows become more golden; reds have a hint of orange; greens and blues are more mellow than vibrant, reflecting natural aging. There’s an approachability to it that I find truly irresistible.

Here, the weathered furniture and aged feel make this apartment look like a country cottage. Barnwood shelves, a rustic table, even antique tools and other accessories are all unique, yet come together seamlessly. Looking at the photos, I instantly thought about pieces by Sylvie Duriez and how her work would fit the space perfectly.

I love how ceramics from Provenca bring the warmth and brightness of the Mediterranean to the home year-round. Plates, bowls, platters, even jugs and vases keep sunshine present even on rainy days. Another element of Provenca (or Provence if you prefer) is a true connection to the rhythms of life. When there, I feel myself slowing down to match the dominant pace where a good life, not a fast one, is key.

Unique among ceramics from Provenca and what I particularly love about Sylvie Duriez’s work is the relaxed playfulness: Women reclining under trees, cats napping on armchairs, birds feasting on ripe fruit. She paints freely and no two pieces are ever alike, making them true functional works of art. This is quite different from traditional Majolica that follows specific, set designs. Since meeting Sylvie in 2007 I’ve seen her work evolve as she explores inspiring artistic avenues that combine beauty with function. Themes of women, flowers, birds, and other aspects of daily life capture moments to which everyone can relate. The result is pottery that adds warmth and personality to a typical meal – perhaps the best reflection of true Provenca attitude.