05 Oct Five fresh ideas for the family china that nobody wants
“Someone had left their beautiful Franciscan Desert Rose set out next to their trash,” says Davis, 32, who happens to adore old china. “I had to rescue it.”
This unexpected find led Davis to pick up a drill press last year and start the Brooklyn Teacup, a business that takes vintage plates and teacups and upcycles them into tiered cake stands.
Her designs are popular with younger consumers who are often space-strapped and might not otherwise go for the flowery dish sets of past generations. Formal china isn’t a staple in many homes anymore. According to Jeffra Trumpower, a senior creative director at WeddingWire, “Entertaining has become much more casual. Couples are registering for things to make that experience more their own instead of the things that used to define fine dining or entertaining.”
What to do with stacks of dinnerware is a hot issue in many households. The topic swirls through family holiday meal discussions and decluttering forays. Between guilt and sentimentality, many households have trouble releasing their heirloom china.
“I was just at a house today where the woman had nine sets of china,” says Libby Kinkead of Potomac Concierge, which offers downsizing and moving services. When clients protest that they are keeping all of this “in honor of Granny,” Kinkead says she asks them: “How are you honoring your grandmother’s memory by keeping your china sitting in a box in the attic? That’s not honoring anything.”
So what else can you do with heirloom plates and cups? You could take a hammer to them and make the broken pieces into jewelry or a pique assiette mosaic mirror. But that might be too disturbing. Here are five other ideas.
China displayed on a wall. Emily J. Followill — The Washington Post
1. Create a plate wall
Georgia designer James Farmer is a big fan of hanging plates in an arrangement on the wall. “If you can’t use your plates every day, they can become art,” Farmer says. “It’s a beautiful way to celebrate your heritage.” He suggests starting with a larger piece, such as a platter, in the middle as inspiration and hanging the rest around it. He mixes patterns, shapes and sizes and sometimes adds in art for more of a gallery wall look.
Farmer’s method is usually to first arrange plates on the floor or on a tabletop until he is pleased with the look. He takes a photo of the final placement for reference, then puts up the nails and hangs the plates, which he has secured with old-fashioned wire plate hangers. His favorites are Tripar brass-coated plate hangers from Ace Hardware.Sometimes he adds a bit of Collectors Hold Museum Putty to anchor them, especially if plates are hanging near a doorway.
“A lot of people think this is part of a Southern tradition, but it’s very French and English,” Farmer says. “When you’re watching a Jane Austen movie, check out the walls. They are adorned with plates that have been hanging there for hundreds of years.”
Vintage china serving pieces can be used as containers for plants such as orchids and herbs. Cynthia Nouri/Sasha Nicholas
2. Use dishes to deliver a gift
If you must divest yourself of a set of china and you want to feel as though it is going to a good home, take matters into your own hands. Start making host or hostess gift plates, says Kinkead: plates you fill with homemade cookies or bars and bring to your friends and family when you are invited over. Use the cups and saucers to fill with a selection of nice teas, and gift those to your nearest and dearest. If you feel inclined, write a charming note on a gift card describing the provenance of the china.
This can work for presents for housewarmings, baby showers or birthdays. Be creative. If you’re drowning in Spode Christmas Tree plates, give them away during December when others can make use of them as appetizer serving plates.
A Brooklyn Teacup tiered serving dish made of upcycled china is filled with desserts at a garden-inspired brunch. Leatal Cohen
3. Have china upcycled
The Brooklyn Teacup sells ready-made tiered stands made of vintage plates that Davis finds in thrift shops or on Facebook Marketplace. She also does custom design for customers who provide her with their china. Davis can take several-size plates and a teacup and create a stand, in whatever arrangement you like. A custom three-tier stand costs about $50 between the hardware and the drilling; she has a minimum order of $250, which will get you about five stands you can share with family. Then you can de-accession the rest of the set without feeling guilty.
Sadie Horton of Brooklyn Heights was a recent customer. “It’s all about finding new ways to use old things,” says Horton, who uses hers for fruit in her kitchen. “This is a great way to repurpose something that you would really hate to just put out in recycling.”
A tureen filled with flowers and sitting on its matching platter makes a nice centerpiece. Cynthia Nouri/Sasha Nicholas
4. Repurpose pieces as planters
Don’t feel guilty about breaking up a china set: Soup…