My enduring love of blue and white china began with a meat platter. My great grandmother worked as a nanny for a prominent family in London. When she met and married my great grandfather, the family gifted their beloved “Min” with an enormous set of formal Royal Doulton “Lorna” china, more suitable for entertaining in a massive Grosvenor Square dining room than for a simple nanny. She was so proud of that set, when the family emigrated to the US, my grandfather who was then just a boy, shared his berth with the china which was packed snugly in a crate!
Over 100 years later, that single platter is all the remains of the original set. But it inspired in me a lifelong love of blue and white china. I have added to my cache, adding bits and pieces in a variety of patterns suitable for mixing and matching. In fact, one of the best things about my blue and white obsession is that combining a variety of patterns, sizes and plate shapes only enhances the effect of a beautifully laid table.
Of course, not all blue and white china is the same. Each has its own distinctive look. For example, my neighbor is a collector of Polish pottery (or Bolesławiec pottery). She loves its earthy quality and because its handmade, the slight imperfections imbue life and a certain eccentricity. Delftware from the Netherlands offers charming patterns. Chinosiere provides a beautiful exotic look. And Flow Blue is almost ethereal.
But my personal favorite is English transferware. According to Cottages and Bungalows, transferware is a dinnerware which, “first came on the market during England’s Industrial Revolution, when the sudden growth of a working middle class created a demand for affordable goods that would have previously been reserved for the upper class. The name “transferware” comes from the process by which the designs were made. English manufacturers engraved a pattern onto a copper plate, applying ink and a thin paper, and then pressing—or transferring—the pattern onto the earthenware or porcelain piece.”
Generally depicting idyllic rural scenes, the patterns available are incredibly diverse. From English Abbey, to Old Britain Castles, to Coaching Scenes, they illustrate a beautifully idealized version of the English countryside. Quirky patterns also abound, from sheep to ships, oxen to the Acropolis, garlands of bows to clocks.
Regardless of which type of blue and white china you favor, the combination pairs wonderfully with other colors for every season. For example, in spring, using Kelly green with blue and white looks so fresh! A little goes a long way, since Kelly green is a strong color. Monogrammed napkins edged in green and salad plates with a hint of green trim provide just the right amount of contrast.
Using pink as a foil with blue and white creates a gorgeous summer table. I like pink Depression glass accents and serving pieces, fresh cut peonies from the garden, and simple pink cloth napkins for an inviting garden-friendly look.
In fall, one of my favorites is blue and white china paired with rust and gold. For a lovely autumn table, add brown lusterware or pieces of brown transferware, fall mums and some amber glass for a cozy gathering.
And, at Christmas, nothing looks more lovely with blue and white china than a jolly red Stewart plaid runner, napkins or tablecloth.
If you don’t have any big dinner plans coming up (and frankly, who does right now?), you can still display your beautiful blue and white china. Some of my favorite ideas include:
- Using plate stands to help style a bookcase
- Utilizing open shelving or a rustic kitchen hutch
- Creating a “wreath” of blue and white plates
- Using tiny teacups as “ornaments” on a kitchen Christmas tree
- Employing odd saucers and small pieces as trinket dishes or coasters
- Reimagining lidless soup tureens as planters
- Corraling kitchen utensils in a water pitcher
Ready to get started? Blue and white china is available… everywhere. If you like the mix and match china look, get started at tag sales, estate auctions and even your local thrift shop. If you find a pattern that you love, you can scour vintage shops, and use previously collected pieces as home décor. And, if you happen upon a piece of Royal Doulton’s “Lorna” in your treasure hunting, please let me know!
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Susan Said…WHAT?! was named one of the Top 50 Beauty Blogs in the World by RebateZone.com and is your guide to a life filled with style. Inside, you’ll find everything from must-have fashion and accessories, to gorgeous gardens, stunning interiors, plus the latest products for parties, weddings, and events of all kinds. Susan Conforte McNeill is an author, entrepreneur, and co-founder of the literacy organization Success Won’t Wait!