Thai or chinese pottery – whether timeless blue and white, subtle celadon or rich multi-hued designs – can look decidedly fresh styled against a contemporary backdrop teamed with smart modern accessories. It’s a great way to add colour and pattern to your space not to mention stylish global heritage without breaking the bank.

Unless you’re a die-hard modernist enamoured of uncompromising architecture, clean lines and acres of clear space – adding personality, depth and interest to a new build or refurb is a priority once the last tradesman has left the building. Even more so if your property is a modern build, lacks architectural detailing and you opted for painted walls and simple window treatments.

If you’re a creative or natural magpie and a collector of things, then problem solved, as you’ll be busy unpacking boxes of decorative accessories, sentimental items and knick-knacks – all of which add soul to their surroundings. If not, the best advice is to be brave and mix it up. Nothing new here, as ‘eclectic’ decorating has been in vogue again for a while now, but there is a balance to be struck. Get your fix of sleek, ‘modern’ furniture and accessories at the likes of Heals, The Conran Shop, Calligaris, Bo Concept, Ligne Roset and Made.com. Then introduce solidly-built, vintage furniture in your preferred style or ideally a mix of styles in a carefully, considered manner: industrial metal, colourful Indian, painted French (not too much as ‘Shabby Chic’ feels a little passé), mid-century modern, Arts & Crafts, inherited pieces – the list goes on…but be selective and opt for quality. Buy from specialist dealers in each of the above or scour junk shops and local auction rooms for well-made furniture that has already stood the test of time.

Once you have your furniture in place it’s time for the top dressing. Cue the accessories….and this is where traditional Oriental pottery comes in.

Juxtaposition of style, shape, texture, colour and pattern are key elements of the ‘layering’ to which interior designers often refer. The classic mix of vibrant blue and white against warm-hued mahogany is a winning combination that has stood the test of time – think country house style – and yet, this combination always feels fresh in a directional, modern space. Conversely, patterned pots sat atop a smart, lacquered sideboard from a modern European design house create an equally successful and pleasing contrast. In fact the intricate patterns and motifs, derived from Chinese or South East Asian cultural heritage lend historic references, a decorative charm and a degree of sophistication to any scheme. It goes without saying that more classic interiors also benefit from the addition of traditional patterned china – the same rules still apply. Layer up styles, textures and materials within any given colour palette.

Styled up on a hall console or sideboard, pots with sinuous silhouettes embellished with age-old patterns create a striking display when combined with smart, modern collectibles. Classic sophistication with edge. In a nutshell, if you like accessorising your home, you simply can’t go wrong.

The best thing of all? If your budget doesn’t stretch to Ming dynasty, patterned china can be bought for a song. Fabulous if you already frequent flea markets, own family heirloom pieces or pick up pots on your travels – all the more soul for your home. If not there is a plentiful supply at boot fairs and in charity shops alone. Even modern reproductions can look striking or elegant when styled in the right way.

Our top tips for styling with patterned Chinese or Thai pottery:

  1. For a confident and eye-catching display, group pots of varying sizes and patterns en masse. Scour junk shops, boot fairs, charity shops and flea markets for decorative pots in a range of blue hues. Then arrange behind a modern bathtub. Or on a dining room sideboard. Atop a tallboy chest of drawers (a country house trick that would be chic and unexpected in an urban loft or glass-walled new build). Even lined up on a shelf above a low-level, ‘modern rustic’ kitchen by the likes of Devol. In fact some of the leading European kitchen manufacturers – think Boffi, Bulthaup, Binova – play with the juxtaposition of old and new when styling their ultra modern kitchens with complimentary decorative accessories.
  2. Go large. Showcase a single, super-sized statement pot in a window recess, niche or use it to create a focal point at the end of corridor. Giant urns or pots make for fabulous umbrella stands.
  3. Use decorative pots as visual bookends by dotting them in a pleasingly random fashion across modern, open shelving bringing order to copious rows and stacks of paperbacks, hard-backs and coffee table tomes.
  4. Team with matt finish ceramics with a bold modern outline plus a variety of items – think baskets, boxes, trinkets and travel finds – to create an arresting vignette. Frame your still life display against the backdrop of an elegant mirror or piece of abstract art.
  5. Patterned pots simply leap out and come alive when displayed against a dark backdrop. Deep-hued paintwork somehow frames their silhouette and brings renewed vigour to the contrasts within in the pot’s decorative motifs. Indeed art gallery walls are often painted in rich reds, deep greens and sultry greys to showcase artworks to their best advantage.
  6. Lastly, create wow factor with a bold, colourful and sculptural floral display. Having ascertained your pot is waterproof (not all glazes cover the inside of the pot so seepage can occur) create contrast by displaying the vivid, almost lime green of Bells of Ireland with a blue and white patterned pot. The tall stems inject height and drama and look great on a welcoming side table or large kitchen island. Alternatively opt for a complimentary colour with a seasonal and romantic display of our favourite blooms, Delphiniums. Yep, the petals do drop within a few days…but the confetti effect of falling blue petals almost enhances their fleeting beauty. Of course many pots need no floral embellishment; giant, narrow-necked and hand-painted urns for example, pack a decorative punch and are a conversation starter in their own right.

Thanks for reading! We hope we’ve provided a little decorative inspiration for magpies, modern enthusiasts and globetrotters alike.

Author: Annabel Smith, Telescope Style

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