Ahhh, and the coveted blue-and-white Chinese porcelain. So beautiful and yet it can go so so wrong. I received a lot of emails this week in anticipation of my big fat blue and white sale on Friday asking me what the difference between good and bad blue-and-white is. I am so excited that all of you are excited and interested in blue and white! It’s always fun when someone shares your passions and I definitely have a passion for blue-and-white. I got it from my mother who got it from her mother. It’s a generational obsession.
Just like there are good gilt mirrors and there are bad gilt mirrors, the world of blue-and-white has its angels and devils as well. For a complete history of blue-and-white Chinese porcelain that goes back to the dynasties of China click HERE. Since the Yuan Dynasty, blue-and-white Chinese porcelain has been coveted by emperors, kings, Buddhists, Popes, Dutch captains, and the wealthy. These days it is also coveted by every designer from Mary McDonald to Mark D.Sikes.
We all want to get our hands on some blue-and-white but it’s not always easy. The antique pieces are few and far between and they are very, very expensive. However, they are gorgeous and you never have to worry about them. New blue-and-white? Not so much. However, if you have a trained eye and know what you are looking for, you can pull off new blue-and-white.
The trick is to choose pieces that look old. Simple as that. Here are a few guidelines:
Look for a warm glaze. You don’t want a crisp glaze. Remember, these pieces are supposed to look hundreds and hundreds of years old.
Look for blues that seem to flow. Again, nothing crisp.
Look for a little dirt. Yes, you want a little dirt.… Around the rim and on the bottom. Trust me.
Look for ancient Chinese scenes. Cherry blossoms, Phoenix birds, cranes, Chinese scholars, pagodas, chrysanthemums, Koi fish, landscape scenes and even dragons and warriors but easy on the warriors and I would skip the foo dogs.
Skip the double happiness jars and vases. Overdone.
Look for a loose painting. You don’t want anything to look tight. You want it to look hand-painted, not mass manufactured.
Look for a warm cobalt color.
Even though these blue and white vases are all small, they vary in size and shape and look like a collection. They also follow the odd number rule. Gorgeous!
This little garden stool is perfect in this room. And don't you love the big pot in the background.
Remember, pairs are golden.
Two large scale jars and a single garden stool. Rule of 3 and unexpected placement makes this a perfect look.
Overscaled drama. Fantastic!
These two little fat pots are everything...faded cobalt color, warm ivory background, antiquated scene and look at that dirt!
These two lamps are so perfect. Beyond.
And now let's look at some examples of bad blue and white...
These jars literally make me want to puke. New equals gross.
Do I even have to explain this ugly jar?
The only thing that looks good in this picture are the peonies.
For the love of God, too new, too crisp and just plain cheap looking.
Trés Pottery Barn
Okay, now that we know what type of blue-and-white to look for we need to talk about size and scale. My mother taught me all of this. Her expert advice advises that you need to have different sizes and different shapes. It’s all about scale. It’s okay to go big if you’re trying to make a statement but you have to be careful. You don’t want to go too small because it looks choppy and tchotchke. You need tall vases for branches, medium vases for flowers and small jars just because they’re so cute. But not all tall, not all medium and not all small! It’s the collection of sizes and shapes that makes it work.
And remember, pairs are golden. There is nothing more beautiful than a pair of blue-and-white Chinese lamps or vases or jars. Nothing! And also remember to do sets in odd numbers… Three, five, seven.
Blue-and-white can literally be used in every single room of your house. Living room, family room, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom! And the good news is that blue-and-white goes with every color scheme of your home. Blue-and-white works with red, green, gold, black, lavender, pink, brown, neutrals, animal prints, jewel tones… You name it, blue-and-white works. And don’t get me started with blue-and-white for all the holidays! Last year at the Ralph Lauren shop in Paris, they had huge pairs of blue-and-white vases filled with Christmas holly. So simple and yet so freaking gorgeous. Blue-and-white pots filled with delphiniums? To die for. Blue-and-white pots filled with peonies? Hello! Blue-and-white pots filled with sunflowers or olive branches? Hello Provence! And the ultimate, blue-and-white pots filled with cherry blossoms. Be still my heart.
So I hope this little tutorial will help you steer yourself in the right direction to blue-and-white heaven. If you buy your blue-and-white pots from Tuesday Morning, you have failed the tutorial. And remember, you can follow my Pinterest boards of good blue-and-white and bad blue-and-white HERE and HERE.
I am both excited and nervous for my blue-and-white sale on Friday. I think I have all the kinks worked out but offer some consideration and patience if something is sold out. For this first sale, I am offering eight different pieces. Three different lamps, three different sizes. Three vases/jars, three different sizes. One orchid pot and one garden stool. If something is sold out, I have backups, so don’t worry. It’s all about communication… Just email and tell me what you’re looking for. Jars for your console table? I have it. Lamps for your bedside table? Vases for your fireplace? I have it. All different sizes, shapes and patterns. Honestly, my goal is to be your one-stop shop for blue-and-white so whatever your heart fancies, I will get for you.
See you on Friday at the sale! Follow me on Instagram HERE for sneak peeks of the sale all week.