Pottery has played an artistic as well as utilitarian role throughout history. It’s been handed down through generations, collected by connoisseurs and bought and sold for astonishingly high sums. “Pottery and ceramics have been an important part of human culture for thousands of years,” says Beth Peterson, a pottery expert and artist. “From prehistoric storage jars to tiles on the space shuttles, pottery and ceramics have played a key role in innumerable human endeavors.”
In all shapes and sizes, pottery is the perfect antidote to homogeneous decor. Whether displayed sparingly or spilled across a mantelpiece, it has staked its claim as a legitimate design accessory.
How to Display Your Pottery Add plants. A great way to inject a little color and interest into basic decor is by adding an interesting piece of pottery in an unexpected place. Instead of plain terra cotta, try putting your houseplants in beautifully glazed pots. Choose pots that highlight the beauty of the plant rather than compete with it. They should also be wide and deep enough to allow the plant to grow properly. Speckled or ombre glazes in soft jewel tones are dressy enough to enhance the look of a vignette without overpowering it. Pro tip: If your pot doesn’t have a saucer for drainage, place it on a protective material like a cork coaster made especially for houseplants so that moisture from the plant doesn’t damage whatever is underneath.
Group by color. Having a clean and modern aesthetic doesn’t mean you can’t mix pottery into your design. Grouping pieces of pottery together by color in a central location keeps them feeling less like clutter and more like an intentional collection. Putting them against a crisp white background will ensure they stand out, elevating the grouping to an art piece that can be moved and changed at will.
You don’t have to amass a huge collection to make a style statement. Several pieces of varying sizes from the same color family attract the eye upward to the top of this built-in. The strong line of turquoise stands out even though the shelves contain a wide range of hues. Pro tip: To keep your collection clean, use an extendable duster once a month. If the pieces aren’t too fragile, hand wash them twice yearly in warm, soapy water and let air dry.
Arrange artfully. Give smaller pottery pieces an anchor by including them in groupings with larger pieces. Mixing shapes, colors and height may seem chaotic, but by keeping your groupings tight and placed purposefully toward one side of a surface — tabletop, credenza, bookcase — you create an installation that feels curated over time rather than purchased all at once just to fill the space. Placing taller items toward the back and pieces with more volume in the center will provide the foundation for your display. Medium-sized pottery can be added to build support, with the smallest pieces filling the gaps and rounding out the vignette.
Work With Your Style Contemporary. For a spin on contemporary style, warm up an otherwise empty space with a well-thought-out collection displayed in a nontraditional way. The blue patterned wall covering in this kitchen creates a bold backdrop for the blue and white porcelain pieces. The otherwise unused space above the cabinets is the perfect spot for a little drama that personalizes the kitchen. Good to know: The difference between pottery and ceramics lies in the way they’re finished. Pottery is generally considered to be any container made of clay, Peterson says. Technically, ceramics are things made from clay and glaze that are permanently changed when heated. Porcelain is a strong, vitreous, translucent ceramic material that is bisque-fired at a low temperature, then glazed and fired again at a very high temperature.
Eclectic. For an eclectic look, try using a variety of pottery in an arresting display of shapes and colors against a monochromatic paint color — light or dark — to add a twist to your space. Balance the feel of the collection by ensuring the scale of the surrounding furnishings, lighting and art are larger than the pottery. To stop your display from veering into hoarder territory, keep it constrained to just one shelf or flat surface.
Modern. Midcentury modern aficionados are drawn to the simple woods, soft lines, uncomplicated textiles and low-profile furnishings often associated with Scandinavian design. Pottery is also a huge part of the decor. Bright colors, interesting shapes and an almost endless array of styles allow for easy pickings when it comes to finding the perfect piece for this tidy aesthetic. In true modern midcentury style, this small and delicate grouping of similar shapes in vibrant colors has pride of place on a topmost shelf.
Rustic. For those who prefer a rustic, farmhouse style, hand-painted pottery is the perfect addition. To make the most of pieces in vibrant shades, keep them together en masse. The timeworn style of this antique hutch provides the right counterpoint to the intricate motif of the vases. Pro tip: For a twist on traditional farmhouse style, paint the back of a cupboard or hutch in a rich, dark hue to showcase your pottery.
Vintage. In a romantic vintage space, soft linens, feminine furnishings and accessories that tell stories form the basis of an environment that’s reminiscent of a weekend getaway to a charming bed-and-breakfast. Cream-colored pottery keeps the look ethereal. Don’t go too large with your pieces but do choose a variety of sizes to keep the decor from fading into the background. To add a little formality, arrange your pottery behind glass doors but in plain view. Good to know: Items behind glass still get dirty. At least twice a year take them out and clean them with a soft cloth.
When it comes to complementing your home with pottery, the choices are nearly endless. From antique urns to modern hand-thrown vases, it can keep your space from feeling sterile or impersonal. Whether you’re a minimalist who prefers a single piece or a maximalist who loves the look of multiples, there’s a piece of pottery out there waiting for you.
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