How to Breathe New Life into Old China

5 myths busted about grandma’s precious dinnerware

I am a self-certified vintage China and glassware junkie and if there is one thing that I know anything about, it’s how to use old China in new and modern ways. Seriously, my idea of a great weekend is hitting an antique mall or estate sale and digging through piles of old junk. It’s kind of a problem. I own so many dishes and glasses both new and old that I had to start a blog about it.  Just kidding, or am I?

That being said, I am also a very use it or lose it type of person. I don’t believe in hoarding even when it comes to family heirlooms. I think even the most precious things are meant to be used and enjoyed and if I can’t or won’t use them, they need to find a new, more appreciative home

,I wasn’t always this way. I am 100% guilty of having boxes full of family China that I lugged around to every single apartment and house that I ever occupied. Most of the time, it would remain in the same tattered boxes from the previous move, and the only joy that was ever sparked was opening them up in a desperate attempt to find something I thought I had, only to discover something I had forgotten about.  It was utterly ridiculous. 

In my defense, I couldn’t help that I was apprehensive to use these long-forgotten treasures for fear of being the person that ruined them. A legit concern since I am overly prone to careless accidents. Not to mention that I hadn’t ever hosted an occasion where it was even appropriate to pull them out. So, there they sat. Sad and neglected boxes of beautiful dish ware just taking up space, because I had been entrusted with their care.

Then everything changed. I started working at a resale shop and started learning all about different types of antiques. Guess what? I was wrong about a lot of things. More to the point of this post, I was wrong about that precious China lurking in the basement. Turns out it’s not so precious after all and it was time to start using it.

Myth 1: China is delicate

If you were like me, you probably thought that China was something that had to be delicately handled and coddled. Turns out, it’s not. Bone China is the most resilient dinnerware there is. It resists scratches and chips better than porcelain or stoneware. Like most antiques, it was literally made to last generations.

Myth 2: China must be hand washed

Now you may be wondering, don’t you have to hand wash it? The simple answer is no. The only dinner or serve ware that has to be hand washed is anything that is gilded or hand-painted. Granted, many patterns of China have elements of hand painting and gold or silver rims. But if I’m being totally honest, I’ve thrown caution to the wind and put those in the top rack too. If you aren’t using them every day, a run through the dishwasher isn’t going to destroy them.

Myth 3: China looks fussy

I don’t know about you, but I don’t often host 20-course dinners with a hundred pieces of silverware and crystal for every wine and cordial. Not that I don’t ever want to host a fabulous Edwardian dinner party in a historic country estate, but I digress. When you pull out all the matching pieces and start setting the table it can look extremely formal. My advice, don’t pull out all of the pieces. Just use a few. Throw a China salad plate on top of a stoneware dinner plate or visa versa and you can achieve some really interesting results. Whether you want something fancy or casual, paired with the right pieces, China can be a versatile and super chic addition to any tablescape. Think of all those celebrities that rock Converse with Versace. Same thing.

Myth 4: China is too matchy matchy

Yes, sets of China are usually big bulky sets. Plates, cups, saucers, gravy boats – it can be a bit much. However, as I just said, you don’t have to use them all together. The key to pairing China with other dish ware is to simply use the principles of good design. Make sure the colors, patterns and textures work well together. Don’t know how to do that, ahem … this site has some pretty stunning things to outright copy if you like. In fact, we encourage it!

Myth 5: Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

Although I can’t guarantee you’ll always be able to replace a broken plate, I can say that it is highly likely that you can. As long as you know the maker and pattern, conveniently located on the back of each dish, you can generally find pieces on Ebay, Etsy and many other resale sites. One of the best is Replacements LTD, but trust me that site can be a slippery slope. Once you start browsing, you may end up with more patterns of china than you intended – or maybe that’s just me. Did I mention I have a serious problem with collecting vintage dinner and glassware?

So, there you have it. A few myths busted about that sad and lonely China hanging out in the attic. It’s time to get it out, dust it off and have some fun. Make your grandmother proud and breathe new life into those old pieces of China. They are tired of being ignored.

Cin Cin! 

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