Eccentric vegetable and fruit ceramics have always baffled and bemused, but their popularity is unrivalled. From the 18th century until the mid 20th century, weird and wonderful designs have been highly sought-after and, today, they’re back in fashion once again. Hip high-street stores, from Oliver Bonas to Divertimenti, are now selling vegetable-inspired tableware to the masses.
Antique pieces are fetching huge sums, too. When Rachel ‘Bunny’ Mellon’s collection of 18th-century vegetable ceramics was sold by Sotheby’s in New York in November 2014, prices far exceeded expectations. A pair of Chelsea asparagus tureens (c1755), for example, sold for $118,750 (£76,000) against an estimate of $20,000–$30,000 (£13,000–£19,000).
How to display fruit and vegetable ceramics
It’s clear that the appeal of these intriguing pieces is far from waning. But how do you display them once you’ve got your hands on a piece of the produce-inspired action?
Make a meal of it
Eclectic table displays are a hot trend at the moment: we’re taking patterned tablecloths, bright napkins, Murano glass tumblers and an array of vibrant ceramics. Quirky cabbageware is a perfect addition to this look – and a plate rack filled with vintage pieces creates a striking focal point in the dining room. It also means you have your favourite pieces close to hand for setting the table…
Curate a display on a sideboard or dresser
A sideboard in your dining room makes the ideal spot to group together pieces of your collection – a contemporary, understated piece of furniture offsets the unmistakable look of the ceramics. More exotic pieces such as pineapple-shaped jugs add extra interest to your display (and serving from one in the 17th century indicated that you were a person of great wealth and importance).
Make the most of open shelving
Use open shelves to display your collection of statement plates and vases. A fabric that follows the same theme pulls the look together. Colourful fruit and vegetable designs look best against a natural background, so paint your walls in earthy colours to create a real impact.
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Create a wall display of cabbageware plates
Create a smart, ordered look by displaying a set of plates above a fireplace and framing them with a bold paper border or neon washi tape. Stock up on invisible adhesive disc plate hangers (£2.50 from Hobbycraft). If your plates are too precious to hang, dispel any worry and prop them on a shelf using wooden plate stands.
Use your hallway as a gallery space
Create a welcoming hallway with a decorative display of plates and bowls in complementary shades. Pair with vintage botanical prints for a cohesive look.
Make the most of your coffee table
Place unusual plates on the bottom shelf of a glass coffee table for a display that’s easy to update and experiment with mixing old and new ceramics.