Welcome to Innisfree: Decorating with Dishes

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I still remember it like yesterday: The winter day I strapped my mom into the car and drove like a bat out of hell to make it to the antique store before the dishes I was obsessed with were snatched up by someone else. These were not just any dishes, mind you. But a set of hand painted, porcelain Limoges depicting fish, one of my favorite things in the whole wide world. Dish Nirvana for this disciple of all things pretty and porcelain.

living room

The drama began months earlier, in the summer, when I was poking through an antique shop, looking for treasures. I spotted this beguiling and bewitching set of antique porcelain dishes, and lost my heart. But, in a rare moment of self-control, I kept my head and walked away from them. They were out of my price range, and I was trying to be good. Dan and I were newlyweds, and I still didn’t want him to know what kind of a crazy-dish-lady he had pledged his troth to. But those dishes haunted me. All fall. And, all through the holiday season. During the height of the holiday rush, when I was working a million hours a week at Nell Hill’s, I vowed to myself that if I made it through alive, I’d reward myself by getting those fish Limoges.


When I had my first day off, I asked my mom to join me. As we drove to the shop, my anticipation heightened, and my foot pressed harder on the gas pedal. I couldn’t believe my good fortune when we arrived alive and found the set, just waiting for me. I gingerly packed up the dishes and platters, then drove like a grandma on the way home. When we arrived home, my mom turned to me and said, “I wish you were as worried about my safety as you were about those dishes.” I’m glad she loves me unconditionally!

Dining room

I share this story because I think it gives you an inkling into just how deep and wide and passionate is my love for dishes.  And it explains why you will find dishes nearly everywhere you turn at Innisfree, my cottage by the lake. I hate to have beautiful things like these and hide them away in a cabinet. I want them out where I can see them, and appreciate them every day.


I was so inspired when I traveled in England a few years ago and saw how dishes were used in country homes to not only serve practical purposes, but to add charm and warmth to daily décor. I try to do the same in my own home.  Dan claims I have as many dishes in our cottage as he does books, but we all know that is impossible. But I fully confess that if there is an open spot on a table, wall, bookcase, mantel – anywhere – my urge is to fill it with a dish of some sort.

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In my living room, you will find china boxes on top of stacks of books, perfect hiding places for things like reading glasses. Pretty saucers serve as coasters for a drink. And larger plates are stacked up, the base for some seasonal display or other.  In the bathrooms, you’ll see them used as soap dishes.

bedside table

On a tabletop, a tray or platter is a lovely organizational tool to corral daily items with style. This lovely piece sits on the desk next to my bed, where I toss the mail for sorting and keep my journal to jot down ideas.

powder room

Dishes are also exquisite when used as artwork. You’ll find them in almost every grouping of artwork in my home because I love how their soft circular shape plays against the right edges and angles of framed art. This set tops the vanity mirror in the powder room off our living room.

Some of my dishes carry sweet memories of special times or loved ones. The crown platter than hangs over the bed was a memento from a trip Dan and I took to Carmel, Calif. Others are gifts from dear friends or family members.


As a result of my dish-inspired Just Say Yes philosophy, I’ve occasionally worried that my little nugget of a home may seem overrun by dishes. But part of the beauty of turning 60, as I did a few months ago, is confidently following your own voice, trusting your own gut, not deferring to the opinions of others when it comes to making your home into your oasis. So, I will just keep adding a dish or two, here or there, on occasion, as long as it makes my heart swell with joy.  And, as long as there is room between Dan’s books.


Next Week … Join me for a special spring fete at Riverbend, the country home of a dear friend.