Friday, July 27, 2012

My Six Essentials: 1. Blue and White Porcelain.

Designer: Carolyne Roehm
Over the years numerous people have asked what my favourite design essentials are and I have found that my answer has been pretty much the same every time. When someone asked me that same question earlier this week I decided to write a series of posts to answer...I did however answer the person who asked straight away.

Aside from the elements that any designed space needs to have, i.e. furniture, textiles, antiques, lighting, art, etc. every designer has a list of essentials that they try to incorporate into any space they are working on. It should come as no real surprise that my list is made of time tested elements. Being a native New Englander and having grown up in a very old world style my design sensibilities tend to be those of the WASP / preppy / traditionalist mindset, with a fair measure of English Country House Style thrown in. As such let us begin with the first of my "Six Essentials", blue and white porcelain.

The technique of cobalt blue decorations seems to have come from the Middle-East in the 9th century through decorative experimentation on white ware. Cobalt blue pigments were excavated from local mines in central Iran from the 9th century, and then were exported as a raw material to China. In the early 14th century mass-production was fully developed of fine, translucent, blue and white porcelain started at Jingdezhen, sometimes called the porcelain capital of China. This development was due to the combination of Chinese techniques and Islamic trade. The new ware was made possible by the export of cobalt from Persia called Islamic Blue, combined with the translucent white quality of Chinese porcelain. Cobalt blue was considered as a precious commodity, with a value about twice that of gold.

Oriental blue and white porcelain was highly prized in Europe and America and sometimes enhanced by fine silver and gold mounts, it was collected by kings and princes. In time the traditional blue and white Chinoiserie style (I'm working on a post about this wonderful style, be sure to keep an eye out of it) was highly coveted and collected by commoners after transferware patterns were introduced in the 17th century. Deeply rooted in our collective conscious as a symbol of elegance, the timeless color and stylized patterns of these pieces have continued to influence and inspire the design world to this day. Right then, enough with the history lesson, on to that wonderful blue and white porcelain.

Designer: Ashley Whittaker
Just look at what a stunning statement these jars make in this entryway, a triangle of blue and white that balances this space perfectly. And isn't that floor amazing too?

Designer: Barclay Butera
This space leaves me nearly speechless (though anyone who knows me can attest that that is as close to speechless as I am capable of being). This space shows that these pieces can be easily incorporated even on a somewhat grander scale. Mr. Butera's wallpaper selection does a great job of helping the porcelain jars meld almost seamlessly into the room.

Designer: Brion R. Judge
One of my favourite aspects of blue and white porcelain is that even a couple of smaller pieces can be a focal point. Against a pure white wall these pieces stand out so nicely don't you think?

Designer: John Yunis
The pieces here add very good light spots to a room that has a touch of darkness to it. I just love the planter on the right side. Again we see that triangle shape, a true designer staple for adding balance in a room.

Designer: Mary McDonald
While there are actually many pieces in this hallway Mary's spaces them out beautifully. The eye easily flows from one piece to the next taking in all the lovely things in between.

Designer: Scot Meacham Wood
I love that Scot placed these two bigger pieces on a smaller table, such an amazing visual...not that the entire room isn't of course. Have you noticed the trend that many designers have for using a matching pair of these pieces? We can't explain why but it just always looks good.

Designer: Anna Spiro
Here is a great way to display a collection of blue and white porcelain. What really sets this look is the pair of jars on top of the cabinet...the matching pair.

Designer: John Rosselli
Another wonderful way to display a collection. This fabulous setting is in one of the homes Mr. Rosselli shares with his wife, the amazing Bunny Williams.

Designer: Anthony Baratta
I absolutely adore this space, Anthony has created an amazing nautical setting, my New England spidey sense is just tingling. The porcelain pieces complement this room so well one might think they had been made especially for it.

The red room at the Chinese Pavilion of the Drottningholm Palace
This just shows how much of an impact one simple blue and white jar can have on a space. Even with all the other amazing pieces and colours here the eye seems to always find that little bit of it!

So there you have it, the first of my "Six Essentials." Please check back next week for number two, and the week after for three and so on and so on. Always remember that blue and white can look amazing in almost any design style. If you are unsure about it fitting in your space give a try you just might be surprised how much you like it. And if you still can't decide send me a picture I'd be more than happy to offer a suggestion or two.



5th and State said...

brilliant post brion!
an intriguing history that i was unaware of in this timeless element. particularly enamored by barclay butera's and scott m. woods rooms, they speak to my soul.
what a perfect background and current aesthetic; new england traditional, preppy and english country house, you could come transform my home any day....wouldn't that make for an excellent blog series? then i will come to your you have a garden?


Brion R. Judge said...


As always you are far too kind. With great regret I do not currently have a garden, and I miss having one immensely, especially my hydrangeas.

If you ever do want any design work done on your place let me know, I would absolutely love to work with you on a project like that. It would make for a great blog series indeed.


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