Three Ways to Upcycle Your Mother's Collection of China

Tea cups, saucers, serving bowls, and more all deserve showcasing beyond your cabinet.

china teapot reused as vase for flowers
Photo: Ashley Poskin

China sets, silver, and other formal items that are commonly passed down from on generation of a family to the next aren't utilized as often as they used to be—family gatherings and parties are much more casual nowadays than they were in the past. And if you don't have the space to display an entire china set, it will most likely be packed away, only to resurface on the rare occasion you host a formal party.

It's an honor to inherit these items, but what do you do if they aren't exactly your style or you just don't have the space to display the collection? We have some fun and functional ideas for ways you can incorporate pieces into your home that honor the gift and giver without overwhelming your space.

china plate hanging on wall embellished with porcelain paint
Ashley Poskin

Enhance your wall-art​.

China patterns come in all colors and prints. Some are breathtakingly beautiful, while others are simple in their refinement. A fun way to incorporate a few dishes from the set into your home is to paint them with ​porcelain paint such as Marabu Porcelain Paint ($5,​. Create a whimsical character or add polka dots, a monogram, or a witty phrase. Use a plate or platter as your canvas, then bake the item in the oven at 300 degrees for 35 minutes to make your design permanent. Add ​Adhesive Plate Hangers​ ($4.50 each, and display on your wall in sets of three or five, or mix in next to other paintings and photographs on a gallery wall.

china soup tureen reused as planter
Ashley Poskin

Think green with a planter.​

Soup tureens, tea or coffee pots, and other serving bowls make fantastic planters. Add rocks for drainage and a bit of top soil, then plant succulents or other choice varieties in the dish. Place the finished products in sunny spots around your home. Fill teacups with mint, chamomile, and other favorites, then line them up in your kitchen window. You can harvest and use your cuttings for tea at home. Plants are lovely to look at, and taste even lovelier when grown in a dish with sentimental value.

china sugar bowl reused as candle container
Ashley Poskin

Memorialize with a candle.

What scents remind you of your mother? Gather your essential oils, beeswax (or soy flakes), and a wick to create a candle that jogs your olfactory senses. Sugar bowls with lids are perfect for holding candles, but gravy boats, tea cups, or creamers work as well. Lighting a candle to remember a loved one is a special act no matter how near or far away they might be.

Lastly, make creative use of broken pieces.

​We've all been there—an accident happens and we just can't bring ourselves to toss all those beautiful broken pieces. If there is a particularly meaningful piece of china that has broken, take it to a jeweler and see if they are able to place it in a setting to be worn as a necklace or a pair of earrings. It's a new investment, and we can guarantee no one else will have as unique or special a piece of jewelry as you.

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