Love belongs

By Mir
September 25, 2008

There’s an interesting study to be made of my decorating choices in my first marriage and the different sorts of items I place importance on, now, in this home. Everyone I know goes through that phase in early adulthood where you don’t so much “decorate” as “scavenge,” of course, but even once the money was there to be more deliberate about our furnishings, oh, what a different person I was back then.

Our dining room set was… sturdy. Yes. Oak, mostly. Official-looking. We rarely used it. The price was excellent, as I recall, and I talked about reupholstering the (uncomfortable) chairs at some point, but I never did it, even though we owned that set for many years. It weighed a ton. And although I had a few pangs of guilt about selling it before I moved—it had been a housewarming purchase from my parents—mostly I was relieved to be rid of it.

In contrast, the “living room” furniture purchased a few years into that marriage had sat unused for years and was then trucked down here to Georgia and married to the rest of the kid-friendly, bounce-all-over-it family room furniture. There is something so freeing about ACTUALLY USING your “fancy” furniture! I highly recommend it. This set—purchased well after the ten-ton dining room set—was actually chosen for comfort, and so I am delighted that it’s now being used and enjoyed (and I don’t miss having a separate living room, either). My only regret with these pieces is that I selected a very safe and boring beige/taupe fabric for them. But now they sit against the copper wall, atop a red and copper rug, with a few brightly-colored throw pillows. Problem solved.

The biggest problem in moving without a dining room set was not, actually, selecting a new table and chairs. I managed to justify that one just fine, and you are probably sick of listening to me sing the various praises of how much I love my new furniture. The chairs are comfortable and the table is huge and we actually USE it and all is well. No, the problem was that we didn’t buy a china cabinet.

And so for over a year I have had two big “dish pack” boxes sitting in our bedroom. I never unpacked them. I never even UNTAPED them. There was nowhere to put the dishes, so why bother? And really, I am not a fancy china sort of person. We’d get a cabinet whenever we got it. Or something.

Of course, about a month ago I started looking for a cabinet in earnest. This house feels like home, and we’ve redone floors and redone walls and hung art-like things and all of that… and still I had two giant boxes to run into every morning in my bedroom. Enough, already.

Eventually I found The China Cabinet (harder than you might think; if you have a non-traditional dining set it is surprisingly difficult to find a cabinet that works style-wise without having to sell any essential organs to afford it) and ordered it and it arrived in a couple of boxes. Which was awesome, because we CERTAINLY didn’t have enough boxes ’round here. Ahem.

This weekend Otto and I put it together (by which I mean, Otto put it together while I handed him things) and put it in the dining room. “NOW the dining room is finished,” we said.

Except that it wasn’t, of course. I had to unpack the two boxes.

I’m sure it’s not a surprise to hear that I never picked out china. I refused to, because I thought it was a waste of money and that we’d never use it. But when my grandmother died, my father offered me her china set, and I accepted. Upon receipt I scrubbed it all and stacked it in the 10-ton china cabinet, where the flowers and gold edges meshed perfectly with the country aesthetic of that furniture. But I never used it.

Unpacking those boxes, last weekend, I chuckled a little as I carefully stacked the pieces inside this modern-looking cabinet. It was incongruous. Not only that, but the colors of the china are now particularly out of place in the newly redone room; the china is greens and butter yellow and that room is now tones of deep orange and brown, with the navy blue lower walls for accent. These dishes—much like my old dining room set—are not my style at all.

My style has changed, over the years, to be sure. But these dishes remind me of my Grandma Rose, and they belong here.

We will use these dishes, these dishes that don’t match the room or our style and have chips here and there, and I will tell my kids my favorite stories of the woman who always spoke in hyperbole. I’ll tell them how she always concluded a meal by saying that she was so full she could “plotz” or that she wouldn’t eat again until next week. How she would refer to my dad, my children’s gray-haired Grandpa, as her “little boy” and tell me that if she’d had it to do all over again, she would’ve had four or five kids and demanded they all live at home and go to a local college. How she used to take me around to meet her friends, telling them that I was her only granddaughter and that she called me Sarah Heartburn because “this one is a real actress.” How she would’ve delighted in Chickadee, and told her how much she is like me and how she’s going to take over the world someday; how she would’ve been powerless against Monkey’s charms and probably told anyone who would listen that he’s far too pretty to be a boy.

I’m not a terribly sentimental person. But those dishes remind me that although some things change, other things don’t. And that the old (and the memories) can and should settle in amongst the new.

Happy Love Thursday, everyone. Here’s to the love that grows and changes, yes, but not so much that it can’t feast on the dishes that don’t match.


  1. Naomi in Ohio

    You share my brain … and my passion for teaching the kids HOW to remember …

    Love this post, Mir.

  2. Leandra

    Those mismatching pieces are just like the little pieces of ourselves that we take with us everywhere we go. They make up the quilt of who we are!

    Is it ungrateful of me to say that I wish you had taken a photo of the china cabinet as well?

  3. Holly

    You made me cry thinking of my two very special Grandmas who have passed away…one of which gave me her beautiful china. Thank you! Now I will be thinking about them and all the little things I loved about them all day…

  4. ~annie

    Whoever said everything has to “match” anyway? Well, maybe a pair of shoes… But my daughter would argue THAT. Wonderful post!

  5. Melisa

    We bought a china cabinet because my husband’s 93 year-old (still living, obviously) Grandma gave us her china. She loves to come to our house and see her dishes displayed.

  6. Megan

    They aren’t “things” anymore are they? They are family and memory and stories all wrapped up in thin bone china with a lily and a gilt edge. The style might not fit but the rest of it is a perfect match.

  7. jennielynn

    I’m inspired to find similar ways for my kids to remember my father.

  8. The Other Leanne

    That (really pretty) china allows your grandmother to be present in your family. How wonderful that is!

  9. Beth

    Awwww!!! That’s wonderful! And Megan’s right — they’re physical memories, not things

  10. tj

    It’s beautiful when you’re able to share a bit of history with your children. Priceless.

  11. Headless Mom

    This is beautiful, Mir.

  12. Karen

    Those dishes are beautiful to me, and I would not ever think they didn’t match.

  13. beth

    Well, as I was reading along and paging down I really expected to find that the dishes had huge yellow and lavender roses or were so ruffly and dainty that they just screamed “shabby chic!”

    But, unless the camera is being terribly kind to them, those dishes don’t look that far out of style at all. They are perhaps a bit more botanical than modern, but the calla lily (don’t tell me it’s really some wild flower I don’t know the name of…I’ve decided it’s a calla lily) is a very modern motif. The cup handles are just a teensy bit fiddly, and the gold trim is done in the old style instead of just a flat band around the edges. But, overall, the lines and the decorations are pretty understated and smooth for that era.

  14. melanie

    Lovely… simply lovely~ Both the post and the china.

  15. hollygee

    No those dishes don’t match the style of life you have for everyday, but they are going to be part what all of you will hold dear of special holidays and occasions. Eclecticism lives with the stories to support it. Love Thursday to you, too.

  16. Burgh Baby

    I think you just voted in the long-standing Burgh family debate about what to do with some antique dishes my Aunt gave me years ago. They are worth a ton of money because they are from the first run ever made and are very much not something I would ever pick out. But, they have sentimental value, so it’s hard to just part with them. Instead, they are in boxes that haven’t been opened since we moved to PA 8 years ago. Of course, I would HAVE to sell them to afford a China cabinet at the moment . . .

  17. Lori

    Since the china has sat in a box all this time, you clearly need an unveiling celebration. One that involves pie. Any excuse for a party! And pie!!

  18. Half Assed Kitchen

    I’m glad you didn’t put them on ebay. Though I’m about to do that with one of my grandma’s pieces of sculpture. A bad granddaughter I am.

  19. Rebecca

    I love your Love Thursday posts. I’m so glad you are keeping the unmatching China. The memories are worth so much more than the matching.

  20. The Other Other Dawn

    Yes, I believe key lime pie would look very festive on those dishes. They’re very pretty!

  21. dgm

    I’m one of those people who gets twitchy if everything matches perfectly, so this post speaks to me. My Granny never had any china to hand down (she had been a showgirl, not a very traditional sort of woman at the turn of the other century) but she left behind some awesome foxtail wraps, flashy brooches, and funny pictures. And, although I’m not a junk-food person, sometimes I buy those pink and white Mother’s Iced Animal Cookies because they remind me of her, and I tell my kids stories about what a hoot that woman was.

  22. Katie in MA

    I’m sure your grandma loves the post as much we do. Beautiful, as always.

  23. Randi

    Awww! It reminds me of the things we’ve kept in our house that were my husband’s mother’s – such as the Welcome sign and the hideous huge wooden fork/spoon set that I couldn’t stand but that somehow just seems to belong on the wall.

  24. MomCat

    That is a sweet Love Thursday story! I have similar thoughts when using my Grandmother’s things. They remind me strongly of her and I always smile as I remember. As the years have gone by, they’ve become part of our style, a funky mix of old and new.

  25. Cathi

    Oh Mir please use your china! I had wonderful china from my grandparents and I never used it and kept it locked up where it wouldn’t be hurt. Hurricane Ivan came along and my china vanished forever without ever being chiped or scratched or properly loved. Use it and let your kids break it and enjoy it without feeling guilty or worried that they may hurt it so that they will keep memories forever.

  26. sumo

    This comment is completely off the point, but when has that ever stopped someone from posting comments? Your china set looks like hand painted china that was popular in the Victorian era. My first thought is that, though I’m sure your style would never be mistaken for Victorian, it would not necessarily be because of bold use of color because back in the day they were all about color. It was also a time of borrowing and mixing design elements from different periods and regions. So even though your space with the china may not look Victorian, I think it speaks to the eclectic spirit of the time.

    Look, it’s in Wikipedia so it must be true! But ignore that picture of a typical Victorian room; it makes me gag.

  27. always home and uncool

    To this day, I’m not sure my Mom has ever used her wedding china. And it’s been 48 years. Maybe that means something.

  28. Astrogirl

    The best design aesthetic is one that incorporates all the different aspects of your lives and memories. Too much coordination (because I am against Matching) and it starts to look too perfect; more like a showroom than a home. Delightful surprises, like these dishes, are what makes a home truly lovely.

    Nice Thursday Love post :)

  29. ChristieNY

    So very sweet, you’ve inspired me to use the “fine china” for Thanksgiving this year, which has yet to be used! Beautiful post, Mir! <3

  30. Katherine

    Yes, do use your china so that your kids will have good memories of it. The china I want to inherit is only a set of plates, but I have such fond memories of Thanksgiving dinner with it. It is bright – bold red border and gold bits and my mom has red water goblets that she uses with it. It isn’t really either her style or mine, but I love it. The full set of china that she got from my grandmother I don’t remember ever seeing until my grandmother died, so I have no real memories of it – and I don’t care to have it. It’s going to my cousin.

  31. Shalet

    Do use those dishes! Wonderful Love Thursday post!

  32. Flea

    The dishes are beautiful. :) I’m betting your kids’ decorating tastes will work those in once they’ve been passed down. Things happen that way.

  33. Someone Being Me

    I love those dishes. They are so unlike anything I have seen before. I got lucky with my great-grandmother’s desert rose pattern since my kitchen is avacado colored so it matches nicely to the pink and green.

  34. David

    Decorating styles may come and go, but elegant tableware never goes out of fashion, especially when it carries the fond memories of loved ones from one generation to the next.

  35. Amy-Go

    The china is beautiful…and your Grandma sounds pretty terrific, too!

  36. Tammy

    I inherited my grandmother’s china (and the cabinet) too. I do pull it out for “special” occasions, but it seems like that only happens once/year. I’m going to use it more often.

    Love your grandmothers china pattern btw…very elegant and timeless.

  37. Marie

    We have DH’s Grandmother’s Fiesta (from the thirties) in our china cabinet. Love the post !

  38. Michelle

    I’m going to put fine china on our wedding registry, and if we get it, I fully intend to use it at least a couple times a year. Like, on our wedding anniversary, or at Thanksgiving. I see no point in letting functional items sit in a cabinet for all of their existence.

  39. Sue @ My Party of 6

    I have my grandmother’s china tea set, which I dare not put out until my kids are a little bit older. But I have a china cabinet (which I found via Want Not – thanks for that!) and my wedding china is in it. It hasn’t seen nearly enough use and it doesn’t match anything in that room, but I love it because it reminds me of the idealistic newlywed I once was. (Before I came to terms with the fact that most of our dinner parties would involve pizza boxes and paper plates!)

    I love Love Thursday!

  40. Scottsdale Girl

    Um, those dishes? MINE! You really need to give them back to me. Srsly, MINE.

    (i heart upon hearts me some calla lilies)

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