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How do you enjoy your wine? From a glass with dinner to a bottle with friends, there are lots of wine accessories out there that help make a bottle taste a little better. One example that’s perfect for entertaining is wine bottle holders. Ceramic wine bottle holders in particular keep chilled bottles cool longer (without all the drips of ice) and add a decorative note to the table.

wine bottle holder

Of course, to fully enjoy wine you need to get it open. There are so many corkscrews out there to choose from, but I think the classic waiter style is the best in terms of ease and size.

corkscrew

Once you have the bottle open, cork wine stoppers with fanciful designs are another excellent wine accessory. Instead of trying to cram the original cork back in, these fit easily but still keep an open bottle tasting great for days after. A trick to keep wine longer is to store open bottles of both red and white in the refrigerator; just let the red come up to room temperature before serving.Wine Corks

Other must-haves for wine are the right glasses. Aficionados use a variety of glass shapes depending on the grape, but generally you’re ok with large wine glasses for reds, more tapered glasses for whites, and flutes for champagne and sparkling wine.

white wine glass

red wine glass

Love big bold red wines? A decanter is definitely wise. These let wine breathe and allow the flavors to really open up. An aerator performs a similar task while you pour the wine, but in a matter of minutes (perfect for causal dinners).

Wine is a great way to be prepared for impromptu parties or unexpected guests. I love this simple list from Kris Schoels of Young Married Chic as to what you should always have on hand to be prepared for a last-minute get-together:

1. A great bottle of champagne.
2. Bread, cheese, fresh fruit.
3. Chocolate and extra desserts.

So simple, yet so perfect. Are you prepared?

chocolate assortment

Wine certainly makes everything more festive. Check out our Pinterest board on everything wine for more ideas, then let us know you favorite wine accessories from wine bottle holders to glasses by leaving a comment below.

Corkscrew image courtesy of YannGarPhoto.wordpress.com.

White wine glass image courtesy of Robert S. Donovan.

Red wine glass image courtesy of yashima.

Bread image courtesy of designsponge.com via Emilia Ceramics on Pinterest.

Chocolates image courtesy of aalphotos.

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April 1 is known as a day of pranks and tricks. Having worked with a host of designers and decorators, I have a few tricks of my own when it comes to making a space look its best. From a grouping of blue and white vases or black and white jars, to a well placed black and white stripe lamp, transforming a room is often as easy as choosing the right accessories or the perfect coat of paint. What room in your home could use a decorating transformation? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Living Room

blue and white vases

This space should exude welcome and comfort, especially if you like to entertain. Add fresh flowers for an easy and seasonal transformation; the blooms will soften and enliven the entire room. Use an eye-catching blue and white vase or other bold color to pack some punch. For year-round color, group blue and white vases of various sizes on a sideboard or shelf. Tired of your sofa and chairs? Refresh them with chic pillows in graphic patterns of various sizes. The resulting texture and color will make the room feel entirely different.

Bathroom

Small rooms are perfect for playing with bold colors. Choose a boldly patterned wallpaper for the entire space for a startling design transformation, like the map below. If wallpaper isn’t your favorite, similar effects can be achieved with paint in a rich jewel tone or other saturated color. map bathroom wallpaper
Add some lux to shelving with black and white jars to hold all your essentials. Unusual soap dishes and toothbrush holders are other ways to quickly inject new personality into the space.

Kitchen

Black and white is a perennial favorite for kitchens because the color combination is clean and chic. Black coffee mugs, a black ceramic vase, or other black accessories invoke this palette without much effort. Painting or staining cabinets is another way to transform a kitchen’s look, though it involves a bit more time and planning. If you have exposed shelving, hide things like canned goods with (Martha Stewart approved) cabinet curtains, while leaving your beautiful pieces exposed.black and white vase

Bedroom

A black and white stripe lamp injects a modern feel to a bedside table, while blue and white feels more serene. Either way, you’ll feel more relaxed with diffused light coming from multiple sources than a glaring overhead light source. If you’re looking for a more dramatic overhaul, consider hanging tapestry fabric along one wall; the result will add old-world charm, color, and warmth to the space. Or put some wallpaper on the ceiling for a totally different feel. Changing details like drawer pulls, curtains, or bedspreads also make a huge difference with little effort.

Have your own decorating tips and tricks? Please share them by leaving a comment below.

Map wallpaper image courtesy of alovelyescape.blogspot.com via Emilia Ceramics on Pinterest.

Bedroom image courtesy of casahaus.net via Emilia Ceramics on Pinterest.

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The reasons for using Italian ceramic coffee mugs for your favorite hot drinks go far beyond aesthetics. The ceramic keeps things warm for longer, especially if you pre-heat the mug by running a little warm water in it first. Even better, ceramic doesn’t conduct heat like metal or glass, keeping your drink warm while still allowing you to hold your coffee, tea, or hot chocolate comfortably.

Italian coffee mug

But with so many great Italian coffee mugs out there, there’s no reason to limit their use to just drinks alone. Italian ceramic coffee mugsHere are four ways to enjoy your mugs without coffee inside:

1. Go green. Italian coffee mugs can quickly transform into a fantastic mini planter. Add some rocks or gravel to the bottom for drainage, then soil and a small plant such as a succulent or fern. This can be a useful way to use a chipped or cracked Italian ceramic coffee mug that you love.

2. Get organized. Can’t ever find a pen? Use an Italian coffee mug to hold various writing utensils anywhere in the house, from study to family room.

Italian ceramic coffee mug

3. Serve creatively. Contemporary cups and saucers can also be a useful way to serve your next meal. Italian coffee mugs are great for starting off your next dinner with a small portion of soup. Mix and match different Italian ceramic coffee mugs to give the table some unexpected color. This works particularly well with cream or blended soups; everyone can just drink them, no spoon required.

Fiore Mug with soupItalian ceramic coffee mugs

4. Savor sweets. Sometimes you just need a little ice cream in your life, but not a whole bowl. Feel less guilty by serving yourself a scoop in an Italian coffee mug. By filling a smaller container, you’ll feel like you’re actually eating more since the mug looks full (it’s an old trick for those trying to eat less; the same works for eating off of smaller plates). For true decadence, make an affogato. One scoop of vanilla ice cream in an Italian coffee mug plus one shot of espresso equals a delicious treat that leaves you feeling like you’re in Italy.

What else do you put in Italian coffee mugs or contemporary cups and saucers? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Affogato image courtesy of Ewan-M.

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blue and white zig zag ginger jarUnsurprisingly, I get questions from people looking to buy ceramics online quite frequently. The most requested information about ceramics & pottery deals with ginger jars. Thinking about incorporating these decorating statements into your home? Here are my tips to choose and buy these ceramics online with success.

striped ginger jar• Make a decorating plan. There’s nothing worse than buying ceramics only to discover you don’t have a spot to display them. Before you start looking at ceramics online, have a clear idea of where they’ll go in your home. For example, you might want a pair of ginger jars for the mantle, a bedroom, or to grace a sideboard. When picking spots for your future ceramics also consider how people walk in your home and stability issues. Medium-sized ginger jars next to the fireplace might look great, but for anyone with pets or small children, they’re more likely to get knocked over.

Measure. Measure. Measure. Once you have spots in mind for your future ginger jars, measure the space. This way you’ll have some starting parameters for choosing the ceramics you want to buy. When you find something you like online, check out the size to ensure it will look great in your home. A ginger jar that’s too small or too big always looks a bit out of place, so consider all dimensions.black and white ginger jar

Think about style. Color and style are certainly other important components when you buy ceramics online. Do you need something solid to accent a room? Or will your ginger jars add texture and pattern to the space? Do you want ginger jars with an Asian or Mexican flair? Smaller delicate jars are perfect for high spaces (where they won’t get damaged) while larger ginger jars are an excellent decorating anchor for a living room or even patio.

Go beyond simple pairing. A single large ginger jar quickly turns a side table into a stylish accent or enlivens a shelf. Matched pairs of ginger jars are classic for formal-feeling arrangements (like fireplaces, sideboards, or flanking a bed). Grouping various sized jars together adds interest to a table without looking staid, like in the image below. Think creatively; you’ll be surprised at the results.

living room with ginger jars

Check out shipping before you buy. When you buy ceramics online, make sure to look at the shipping and return policies for the website. Knowing the breakage policy and shipping costs before placing your order can save you heartbreak in the future. Just trust me on this one.ginger jar

black and white ginger jar

Have you bought ceramics & pottery or ginger jars online? Have any advice or suggestions? Leave a comment and let us know!

Ginger jar and orchid image courtesy of Made By Girl.

Living room image courtesy of Jennifer Brouwer (Jennifer Brouwer Design).

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We’ve all been there: you need a gift for a housewarming or birthday party but are fresh out of ideas. It should be fun but practical, unique yet not too outlandish, and above all not boring. This is where salt & pepper sets come in. With so many possibilities, they may just be the ideal small gift for almost any occasion.rooster salt and pepper shakers

Every holiday season I always get dangerously low on my rooster salt and pepper shakers; people love them as stocking stuffers, host gifts, or as something unique for a friend, coworker, or family member. It’s a sure sign of Gorky’s playful animal salt and pepper shakers’ wide appeal. Of course, these amusing gifts are useful year-round as either a compliment to other kitchen accessories or all on their own.

chicken salt pepper shakers

creamer sugar setOne of the best parts about ceramic salt and pepper shakers or a cream and sugar set (for those tea and coffee drinkers in your life) is that they don’t need to match the rest of the kitchen. It’s also hard to have too many sets. Many people rotate through their collection of salt & pepper sets throughout the year or keep a set in kitchen, another on the table. And with the appeal of chickens, bunnies, and roosters, these salt and pepper shakers are sure to be used. The same goes for creamer sugar sets; appealing colors and shapes make for a sugar bowl that stays out on the counter or table instead of hidden in a cabinet. Seriously, who can resist the charm of a rooster creamer?

rooster creamers

I’ve given lots of ceramic salt and pepper sets as gifts over the years and always gotten a great reaction, particularly for housewarmings and as host gifts. Useful, practical, and anything but boring, unique salt and pepper shakers are an excellent choice when it comes to smart gifting.

bunny salt & pepper set

What are your go-to gifts? Do you have unique salt & pepper sets that you love? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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blue and white pitcherBlue and white is a popular color combination, though not all blue and white ceramics have the same feel. I think the flexibility of blue and white explains the combo’s success since it can adapt so easily to any decorating style. For example, blue and white ceramics from Mexico have a quite contemporary feel while Italian blue and white ceramics feel more subtle and refined. Feeling overwhelmed with all the blue and white options out there? Trying to find the perfect blue and white vase or serving tray? Here are some easy ways to pick the pieces that are right for you.shades of blue

First, think about the blue shades that you gravitate towards. Rich cobalt or a lighter slate? Turquoise or teal? Navy blue or sky blue? Peacock blue or periwinkle? If you already have a blue in your decorating scheme, look for something like a blue and white vase in a complimenting shade. Blue is wonderful in that not everything needs to exactly match, but try to group hues together that have similar tonal qualities for the best look. Wikipedia has at least 61 pages devoted to different shades of blue – you’re sure to find at least one that you like!

Italian blue and white lamp

Next think about the blue and white balance. More white or cream, like with most Italian blue and white ceramics, tends to read as more refined and sophisticated. Do you want blue and white mugs that are mostly blue with a touch of white or the reverse? Mixing dominant colors with your blue and white ceramics and home accessories is a good way to keep things textured and balanced. Think white plates on blue chargers with a blue and white pitcher holding water or wine at dinner. Or a blue and white lamp as an accent light in the bedroom or den.

Blue Striped Vase by Talavera Vazquez

Of course, patterning is another factor when adding blue and white home décor. Do you tend to mix prints and patterns or stick with a single motif? Prefer mostly solid colors with some subtle accenting textures? I recommend additions like a blue and white serving platter – the color combination makes food really pop, no matter how ornamented or plain the platter is itself. The same goes for blue and white mugs, plates, and bowls. I tend to mix patterned pieces with solid colors, but there are endless interesting ways to combine dinnerware that will reflect your own unique, individual style.

Italian blue and white mug

Do you prefer blue and white ceramics from Italy, Mexico, France or somewhere else? How do you use these pieces to create sophistication in your home? Check out our blue and white decorating ideas on Pinterest, then leave a comment below and let us know.

Shades of blue image courtesy of Booyabazooka.

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The groundhog said that we’ll have an early spring this year… Given the blizzards and storms across the country, I think it’s about time for some good news! Spring doesn’t just mean warmer temperatures and a lack of snow (admittedly not something we worry much about here in San Francisco); it’s also a time to think about your garden and this year’s planting. Inspired by this article in the New York Times about Tovah Martin’s amazing houseplants (she has over 200 in her home), here are some tips for getting your 2013 garden started early and using fun accents like zig zag planters to banish winter blues in the meantime.

wall planter

  • Italian PlanterGo west! Sunlight exposure for plants can make a huge difference. In the winter, put your ceramic planters where they’ll get western light, not eastern.
  • Stay moisturized. Dry air is another enemy of indoor plants. A humidifier can keep even the most delicate blooms happy and healthy until it’s warm enough to put your favorites outside. Watering frequency is also key – every plant is different. Ferns love moisture while begonias and geraniums like to dry out before a thorough soaking. If leaves start to fall off, chances are you’ve let your plant dry out for too long.
  • Pick the right pots. I agree with Tovah that, “Even the most boring supermarket plant can look great, by giving it a smart pot.” Blue and white planters in a variety of patterns make for stylish arrangements indoors or out. Graphic additions like a zig zag planter or the intricate details of an Italian planter add another splash of color to your greenery or flowering plants, decorating your windows and indoor spaces now. Once things warm up, these ceramic planters move easily to the porch or patio, adding depth to your garden.zig zag planter
  • Acclimate before planting. This time of year you can plant bare root roses, fruit trees, and berry bushes directly in the ground (as long as it’s not frozen). But for other greenhouse-grown plants like a blooming primrose or winter pansy, you’ll need to get your new additions “hardened off” before putting them into their new outdoor homes, explains Marianne Binetti. This means sheltering plants on a porch or other protected area where they can adjust to the cool nights for a week or two. Then fill your window boxes, garden, or outdoor wall planters with some well-deserved color.
  • Be unexpected. If your bathroom gets good natural light, please humidity-loving orchids, aloes, and bromeliads while creating a lush mini-jungle. Colorful Talavera planters that match your décor pull the look together. Another idea? Train plants with vines or tendrils to create a natural curtain in a south-facing window.

Italian planterHow do you use zig zag planters? Have plans for your spring garden or favorite plants for wall planters? Leave a comment and let us know!Italian ceramic planter

Houseplant image courtesy of The Greenery Nursery.

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