TRICKS OF THE TRADE | How to Display Antiques

Do you share my love for old things? {I’m talking about antiques, but there are quite a few “older” people I adore as well!}

I don’t believe in living in the past, but antiques do make my soul happy.  Antique heirlooms and collections create little environments in your home that tell a story – your story. Use antiques to create rich, seamless arrangements of one-of-a-kind objects, and your home will reflect your personality, and be different from any other home.

Creating a space surrounded by antiques you love is a captivating way to express yourself.  Your collections and heirlooms – note: they don’t have to be your family heirlooms, even- you can adopt some and make them your own – create a home that feels authentically like you. Beautiful. Rich. Always evolving as you and your family do.

The secret to using antiques in your home, and not having it look like your grandmother’s house, is to mix them in with new, fresh pieces. Mix and match! There is nothing that makes an antique happier than to be introduced to a young, new family, to be introduced to contemporary furniture, for instance. It keeps antiques young! {much like us.}


1. TOLE TRAYS.  Romantic and works of original art, antique toleware trays are not only decorative to hang on your walls, they really work anywhere in your home. Toleware refers to decorative objects made of tinned metal, then lacquered and adorned with a design, dating from 1600 – 1900. From the French ‘taule’ an early French word for table – tole was for table use, the paint was to prevent common household objects from rusting.

I love tole trays everywhere and anywhere, one of my very favorite places to display our tole trays is on our living room mantel. Both these trays lived with us for a while until they went home to nest with their delighted, new owners.

Toleware trays are perfectly able to work, too!  Using toleware trays as a drinks station, to serve tea to your guests, are just one of the many ways these hardworking antiques can earn their keep.


Delve into the history of toleware HERE.



My love affair with transferware began at an early age. {if you know me, you know I have a love affair with every kind of dish. } If I could, I would keep every transferware set or single plate that comes my way.

I use it to set tables, sometimes with all the same pattern, sometime a joyful mix and match of every color.

Hang your transferware plates and platters as art on your wall. Especially at holiday time, my red transferware is in its glory.

Stack a set of antique French transferware plates, and top them with bright green pears as a centerpiece of your kitchen table.


In the photo below, I used a large antique English transferware platter as a tray to hold glasses and limoncello for a little bar station for entertaining. {The yellow licorice is just for fun!}

Don’t be afraid to showcase your antiques in new ways that makes them fresh, and amusing.


3. SILVER.   Silver is magical.  I learned to love silver at my grandmother’s house. Her silver tea set was set on a tray in the living room, and every afternoon- precisely at 3:30, she would serve tea.

And one – only one!- cookie. I always knew I was particularly in her good graces if she offered a second sweet, a chocolate bonbon nestled in her sterling bonbon dish. I’ve been collecting antique silver ever since.

I had the great honor to inherit her favorite tea pot, and now I use it to serve my family tea on Sundays and holidays, when we are all gathered here at home.


Even one piece of exceptional silver can take an okay table or display from okay to absolutely magical!


Learn how to take care of your heirloom silver HERE.

4. FRENCH ENAMELWARE. I’ve waxed poetic lots of times to you about my love for French Enamelware.

French enamelware pieces bring a touch of country to your home, and garden.

Most are still hard workers, but even if they weren’t, their sheer decorative beauty would make me want them to join my decorating party.  On this breakfast table, this French blue body pitcher holds an arrangement of budding branches {yes, they are faux!}, it makes quite a statement, don’t you think?

Lots of antique French enamelware was meant for the kitchen. The canisters work for storage, but don’t discount their ability to show off your prized roses – just insert a glass to hold the water. The old French coffeepots can just be filled with water, and viola, a gorgeous vase. {they are multi-purpose!}

We use some of our French enamelware pitchers as watering cans in the garden. They hold quite a bit of water for our thirsty California plants. The ones that do not, can still be decorative hanging on pegs in the garden house.


5. IRONSTONE. I call ironstone the back bone of my entertaining arsenal. But it’s not just that.

While it’s true that nothing beats antique ironstone for creating a soothing but wow table, that is not all antique ironstone has up its sleeve.

White ironstone is a decorating staple in our home.  I use it in the armoire, on shelves, and as centerpieces to hold flowers or plants. An antique Ironstone Bowl filled with fruit gives instant old world cachet to a room! Learn more about styling your shelves HERE.

I haven’t met much ironstone I didn’t love, no matter where it came from! There is a difference in the color of antique French and English ironstone- the English pieces tend to have a more “grey” cast, the French ones are almost pure white.

Get hooked on antique Ironstone HERE.

Here is a look at how I styled my armoire in the family room using several of my antique loves…toleware, transferware and ironstone!


Shop for the best in French Antiques, furniture with the patina of age, vintage accessories to delight you and your family & friends, and French Country utilitarian pieces. Treasures that make your home fresh, beautiful, inspirational and uniquely yours. Visit our shop

23 Responses to TRICKS OF THE TRADE | How to Display Antiques

  1. I want to come play at your house! Everything you show has that magical feeling/meaning that I can’t resist. My husband sometimes calls me when he is on a trip and he will say “Are you playing in your house” as he knows I play when I clean (no wonder it takes me so long, as I’m loving on my “stuff”).

  2. Alice,

    I love that “are you playing in your house?” – just about perfect from a husband who obviously loves and understands you!

  3. Love your new Post Lidy, “Tricks of the Trade”. I do the same thing with my antique collectibles and family heirlooms, which I have been fortunate to have inherited from both sides of our families. Wonderful Crystal pieces, porcelain,Transferwear, and much more. Just adding a piece here and there in my decorating scheme gives me so much pleasure.

    I noticed when I have friends over, they seem to always comment on one of the antique pieces, which makes for a good conversation starter. They ask about the history of a piece on display, how I acquired it. It is a nice ice breaker, besides being a wonderful addition to the decor of a room. It could be anywhere, on a mantle, a shelf, a cabinet. So many places to display these treasures. Thank You again for sharing your wonderful ideas with us. Makes one feel like they are taking Decorating Class 101.

  4. I love everything you showed us……my husband says my only problem with china is “You’ve never seen a piece that you didn’t like.” I disagree, I can remember seeing some black china several years ago and did not care for it at all!

  5. You have some really beautiful pieces that are hard to find.
    I don’t see a problem with using lots of antiques–the opposite is using lots of brand-new stuff made in China and that isn’t going to hold up. I prefer things with a past.

  6. Lovely! One of these days, I’m going to get my hands on a tole-ware tray. . .just haven’t found one in my price range that I actually like, but I never give up for the hunt! Thank you for the great tips, here.

  7. Antiques are wonderful to collect, use or simply admire. I prefer to do all three. Then there is the thrill of the hunt in discovering something that has a history and its own story to tell. How boring to shop otherwise. Oh well, just my opinion…..

  8. I pretty much share that opinion, Lisa, as you know. It’s always more exciting to have pieces in the mix that have some history, a chip here and there, and patina, isn’t it?

  9. I have bought a few things of no consequence that would qualify as antiques, but I know so little about the value I have a limit as to what I will spend.

  10. Totally agree, the trick is to display antiques without, as you say, making our homes look like that of our grandparents. Mixing old with new is exactly what I love most and if something gives you pleasure then I think it should be on display. I have a complete mixture of inherited things, items I have bought at brocantes here in France and indeed modern design pieces that I simply love for their clean simple lines, somehow the whole lot muddle along together in perfect harmony!!

  11. Yes! Susan, your home looks beautiful, more importantly, it tells the story of your and your sweet family!

  12. ok, that was just FUN!! talk about eye candy!! my eyes couldn’t stop dancing..

  13. Lidy, this post has been a big treat for my eyes and soul. So fun to see how you use and display your antiques indoors and out. I share your love of these beautiful items with a rich history.
    My mother used to say she never wanted to polish another piece of silver. To me it is a pleasure to be rewarded with the gleaming luster of a polished piece. But hey, I love old pewter as well, and it needs no polishing!

  14. Julie, I secretly love polishing silver. But I have to be watching a great movie, or a binge-watch show on Netflix! It makes for the perfect combination!

  15. Hi Lidy — I love your post and your shop and refer to your pages often. Like you, I am always pulling out the transferware and ironstone and silver. Part of the joy of collecting is seeing/using it. Thank you for sharing the wonderful ways you use and display yours. (In fact I just wrote a post about my ironstone.) I always learn something new from you!

  16. Oh how I wish I lived close to you and could see in person all your beautiful things. You are such an inspiration to me and I so look forward to your post. Keep up the wonderful work.

  17. How did I miss this post?….I would so rather decorate with antiques vs. “new stuff” they add such grace and character to the home. I so love your collections…and must say that your grandmother’s teapot stole my heart!…i would have to say that ironstone and a great french enamelware pitcher are hard to pass up!

  18. I love the creative use of the silver napkin rings for finger tip towels in the silver dish. Just lovely

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