If you use dishes as wall decor, you probably have a Southern grandmother

If you use dishes as wall decor, you probably have a Southern grandmother

There are some tried and true methods for sifting through the lineage of a Southern matriarch. One sure sign is that she puts boiled eggs in her potato salad. Another reason might be whether she would consider using pre-shredded cheddar cheese in her pimento cheese. Now, we’ve found another distinctive feature of the Southerners, and it’s all about how they use their Chinese set.


Southerners, they’re a creative crew. You’d be hard-pressed to find a single item in a Southern home that doesn’t do double duty. Dish towel turned into a fly swatter? you betcha. How about 1001 uses for baking soda? We’ve got you covered there too. That’s why it probably comes as no surprise to anyone who knows us well that Southerners are known for taking their tableware to new heights.


We should make one thing clear first: dishes used as decor are not part of the home dining set. These are usually not paintings that were registered or received as wedding gifts. They may be special items that have been passed down or even collections created over time, and are explored with a keen eye at estate sales and antique stores. They may be complementary to china used for holidays and special occasions, but they are not.


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When I was a child, I once counted the paintings hanging on the walls of a friend’s house. (Keep in mind that this elegant farmhouse was by no means lavish; it was likely about 2,500 square feet.) The number was 38. There were a total of 38 paintings hanging on the walls in the living room, dining room, bedrooms, and even the entryway. There were many paintings. To this day, when I walk into a home where china is used as decor, I immediately feel at home. It adds warmth and interest to walls that are hard to replicate, at least when combined with warm childhood memories.


Maybe that’s why those raised by Southern mothers and grandmothers are rarely able to break free of the ties that bind this tried-and-true decor staple. It’s something no one would probably ever think of doing, unless they’d seen it done before — and skillfully. When art isn’t enough (or even when it does), when a splash of color or pattern is warranted or a palate cleanser is called for, there’s nothing a painting on the wall can’t fix. Often you’ll see them in groups of three or more, arched over mirrors, surrounding a signed and numbered canvas, or simply dotted down the hall like a more subtle “Walk This Way” trend. One thing’s for sure, you wouldn’t come across this aesthetic without a little help from the Southern matriarch.


If you’re lucky enough to walk into a home where paintings adorn the walls, just know that generations of work went into making that decision. Don’t take it too seriously, and definitely don’t make fun of it and start counting like you did before. Just know that you are in a place where generations of stylish women are honored at every turn and with every plaque pinned.

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