There are worse things to be addicted to than china… there’s always China White. But our addiction to china is mostly harmless and isn’t going to bring down the kingdom, unless a shelf collapses. And it’s a good time to be thinking of china right now, with the holidays fast approaching.

Halcyon Farm is filled with china of every shape, size and color! When you look at images of the house, you can usually see pieces of china peeking out at you.

Christmas with china

Here, you can see our collection of “Farmer’s Arms” china, a uniquely English china, mostly from the 1800’s. The pieces have farmers, sheaves of wheat, plows, and other farming implements on them, and are often brightly painted.

Farmers Arms

Another great pattern for entertaining is lettuce-ware. The each plate looks like a piece of lettuce or cabbage. The late Bunny Mellon had a huge collection of this china, much of it made by Wedgwood, or Dodie Thayer, a contemporary potter from Florida. It’s going up for auction at Sotheby’s in a week or so, if you’re interested.


And then there’s transferware, which comes in monochromatic and polychromatic patterns of anything you can imagine! Transferware is made by inking an etching, and then transferring the resulting image onto a plate, glazing and then firing it.

One of the most famous patterns in transferware is Blue Willow, which also comes in red, green and brown, although they are more difficult to find.

blue willow

And the blue in the Blue Willow pattern can vary widely, although the pattern always remains the same, or very similar. And if you want your Blue Willow to be a little more elegant, there’s always Real Old Willow, amped up with gold accents and decorative elements. It’s also slightly less busy than the Blue Willow, but retains the same basic elements.

real old willow

Transferware patterns are mainly historic or pastoral. Because the prints come from engravings, the images can be quite detailed. And because engravings need the space between the lines to be filled, these transfers are filled with cross-hatching, small dots, and other decorative elements.


Should you want to move up the ladder to truly amazing china, Royal Copenhagen’s Flora Danica is one of the world’s most beautiful (and expensive) china patterns. Each piece is hand-painted by the most skilled of artists, and there are more than 700 varieties of plants and flowers that can be depicted on the china. Each piece is truly a work of art.

flora danica

However, you can also go down the scale a little bit and look at Royal Copenhagen’s Blue Half Lace china, which is also hand-painted, but slightly less busy and ostentatious.

half lace

It takes exactly 1,197 brush strokes, no more and no less, to paint this plate. If you were obsessive, you might try counting them.

One piece of advice: Don’t just use your “good” china for holidays and other special dinners. Use it every day. It will make each and every meal feel like an occasion. If you’re worried about your children (or guests) breaking it, in the long run, think about which is more important in your life, and then use the good stuff!

Meg Fielding writes the local interior design and lifestyle blog Pigtown Design and is the past president of the Baltimore Architectural Foundation. She enjoys dual citizenship with the US and the UK.