A Matter of Taste: French Country Kitchen Antiques

Add French country flair to your home with these culinary collectibles.

Add French country flair to your kitchen with culinary antiques.

Most of us have warm memories of cooking and baking; the kitchen is often our very favorite room in the house. Because of renewed interest in cooking and entertaining at home, culinary antiques are becoming some of the most sought-after by collectors. French country culinary antiques appeal to younger collectors in particular, who love how 19th-century artifacts complement their farmhouse-style kitchens.

These simple country antiques connect us to a time when we all allowed for leisurely food preparation, and dining was an event. Many collectors fill their homes with French country kitchen antiques to remind them to sit and enjoy lovingly prepared meals with their family and friends, treasuring their company.

Collecting kitchen antiques is based partly on knowledge, but mostly on love.

What to Buy

There are French country culinary antiques available for both the casual collector and the serious connoisseur. Whether they come from the “below stairs” kitchen of an elegant chateau or a quaint country village bistro, culinary antiques are the perfect complement to your grand pursuits

Discover your Passion

There are many different types of French country kitchen antiques, and collectors generally fall into three groups. Some collect only one thing, striving to find better or rarer pieces. Others collect a category of objects, such as everything made of copper. Yet other collectors look for a little bit of everything, either to recreate a country kitchen from the late 1800s or early 1900s, or to decorate their home with pottery, enamelware and other kitchen items from France.

Basically, what you collect will depend on what you can’t resist! There is a wide range of French country antiques: enamelware, pottery, dishes, baskets, copper pans and pots, to name just a few.

This vintage ceramic strainer not only has an attractive handmade appeal, but it is also a practical piece to use.

Be Forgiving

Country culinary antiques were useful objects and are often collected for sentimental or decorative reasons, so they don’t have to be pristine. Nothing evokes the Provençal countryside more than things that have lost some of their paint and polish. A little chip here and there, a crack; these features show that country kitchen antiques have been used. Many collectors actually prefer pieces with well-worn patina and visible wear.

How to Display Kitchen Antiques

Using French country antiques in your home and kitchen creates a link to a culture and time when every was created with care, by artisans who cared about each detail. Eye-catching, culinary antiques connect the dots of that past to the present.

French pottery from the Provence and Alsace regions makes every kitchen speak French. You can use these old treasures to brighten up your kitchen, but they look just as stunning displayed as a piece of art amid a collection of antique books (cooking or not) or as a centerpiece holding a handful of flowers or herbs from your garden.

Antique kitchen or tableware is meant to be enjoyed, used and shared. These pieces are precious but were made to be hardworking and sturdy. They are not just relics of the past, so please don’t be afraid to use them!

Collecting kitchen antiques is based partly on knowledge, but mostly on love. These antiques represent a lifestyle in the past that we long for, one that embraces time spent in warm kitchens creating special foods to feed those we love and taking the time to enjoy meals with treasured family and friends.

For more on Lidy Baars and French country collectibles, visit French Garden House Antiques.

Elegant and Easy Holiday Tablescape

A pink color palette with touches of metallics tie antique pieces together with contemporary accessories

Set with antique Limoges, silver monogrammed napkin rings and contemporary glasses, each place setting is centered on vintage Florentine trays.

The holidays are a time for creating elegant, gorgeous table settings with your finest antique dishes, silver and linens that are as magical as the holiday itself. Create a holiday tabletop with a fresh, inspired look that reflects you and your style.

Mixing your antique pieces with contemporary prints or accessories adds a little twist on the traditional. The juxtaposition of old with new, and casual with formal makes any table more visually interesting and personal.

Metallic touches in gold and silver tie the mismatched antique china patterns together for this sophisticated holiday table.

Whether you’re hosting family or guests for formal or informal meals, learn how to set an elegant yet modern table that mixes contemporary and antique elements that share a common thread. It can be color, shape or a theme that ties all your pieces together on your table. These tips will inspire a romantic holiday table that you and your guests will enjoy.

A collection of antique porcelain dishes in mixed patterns all come together at each place setting, echoing the colors of the centerpiece.
  1. Set the Stage. A table setting should be as diverse as your guest list, with layer upon layer of interest. While a white antique linen cloth is a classic base, using antique fabric, a bedspread or an antique linen bed sheet can add a touch of drama. Don’t be afraid to use something out of the ordinary to make your setting feel fresh, like a runner that is actually a remnant of designer wallpaper. The holidays are the time to be bold.
  2. Make Your Centerpiece the Star. It’s easy to create luxurious floral arrangements like a pro—just use arrangements of the same flowers in several vases of different heights. When you use a large quantity of the same flower, your arrangements will look luxurious. Sprinkle in a good amount of greens, and your table will literally come to life. A well thought-out centerpiece will unify and pump up the volume of your table’s theme.
  3. Mix Patterns. Combining your antique dishes with new pieces is a great way to refresh your tabletop. Choose similar tones, and pay attention to which plates are placed next to each other, pairing bold patterns with simpler designs to create balance. Add contemporary flatware to your table setting to update antique china, or use mismatched antique silver flatware for a dose of personality at each place setting. Use your collections; they’re meant to be enjoyed.
  4. Create Sparkle: Candles lend a warm, flattering glow to your table. They’re sure to bring a little romance and relaxed elegance to your meal. Place unscented candles and votives near shiny objects to create a sparkling effect.
  5. Get Personal. Don’t be afraid to add charming, personal favorite things to your tabletop. The prettier and more interesting your table feels, the more guests will enjoy their dining experience. Thinking outside the box, use objets d’art interspersed with flowers and candles for a centerpiece that will get conversations started. Antique accents add the softness of age and a richness of spirit. Mixing the old with the new, bring things to your table that tell a story and have history. Adding something a little quirky to your table will make it more appealing every time.

Designing a stunning holiday table is a gift from you to your guests. Use what you love, and make it work. Set your table with items that are special to you and unexpected touches to create a holiday to remember.

For more on Lidy, visit frenchgardenhouse.com.

Stories to Tell: Collecting Classic Transferware

Make a statement on your holiday table with classic transferware dishes.

Red transferware lends its cheery hue to holiday vignettes
Transferware comes in many colors, but during the holiday season, red is our color of choice!

Temptingly graphic with stories to tell, antique transferware comes into its own at holiday time. With elaborate borders and endearing scenes, each piece of transferware pottery is a miniature work of art. A few pieces grouped together or a large collection displayed en masse make an exquisite decorative statement. Transferware, with its subject matter, technique and colors, is timeless—a classic that is admired just as much today as it was in the 18th century.

Red transferware plate with cows

What Is Transferware?

Transferware is a type of pottery that is decorated by a process developed in England in the mid-1750s. To produce each colorful design, a master pattern was engraved on copper, glazed with color and transferred to thin paper. These sections of paper were applied one by one to a piece of pottery before the piece was put into the kiln. Many patterns were so complex that it took over a month to engrave the copper master sheet.

a holiday vignette featuring red transferware


Transferware was made all over Europe and the United States in many colors and patterns. Before transfer printing was developed, each piece in a dinner set had to be painted by hand, a costly process, making decorated dishes completely out of reach for working class families.

The industrial revolution in England changed that. The transfer process meant pottery patterns could be reproduced repeatedly, allowing middle class families to enjoy appealing dinnerware similar to that found in the homes of the gentry. By the 1800s, factories were producing entire tableware sets, most in romantic patterns featuring a man and woman in lush landscapes.

A display of red transferware plates and a platterWhat to Look For

Most transferware on the market today is from the mid to late 1800s. Especially appealing are pieces from the late 1800s Aesthetic Movement, when artists believed that creating something for beauty alone justified their artwork. Look for Oriental patterns, free-flowing asymmetrical designs, lavish florals and garden scenes filled with exotic birds, trees and lush landscapes.

Holiday vignette featuring red transferware

Most transfer pieces are marked on the bottom with the maker’s mark, and often with a pattern name. Some early pieces are unmarked; they are just as valuable. The older the transferware, the more “misses” you will see where the pattern joins at the seams. Unless it truly is a huge miss, this does not devalue a piece.

Prices can range from a lucky find at a flea market for well under $100.00 to thousands at an auction house, depending on rarity, size, and who else wants to add that piece to their collection.  Of all the colors of transferware, yellow was the least produced, therefore the most rare and costly to acquire.

Next time you come across a striking platter, bowl or cup, don’t hesitate to add it to your antique collection. The darling of decorators, transferware is decorative as well as useful. Whether you display your collection on your walls, or set a holiday table, these pieces have survived for over a hundred years and are meant to be used and bring joy.

For more on Lidy Baars and French Garden House, visit frenchgardenhouse.com

Initial Attraction: Collect Monogrammed Linens

Connect the handiwork of the past with your present decor by collecting exquisite, hand-embroidered linen textiles before they become too rare to find.

These delicate textiles reflect the labor and love of skilled needlewomen from generations past.

The art of combining two or more letters together into one beautiful symbol or monogram is centuries old. Once upon a time, only royalty or nobility could afford linen adorned with their own initials. Household linens were painstakingly embroidered with white satin stitches and great finesse, each piece finely executed by hand.

These days, antique monogrammed linens are collected for their artistic beauty, and collectors don’t mind whose initials are emblazoned on them. Antique one-of-a-kind pieces with monograms have storied pasts and are one way to express your own personal style at home.

Exquisite antique damask napkins with a central triple monogram embroidered in an elegant, scrolling bourdon stitch encircled with a grape garland add the luxury of yesterday to a contemporary table.


Antique linens with hand-embroidered monograms took months of patient and devoted stitching. Household textiles comprised a large part of a family’s wealth, carefully preserved and handed down from generation to generation.

Throughout history, every bride took great pains in providing her trousseau. The French word trousseau stems from the verb trousser, which means to “wrap up as in a package.”  The package of linens that a young bride took with her as she left her home, the size of which was commensurate with the wealth of her family, consisted of linens embroidered with the monogram of the bride and future groom.

From early adolescence, the bride-to-be spent many years sewing and embroidering her household monogrammed linens. Often linens were only embroidered with the bride’s initials at first, but always leaving a space for her future groom’s initials, until his identity went from dreamy mystery to known.

A variety of monogram styles- simple embroidery paired with other pieces that are highly embellished- make for a lively collection.

Stitched with expert workmanship, each delicate satin stitch was carefully done. These linens embroidered with monograms of the future bride and groom were a true labor of love. Esteemed for their beauty and function, antique monogrammed linens bridge the past and the future. And there is a certain romance to weaving your own stories into their provenance.

Truly exceptional antique monogrammed linens are getting more difficult to source. As the old chateaus and family homes are being sold, fewer heirloom-quality linens are coming on the market. Buy the best antique monogrammed linens you can find for your collection.

Monogrammed linens are not just for the bed or table. You can repurpose large antique monogrammed sheets as upholstery or drapes. Use them everywhere—these treasures were meant to be seen, and pull on your heartstrings.

Heirloom quality point de venise lace napkins demonstrate the skills of Verona, Italy’s master needlewomen.

How to cherish linens forever

  1. Put them to use. Monogrammed linens were meant for daily use, for the lifetime of a husband and wife, and then they were passed on. Most have been used over 100 years. These linens still have plenty of years left to make your home beautiful.
  2. A gentle soaking with a product especially made for antique linens is usually all you need to get out spots. You can carefully rub a combination of lemon juice, white vinegar and salt on a stain and lay the piece in the sun for a few hours. Avoid bleach, as it’s too harsh on the natural fibers.
  3. Line dry. Skip the dryer, which removes lint from antique linens and makes the fabric less smooth. Hang your linens outdoors to dry; they will be fresh and smell wonderful.
  4. Exceptional hand-embroidered triple monograms add a sense of elevated luxury to these pillow shams.

    Iron if needed. Time your ironing so that your pieces are still damp. This makes it easier to press out wrinkles. Use a spray bottle of water to spray each piece; then roll it up in a little bundle. Place the monograms right-side down over a terrycloth towel on your ironing board, so as not to flatten the embroidery, and press. Iron the linens completely dry.

  5. Gently fold each piece and store it in your linen closet. Add some lavender sachets for fragrance. Drape heavy hand-embroidered tablecloths or sheets over a padded hanger, and place them in a clothing closet. Never press on folds, as this weakens the fibers.
  6. Mix and match antique shams with different monograms together with a contemporary duvet on your bed, or a different napkin at each place setting. There are no rules!


For more on Lidy, visit frenchgardenhouse.com.


Gilty Pleasures: Vintage Gold Boudoir Accessories

Collect gold vanity accessories for a touch of 24-carat luxury

Vintage gold has a luxurious patina
Vintage gold has a luxurious patina

Every woman’s boudoir or vanity should have gilt—gold plating, or gilt with just an “i.” The term “boudoir” derives from the French word bouder, which means to sulk or pout, and it originally pertained to a room where a lady could withdraw to sulk.

Upright glass jewelry casket lined with gold tufted velvet
Upright glass jewelry casket lined with gold tufted velvet

By the 18th century, this sulking room was transformed into a lavish dressing room with a vanity table resplendent with costly gold ormolu perfume bottles, mirrors and jewelry caskets. True ormolu pieces are rare to find, and quite costly. Ormolu gilding went out of fashion in 1830, as the danger of the process was considered too high.

Today, collectors are gathering more contemporary gold-plated vanity pieces made in the early 1900s through the early 1960s. Collected to create a feminine dressing table or vanity space, or simply to display in a glass case, these jewelry caskets, perfume bottles and dressing table sets covered in a layer of pure 24-carat gold are exquisitely made, and beautiful to look at and use.


Gold-plated vanity accessories are most often Rococo style with ornate filigree work, birds and floral designs. Feminine and romantic, they made a luxurious statement. These extravagant vanity accessories were created with considerable attention to detail, which is why they’re a favorite collectible for women and even men.

24 karat gold and amber glass Matson perfume bottle
Perfume bottle and stopper made of 24-carat gold with floral filigree and amber glass.

Many manufacturers specialized in gold-plated vanity items. Apollo Studios was the earliest and most prestigious firm. A contemporary of Tiffany Studios, Apollo Studios produced many of the same items, creating pieces of exceptional quality from 1909 to 1922.

In the early 1940s, many companies began producing vanity items with a 24-carat gold-plated finish. Some of the most well-known include Matson, Stylebuilt, Guildcrest and Globe. Production of most of these types of items ended in the 1960s, although Stylebuilt still creates gold-plated pieces today.

What to Look For

Familiarize yourself with the shapes, designs and workmanship of the good vintage pieces. The most common design elements include roses, birds and filigree work, at times accented with faux jewels. Sometimes brushes and hand mirrors have faux mother of pearl or guilloche enamel behind the filigree, which is always plastic and not the real thing.

  1. Mark: Most of the vintage vanity and dresser items plated in 24-carat gold are marked by the manufacturer. Some were marked only by a paper label, which may be missing. But the quality is unmistakable; you’ll know it when you see it.
  2. Jewelry caskets: The jewelry caskets will have elegant feet and beveled glass held in by diamond-like prongs or accented by jewels. Most have velvet-lined board bottoms, tufted or not.
  3. Perfume bottles: Most perfume bottles are large filigree bottles with beveled glass. The bottle should retain its original glass dauber attached to its gilt filigree stopper. Another style, theatomizers, have siphon tubes inside.
  4. Dresser sets. Trays withmirrors or lace enclosed between glass are either large enough to hold an entire brush and hand mirror set, or small to showcase a few special perfume bottles. Most have little feet and ornate filigree handles.

When you display your collection, the more the merrier. One piece is beautiful on its own, but a display of gilt accessories can be captivating. A collection of jewelry bottles or a selection of jewel caskets on a mirrored tray will be the highlight of any space. These gilded vintage treasures are sure to add glamour and sophistication to your home.

Vintage gold colored jewelry casket lined with teal velvet
Jewelry casket lined with teal velvet


  1. Display your collection away from direct sunlight. Keep your vanity accessories away from moisture, which can loosen the gilding and damage any jewels you may have.
  2. Dust your pieces regularly, using a brush to get into the little filigree areas. I recommend a medium-size paintbrush—the stiff bristles will loosen dirt and debris in the ornate designs.
  3. If you polish your gold-plated pieces, do so very, very carefully. The gold layer is thin and easily polished away. Use a Q-tip dipped in a high quality, silver-gold polish, and gently rub on a small area; then buff it out to a shine. Most collectors, however, prefer the beautiful unpolished patina that their boxes, perfume bottles and vanity accessories acquire over time.

For more on Lidy, visit frenchgardenhouse.com.

4 Must-Have Farmhouse Antiques

Your checklist for antique farmhouse decor.

Farmhouse style ironstone and linens
An ironstone tureen and vintage linens complete the rustic yet chic tablescape.

Welcoming, unpretentious and very livable, farmhouse style is an alluring way to decorate your home with antiques that have history, stories and meaning. Gaining momentum as a favorite design style, the farmhouse aesthetic is a charming mix of rustic, country and traditional, and proves that simple style can be quite sophisticated.

Collect these antiques to create your own farmhouse style:


Simple baskets are not only practical, but also strikingly decorative. Look for quality of workmanship, paying special attention to the detail and the weave. An older basket will bear witness to its age and have the rich color of patina and normal wear in the expected places. Antique baskets will often be heavier than their newer counterparts and have wood handles. Avoid brittle baskets and check for repairs; the best investments are baskets in original condition.

Linens with red-embroidered monograms
Linens with red-embroidered monograms are naturally luxurious.


Natural Textiles

Spun from linen and flax, simple linen tablecloths, napkins, grain sacks and sheets made up every farmer’s wife household linens.With an appealing texture and handmade quality, original antique linens are highly collectible. Look for fabric that has a smooth, soft feel that only decades of washing can attain. Search out unstained, nearly pristine pieces, although a few small spots are to be expected. As history is part of the appeal of antique textiles, mends and patches are considered appealing; they tell the story that someone long ago loved and used the linens with care and pride.


The simplicity and utility of gleaming white ironstone make it a favorite for the farmhouse aesthetic. Thick and heavy, ironstone is not only decorative to display, but also it is a dynamic part of any farm style table setting. Look for pieces without cracks or chips around the rims. Ironstone pieces are survivors. Their resilience tells their story, so minor discoloration is acceptable, adding patina to their beauty. Most true antique ironstone will be marked on the bottom.

French enamelware with hand painted flowersEnamelware

Sturdy enamelware, sometimes called graniteware when it comes with a speckled pattern, was a staple in every farmhouse a century ago. Humble coffeepots, canister sets, kettles and pitchers in soothing neutral colors predominate in farmhouse-style kitchens. Look for heavy and substantial pieces that have a thick and glossy finish. Most antique pieces will have tiny lines called craquelure in the finish. Missing pieces of enamel are expected on knobs and handles, but avoid pieces with huge chunks missing or a lot of rust.

Farmhouse style combines well with most other décor styles. Baskets, ironstone, quilts, enamelware, wooden bowls and antique silver are all accessories that help your home embrace the country charm of farmhouse style. The soothing colors, honest natural materials and age-worn finishes of farm antiques will help bring this rustic lived-in look to your home.

For more on Lidy, visit frenchgardenhouse.com.

Collectible French Enamelware

Plus, how to style these beautiful and unique antique pieces.

Enamelware comes in a variety of colors and finishes, with floral motifs being among the most desirable.

The amazing vibrant colors and spectacular graphic designs give antique French enamelware a signature look prized by collectors and designers alike, and add French country flair to any home.

Originally used in European and American households in the late 1800s and early 1900s, these commonplace, utilitarian pieces are charming reminders of a time when even humble household items were beautifully made.

Most of the enamelware antiques sought after by collectors today were manufactured between the late 1800s and 1940. Roses (especially hand‐painted rose garlands), pansies, gilded accents and soft pastel hues of pink, blue and aqua make the hearts of collectors beat faster. One standalone piece of enamelware holding a bouquet of romantic roses can add great flair to a dining room table, but one just doesn’t seem to be enough, and a collection is born!


During the 19th century, painted utilitarian steel or tinware became known as French enamelware due to its popularity in France, although it was produced throughout Europe, with large amounts manufactured in Austria, Germany, Belgium and Czechoslovakia. Most collectors prefer French enamelware because of the quality and designs.

Enamelware was made by fusing powdered glass to steel items in a kiln, creating a durable, glass‐like finish that kept the metal from rusting. Several coats of enamel were required to produce a quality piece that could be used in kitchens and bathing areas without rusting. Talented artists created the botanical and graphic designs on many of the French pieces, and each piece was an original work of art.


Enameled heirlooms from the past include everything used in Victorian and Edwardian kitchens for preparing meals, including pots, canister sets, salt holders, coffee pots, pails, utensil racks with matching utensils and more. Teapots, sugar and creamer sets, soda and sand sets, body pitchers (used to carry enough water for a bath before indoor plumbing existed) and pitcher and bowl sets for each bedroom were all beautifully colored and often decorated with hand‐painted floral designs.