One of the most frequent questions I get is, “How do you store your, er, collection?” If this is asked in person, it’s usually accompanied by slightly quizzical look, assessing the likelihood that I might actually be crazy-cakes. So it is with some trepidation that I reveal the ins-and-outs. Let’s take the plunge, shall we? Join me in my deepest, darkest secrets of tableware storage.
The biggest space-hog is glassware, particularly antique or delicate vintage stems. I like it to be accessible, and if that can’t be managed, portable without risk to the glasses when in transit.
In the Cape, I have a large, purpose-built hutch in the dining room. I change out the display in the centre seasonally. Right now it’s sporting its summer theme of oyster plates and hand-painted Limoges dessert plates with a sea creatures motif.
The cabinets to the left and right house most of my Venetian glass. I had extra shelves built over time, so as not to waste any space.
The previous owners had installed a
rather dreadful somewhat dated wet-bar arrangement in one corner, just between the dining room and kitchen. We left it, as it’s an ugly-but-usefull unit. I keep Depression and modern glassware in it.
Overflow goes into a closet in the adjoining family room into which we had shelves installed. I use a lot of the Household Essentials fabric storage boxes in a variety of sizes. They come flat, and you can quickly assemble them by dropping the sturdy fabric-covered cardboard base into the bottom. The fronts are clear so you can see what’s inside. The ones for glassware have upright cardboard dividers, not awfully robust, but sufficient to keep the glasses from clinking against one another, which is all that is required. The kids and I use these to move tableware between houses when borrowing amongst ourselves for special occasions.
As you can see from the picture, I keep compotes and serving pieces on the top shelf in the closet, and store placemats on one of the shelves. I also keep one of each napkin in there, so I can plan table combinations without disturbing the entire stack of napkins, which are kept in the drawers in the cabinet in the dining room. I keep runners and tablecloths folded on a shelf in the linen cupboard in the laundry room.
The bulk of my collection is in Canada, as it’s our permanent home. We had a butler’s pantry installed in a large hallway that runs between the kitchen to the right and the dining room to the left.
In each of the four cabinets, I put large serving pieces on the top, stemware on the next two shelves, soup bowls on the next shelf down and the heavier stacks of plates on the bottom shelf. The cabinets are counter-depth so they go back quite a way. I need a step stool to access the top two shelves. Once or twice a year I pull a table into the centre of the area and unload the glasses one shelf at a time, wipe them all out, clean the shelves and return them. The doors shut fairly firmly, and I’ve put a strip of plexiglass down the inside of the seam where the doors meet, BUT…
… the dogs share the space. Churchill is the goofball rolling on his back. Burton is to his right and Taylor is scratching her ear. Golden Retrievers are absolutely wonderful dogs. And they’re very hairy. An inevitable amount of dust and hair gets kicked up over time, so dusting just comes with owning a lot of glassware. You can also see an ikea cabinet just to the right of Churchill. It came with nice wooden shelves, but I had 3/8″ tempered glass shelves made for it, as I like the effect of the lighted cabinet. I keep a lot of my modern, everyday glasses in there.
This is the modern version available today. It’s the Liatorp bookcase from IKEA. It comes in white or grey, with all glass doors, or with the solid bottom half shown above. We installed one in our youngest daughter’s house for use as a pantry cupboard and it’s marvellous. Glenn trimmed out the baseboard so it sits flush against the wall and it looks built-in. Very sturdy and lots of shelves. The doors even have soft-close hinges. Not bad for $300!
For a more country-rustic look, the Cremone cabinet from Pier 1 is lovely. The doors fasten with an iron-look rod arrangement. You twist the handle and the rod releases from the catch at the top and bottom of the door on the right. It comes with four adjustable shelves, as well as the bottom, fixed shelf. It’s a bit more pricey than the IKEA unit, running about $900 (average between Canadian and US pricing). Pier 1 often have good sales, so keep an eye out if you’re interested.
I keep my napkins and runners in the drawers in the butler’s pantry, and hang tablecloths in an armoire upstairs. I don’t have a lot of different cutlery, and what I do have I like to store where I can readily get my hands on it. The sturdy wooden trays are easy to lift out and take to the table. In the Cape I use the World Market cutlery trays. I’m lucky enough to have lots of drawers in the kitchen in the Cape and most of the cutlery fits in there. Oh yes – I also keep napkin rings and place card holders in drawers in the kitchen. I don’t have a huge number of those, so they’re fairly easily contained.
I change out the china in the kitchen seasonally. I’ve got a large pantry cupboard just to the right of the kitchen island, handy to the dishwasher. That’s where I store plates, bowls, small pitchers, condiment bowls, etc. I have another cupboard on the other side of the kitchen where we keep mugs, in a cupboard just above the coffee makers.
The last stop is the basement, where I keep the rest of the off-season china and glassware. You can see some extra storage boxes, not yet assembled, on the top shelf of the centre section. The flat, wide containers are mugs and cups. I try to keep things organized by season, but am not always successful. Whenever I change out the kitchen china, there is a bit of a reorganization required and boxes get moved around to keep them largely within colour ways. Christmas is to the left and that’s pretty consistent. Moving right I strive to keep together black/white & clear, blues, then greens/rusts.
That’s it! The big reveal. Nuts or not, collecting tableware is my thing 🙂 I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour!
I’m sharing this post with Between Naps on the Porch.
Nicely done! We collecting nuts must stick together. Thanks for inviting us for a peek.
Thanks Cherry Kay. It’s been marvelous to meet the tableware community through Between Naps on the Porch. I had no idea there were so many of us!
Wow! I’m impressed by your organizational skills. I would drool every time I passed your cabinets with the glassware! But I’m curious now — do you generally buy sets of 12, or does it depend which house you’re in? And when you buy another set, do you just fit it in, or do you say goodbye to one you already have?
-A collector at heart
I’m not of the one in, one out school, though the kids had been happy recipients when I have upgraded something, or found a replacement I just liked better. It’s an admirable rule, just not one I follow! :). I usually buy antique and vintage glasses in twelves if I can get them, but that’s not always possible, in which case I’ll settle for eight. I rarely buy fewer than eight, unless something is exceptional. Our family is pretty big (four kids, three of them married and five granddaughters) so the numbers get up there pretty quickly and twelve plates are accounted for easily! Thanks so much for visiting and commenting. Best,
What an amazing collection and amazing organization and storage. I am a fairly new collector and am already a little crowded. I also have pets so I hear you about the pet hair and dust. Your storage boxes look very handy and the clear window to view the contents is a real plus. I am so impressed. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks, Lorri. Both the collecting and organizing have been a work in progress for many years. The butler’s pantry started out life as a set of fibreboard shelves in a closet, with which I was getting increasingly frustrated. Finally my husband said, “let’s just take this whole wall and make it into glass cupboards and drawers”. Then I found the storage boxes and realized it was so easy to move things around. Those were the two biggies for me. Oh – and the advent of digital photography and Evernote. I keep pictures of most of the items in my collection and can move them into different combinations within Evernote. Love it.
I’ve always been fascinated by how others did it! I’ve dug through Carolyne Roehm’s, Bunny Williams and Charlotte Moss’ books for storage ideas as well as inspiration on tablescapes. Such fun, isn’t it?
Have a good day.
Helen, thanks for letting us see your storage. It is good to see how another china “nut” keeps everything organized and accessible. I also use the Household Essentials storage boxes and I particularly like the little window in each box. They help me find things faster than labels. I look forward to each of your posts.
I’m always fascinated by the “behind the scenes” aspect of country house tours :). Love to know hope things work from an organization perspective. Thank you so much for visiting!
I found myself with a few moments and decided to revisit this amazing post – which led me to a rabbit hole in the internet and I found this! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ufO6czPyvI
Someone famous, I think, and his amazing collection of tableware.
I have a hard time remembering all the things I own and how many of each that I possess, I admire how well organized you are and your wonderful ability to find just the right little thing to increase the enchanting quality of your table settings. I am inspired to improve my game of playing with dishes.
The most useful idea in this video, I think, is his catalogue, I feel certain you will find it interesting as well. Love the flip book aspect. I think I’ll try something similar for my more modest, but growing, collection. Of course he has staff and unless one is willing to count pets as staff, there isn’t anything I can do to replicate that aspect of collection keeping.
With my sincere wishes that you and yours have a wonderful holiday season,
Oh, Elizabeth! Thanks so much for passing that video along. Those mushroom salt & peppers caught my eye – yum! And yes, having staff to help would be fabulous, but like you, it’s “just us chickens” here. Tigger, the marmalade cat, loves to supervise, but the lack of opposable thumbs renders him less helpful in schlepping and arranging. 🙂
I’d never heard of the gentleman in the video, and will have to learn more. Thank you for a marvellous referral! The flip book idea is wonderful. I use Evernote (an app for computer and iPad) to do something similar. It’s a virtual solution, since I go back and forth from Canada to the Cape and try to track what I have at which house (I know, such a first world problem…). The Evernote system I use is a Notebook for Entertablement and within it I have separate Notes for Plates, Glasses, Napkins, Placemats, Runners, etc. with pictures of each. When I’m planning a table, I can drag and drop copies of the pictures of the various items into a Note for that combination. It’s how I plan my blogs in advance, too. If I’m thinking of purchasing something, I can drag a web picture of it into a Note and see how it looks. I created a virtual scrapbook at one point to keep track of everything and that was the genesis of the blog. I learned how much I liked combining things, snapping pictures and then the whole thing just grew…
Wishing you and your family all the joy of a lovely holiday season. Thank you for joining me on our tableware journey this year, and I look forward to continuing our discussions in the New Year.
Hello: I’ve only recently found your blog and am completely enjoying it. I had to pause mine, The Tablescaper, as I went back to work full time. Now it seems to be lost. I continue to hope someone will be able to revive it as I love looking back to what I did in the past.
Storage is a HUGE issue. Yours is VERY impressive. I wound up taking mine out of boxes to save space. I leave it on open shelves. Obviously everything needs to be cleaned each time then.
The new year always seems to bring up organization and storage. I think my biggest issue is storage of large pieces: tiered servers, baskets, etc. Any thoughts?
Fondly, Alma, The Tablescaper
Oh, you’ve hit on the tender spot of storage! Those big items are the statement pieces, but boy, are they awkward to store. I converted an old TV armoire in our basement for most of mine, and I have some shelving with sliding cupboard doors in my laundry room. In the Cape, the previous owners put the old kitchen cabinets in the garage, and my husband added some shelving to the deep pantry cupboard. All that helps. Covering the items with bags from the dry cleaners, so at least you can see what it is, and using the top shelves of closets, or open IKEA shelves in the basement is an option.
I might suggest the Household Essentials China storage boxes for your items on the open shelves. They’re fabric, with a see-through front and they keep everything visible, but protected from dust, so you’re not washing things every time you want to use them (a huge disincentive…).
Good luck with all your organization, and I hope you get your blog back up and running. It’s always nice to have another enthusiast in the blogging world of tableware.
Happy New Year!
Wow!!! Never again will I accept my husband’s comment…how many plates do I really need. Clearly I am a lightweight. Yay!
Think of plates as elements of your design, like paints and canvas, not functional household pieces per se (at least that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it as long as it works). Hehe.
Nut! But of the fun variety. :o)
Great storage, Helen! One china nut to another, I love it! 🙂
I have a new house and am planning a china room in my basement. I’m so glad to have seen your storage options, thank you! So grateful we have handy husbands too!
Very lucky we are. Glenn is pretty cheerful about it all, too. 🙂