How to Decorate With Blue Willow

Gail Cohen

When a Chinese Mandarin's daughter fell in love with her father's employee, their forbidden love story became legend, inspiring porcelain makers to decorate china with symbolic images of the willow trees that separated the pair. When the tale--and the pattern--found its way to western society, Blue Willow became a household name. Collectors adored the blue and white color palette and delicate images painted on plates, cups and serving pieces, and prestigious studios like Wedgwood created their own patterns based on the story. Regardless of who produced your china pieces, showcase your collection by pairing your Blue Willow pieces with our decorating tips.

  1. Paint one wall of a favorite room deep blue and the other walls a neutral shade like the cream color reminiscent of Thomas Minton's gorgeous Blue Willow-patterned Majolica bone china. Make a dramatic statement by attaching your china plates to plate wires and then hang the collection horizontally across soffits or as a wall grouping so your treasured pieces are always on display.

  2. Commission a floor-to-ceiling willow tree mural in blue on a cream-colored wall and then replicated that willow tree pattern on embroidered pillow covers for furniture to complement the mural. Enhance the appearance of your traffic-stopping willow tree mural by installing a pin spotlight over the wall to highlight this dramatic art. Arrange a selection of Blue Willow plates, cups and saucers atop display shelves as a final touch.

  3. Wallpaper a single wall with the Blue Willow pattern and then mount display shelves on adjacent walls to coordinate plates, cups and serving pieces with the wallpaper pattern. Embroider images of willow trees and doves on blue fabric squares. Create pillow slips of the embroidered fabric and insert a form into each to make beautiful matching throw pillows.

  4. Choose doves as a decorative accessory to create a one-of-a-kind bedroom for a little girl. Hang delicate Blue Willow teacups and saucers over her dresser and use dove-shaped decals to create a "frame" around the vignette. Dye a white mesh princess canopy blue to match the color in the willow tree pattern. Attach tiebacks to the canopy and small doves to the ribbons used to keep the canopy pulled back over the bed.

  5. Perk up your dining room by painting thick vertical stripes of blue and white on one prominent wall to add depth and interest. Mount Blue Willow serving pieces on plate hangers and group them into a rectangular arrangement. Install a huge wall frame around the collection so it appears as though your china is in a bas-relief still life. Hang a mirror across the room from the framed Blue Willow statement to reflect the collection.

  6. Create drama by purchasing silk willow trees and spray-painting them to match the blue in your china. Place the trees adjacent to a china cabinet filled with your Blue Willow pieces. Add strings of white holiday lights to the trees and turn them on year-round, or whenever you wish to recall the sweet story of the Chinese Mandarin's daughter.