|Urns and vases can be used for their decorative and utilitarian values
Among the several types of accessories used to embellish interior spaces, containers and vessels have their own special place. Vases and urns have been used over centuries, both for their decorative and utilitarian values.
Unfortunately though, there are times when we take certain decorative items for granted, or at least do not afford them enough respect. We often leave the odd vase sitting in the same place on the display shelf that it has always occupied, without the benefit of fresh flowers or new decorative pieces to give it renewed life.
Unlike other decorative flourishes such as paintings, rugs and window dressing, these items can be moved and manipulated with ease and mixed with other pieces to create a complete theme.
A well-chosen and well-placed container can be the single point of visual focus in a room/area to which your eyes are naturally drawn. If it is a piece that is beautiful, soothing and harmonious in appearance, it can be a point to contemplate, too.
Containers are not limited to vases. Antique boxes that reflect the style of the room can look wonderful and provide valuable storage space.
Why not make a display of your jewellery boxes, souvenirs or baskets designed to hold photographs, magazines or computer disks' You can even make a decorative feature of utilitarian items such as a china jug or tumbler.
Whatever you choose, show it off to its best advantage. Gather a collection of a particular type of container and exploit its decorative merit.
Vases, pots and containers need to be carefully selected and thoughtfully placed in a room. You need to consider not just their visual impact but also the function of the vessel.
A collection of a particular period and style of vase acquires stronger decorative merit when set against a backdrop of other artefacts of a similar epoch. So always consider the decorative scheme as a whole.
Positioning the pieces in the right light is also beneficial, especially when the item to be displayed is glass or silver. Make the most of any reflective surfaces to welcome natural light into the room.
| • Arrange a row of painted tea glasses filled with a single rose in each. Place them down the centre of the dining table
• Blue and white vases are all-time favourites. Fill one with bright yellow flowers
• Earthenware bowls, jugs and the ubiquitous planters give a warm and rustic feel to a room. Varnish them for easy maintenance
A tall vase filled with tuberoses (rajnigandhas) and placed in front of a window where the sun filters through the flowers and glass will be gloriously cheerful than if it had been placed in a dark corner.
Any type of vessel can become decorative, given the right setting and accessories.
A classical porcelain urn standing proudly alone against red damask on the console table has more decorative input than a massed collection of small trinkets huddled on a table. It also adds height and luminosity to the scene.
Wooden bins and wire-work baskets provide storage spaces in children’s rooms.
The country-style kitchen or dining room can include a wide variety of containers made from locally available materials, such as wire-work bottle holders, woven baskets for fruits and earthenware storage jars.
Colour and texture are important. Some pieces make fine illustrations of the benefits of mixing aesthetic textures. For example, dark and lustrous clay pots make handsome partners to woven containers and plates in subtle, earthy shades.
Create a tableau using a stack of rough wooden bowls in different sizes, or a row of rugged terracotta flower pots filled with herbs, nuts and dried fruits, set on the sideboard in the dining room.
Indian jewels and baubles ' made with zari, sequins and beads ' can be made to glitter like a treasure trove on a brightly painted bowl. Set it against an equally colourful painted background carrying an Indian miniature painting.
The Northeast provides a rich repertoire of ‘natural’ containers ' in wicker, rattan and bentwood. Polish/varnish/paint them for the quintessential Indian look.
Other states, too, have their own share of container creations ' be it the paper mache and walnut wood boxes from Kashmir, brass pots from Uttar Pradesh, bronze urns from Rajasthan, softwood jars from Gujarat, dokra metal bowls from Burdwan, silver filigree trinket boxes from Orissa and not to forget the wide plethora of metal and wooden containers ' inlaid, carved, painted ' from the south.
A massed gathering of drinking glasses of different shapes and sizes, stuffed with herbs, leaves and simple flowers, makes a charming, informal table arrangement. For an extra decorative ingredient, try tinting the water with paint, ink, or food colouring.
Apply the recent shift towards the eastern approach to flower arranging, where a single branch or bloom in a vase creates a contemplative focus.
When travelling, look carefully, as you can sometimes find a truly authentic, aesthetic or ingenious work that does credit to your style.
The author is a senior faculty member at J.D. Birla Institute (Calcutta), where she has been delivering lectures, guiding research and conducting projects in housing and interior design for over 20 years. An interior design consultant, she specialises in ergonomics at home and work. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org