If You Use Plates As Wall Décor, You Probably Have A Southern Grandma

Walk into a house where china speckles the walls, and you’re instantly at home.

Portrait of senior woman presenting antique plate, with collection of plates on wall in background

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There are some tried and true ways to sift out the offspring of a Southern matriarch. One surefire sign is if she puts boiled eggs in her potato salad. Another might be whether she would ever consider using pre-shredded Cheddar in her pimiento cheese. And now, we’ve found yet another hallmark of the through-and-through Southerner, and it’s all about how she puts her china collection to use. 

Southerners, they’re an inventive crew. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a single item in a Southern home that doesn’t do double duty. Dish towel turned fly swatter? You betcha. How about 1,001 uses for baking soda? We’ve got you covered there too. That’s why it probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows us well that Southerners are known for taking their tableware to new heights. 

We must make one thing very clear first: Plates that are used as décor are not part of the home’s dining collection. These are typically not the plates one registered for or received as wedding gifts. They might be special items passed down or even collections built over time, scouted out with a keen eye at estate sales and antique shops. They might complement the china used for holidays and special occasions, but plucked straight from the sideboard they are not.    

plates hang on decorated wall behind oak brown table with candles

Southern Living

When I was a child, I once counted the plates hanging on the walls of a friend’s home. [Mind you, this tidy ranch was in no way palatial; it probably clocked in around 2,500 square feet.] The number was 38. There was a total of 38 plates hanging on walls in the living room, dining room, bedrooms, and even hallway. Plates abounded. To this day, when I walk into a house where china is used as décor, I instantly feel at home. It brings a warmth and interest to walls that is hard to duplicate, at least when it’s paired with warm childhood memories. 

Perhaps that’s why those who were raised by Southern mothers and grandmothers can seldom break free of the ties that bind to this tried-and-true décor staple. It’s something one might never have thought to do, unless they’ve seen it done before—and with panache. When art just won’t do (or even when it does), when a pop of color or pattern is warranted or a palate cleanser is called for, it’s nothing that a plate on the wall can’t fix. Oftentimes you’ll see them in groups of three or more, arching above mirrors, flanking a signed and numbered canvas, or simply speckled down a hall like the subtlest “walk this way” directional. One thing is for sure though, you don’t happen upon this aesthetic without a little help from a Southern matriarch. 

If you’re lucky enough to walk into a home where plates adorn the walls, just know that it’s generations of work that went into that decision. Don’t take it lightly, and certainly don’t mock it and start counting like I once did. Just know you’re in a place where generations of stylish women are honored at every turn—and with every mounted plate.

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