How To Choose Decorative Plates

Wherever you find your plates, among family heirlooms, in antique shops, at flea markets and yard sales, in faraway places or your own cupboard, wherever you hang them, decorative plates are sure to generate interest and start conversations as well as add unexpected elements to the overall aesthetic of a home.

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Beautifully painted porcelain plates go back to 7th-century China. It wasn’t until the 14th century that merchants (such as the famed Marco Polo) brought plates back to Europe. They were highly prized as collectibles and appreciated as art.

From that time on, decorative plates were “in” then “out” then “in” again. They are now cutting-edge trendy, whether your home’s décor is Victorian, traditional, mid-century, ultra-contemporary or anything in between.

What Are the Various Decorative Plates Out There?


  • Ceramic is the most common material used for decorative plates. Included in this category are china, porcelain and earthenware plates. You will find ceramic plates that are handmade and/or hand-painted, which makes them more valuable.

  • Glass plates tend to be a bit “higher end” than ceramic, and they are not out of sight price-wise.

  • Melamine is a type of plastic but much more refined looking than ordinary plastic. Because it is easy to color, you will have many interesting and clever designs to choose from. It is the most economical option.


  • Clear decorative plates have an elegant appeal, which is why they are very popular.

  • Colored plates include those that are colored from the inside out, not painted on colors.

  • China plates are delicate, supremely tasteful and artistic—and expensive.

Popular Collectibles

  • Transferware goes back to the 18th century, but it hit its peak in popularity during the Victorian Era. Ink was transferred from a copper plate to a piece of fired china with tissue paper. It was an inexpensive way to mass produce china for the burgeoning middle class. Designs included scenes of the English countryside and quaint towns, portraits of historical figures, and scenes from well-known stories.
Green Transferware Porcelain Dinner Plate
Red Transferware Porcelain Decorative Plate
Brown Transferware Porcelain Dinner Plate
Brown Transferware Porcelain Dinner Plate
  • Blue Willow is an example of transferware and the quintessential story plate, often depicting a tale of hapless lovers. The blue designs are elaborate and evocative. There is no missing the gist of the story. The same designs were produced in other colors (such as cranberry or brown) and were known as Willow Ware.
Blue Willow Earthenware Decorative Plate
Dark Blue Willow Earthenware Decorative Plate
Blue Willow Earthenware Decorative Plate
Blue Willow Earthenware Decorative Plate
Blue Willow Melamine Decorative Plate
Blue Willow Melamine Decorative Plate
  • You will know Blue Flow by the blurred edges of the design. It was first produced accidentally. The cobalt blue ran during firing. It was a terrible mistake, but it made its way to the US where people loved the look. It is highly collectible and difficult to find. Production ceased during World War I due to imposed shortage of the materials.
  • Noritake was a Japanese company founded in New York City in 1904 that produced plates that would appeal to Americans of all economic strata. After World War II, their plates were marketed as "Rose China" due to the animus toward Japan. The name “Noritake” was brought back in 1953 with a backstamp of “N” inside a wreath. The company is still in business today.
Berry Gold Noritake Decorative Plate
Golden Noritake Porcelain Decorative Plate
Golden Blue Noritake Bone China Decorative Plate
Blue Flower Noritake Bone China Plate
Gray Noritake Bone China Decorative Plate
Blue Noritake Porcelain Decorative Plate
  • Depression glass was the “cat’s meow” in the Roaring Twenties in the US. It originally came in shades of red, yellow and ivory, later green, gold and rose. Production was discontinued in 1973. In 1986, it was reintroduced, still collectible, but not as much so as the original plates.
Golden Depression Glass Decorative Plate
Red Depression Glass Decorative Plate
White Depression Glass Decorative Plate
Orange Depression Glass Decorative Plate
Golden Depression Glass Decorative Plate
Pink Depression Glass Decorative Plate

How Are Decorative Plates Used in Different Decors?

As we always say, if you love something, if it speaks to you and your sense of style, there are no rules. However, to get you started, we have some suggestions.

  • Colonial is a stylish down-to-earth décor. It reflects the pristine Puritan culture though embellished with elegance and warmth. Plates with cool colors, such as dark green and grey-blue, and nautical themes or images of British scenes or British heroes will enhance the walls.
white colonial porcelain decorative plate
white colonial porcelain decorative plate
  • Roaring Twenties décor is glamorous and sophisticated with geometric shapes, shiny fabrics and stylized accessories. Decorate with plates that have bold colors and/or African images. Depression glass is perfect. But less is more in this case. We want the plates to complement the décor not compete with it.
Colorful Square Glass Decorative Plate
Colorful Square Glass Decorative Plate
Colorful Rectangular Glass Decorative Plate
  • Mid-century modern décor has a timeless appeal. It includes clean lines, organic forms and high functionality. It is also versatile, so you have a wide berth in selecting decorative plates. Soft shades of blue and purple fit in well with the serene environment, and both Art Nouveau and Turkish designs work.
Colorful Flower Glass Decorative Plate
Pink Flower Glass Decorative Plate
Golden Flower Glass Decorative Plate
Blue Flower Porcelain Decorative Plate
White Modern Tempered Glass Plate
Colorful Flower Stoneware Decorative Plate
  • Bohemian decor is carefree and adventurous spirit. It includes rich patterns and vibrant reds and purples. Plates should be as rich and as vibrant and arranged a bit haphazardly. Native American/Southwestern and folk art designs are preferred.
Colorful Vibrant Porcelain Decorative Plate
Colorful Geometric Porcelain Decorative Plate
Colorful Symmetric Porcelain Decorative Plate
  • Urban modern décor is a fascinating mix of minimalist, glamorous, ethnic and edgy. Accordingly, plates can have artistic, geometric, vintage and traditional designs.
Black Red Modern Ceramic Plate
Blue Modern Ceramic Decorative Plate
Dark Modern Ceramic Decorative Plate
White Modern Glass Decorative Plate
White Modern Glass Decorative Plate
Blue Modern Glass Decorative Plate

Where Can I Hang Decorative Plates?

Just about anywhere you want! You can be just as original here as you are with the plates you choose and how you arrange them on the wall. We have some suggestions to get you started.

  • On a large blank wall, of course. Maybe you don’t want a large painting there. Maybe it’s something you have seen too often. Maybe a large painting will dominate the room and that is not what you want. A collection of plates will fill the space without taking over. Make it your very own art installation in the middle of the wall.
  • A gallery wall is a fun way to display small art works, plants, books, etc. Break up the existing arrangement by adding decorative plates for interest and for the variety in shape. Note: When hanging plates with other objects, leave around 12” in between so that your arrangement does not look crowded.
  • Plates above a door should echo the colors in the room. They draw the eye up and make the whole space feel larger.
  • Warm up a kitchen with its stainless steel and cold, hard counter tops by hanging plates over the window. Both the colors and the patterns will create a more welcoming environment, and isn’t the kitchen the room where the family spends the most time and guests settle in for a visit?
  • All rooms have that narrow wall that seems unfit for decoration. Not so! Small plates hung vertically will add color, shape and pattern to what was dead space.
  • Plates on bookcases save your décor from all that angularity. You can have the plates sitting on stands breaking up the sameness of the books, or you can punctuate the books with plates hung on the back wall of the bookcase.
  • Why not dare to be different! You can decorate your patio with hanging plates. You will find romantic pictures of patios in Spain and Morocco to inspire you. Include hanging plants in the arrangement. Then settle in for a relaxing afternoon.

How Do You Hang Decorative Plates?

For years, spring plate hangers were used—the kind that clamp onto the back of the plate from top to bottom. Sometimes the plate went askew; sometimes the metal scratched the paint and the edge of the plate; almost always, the hanger showed, ruining the whole idea of “floating plates.” And, if you are doing a whole wall of plates, the hangers turn it into a costly project. These hangers are still available if you want to use them, but we are offering you alternatives.

Adhesive Disc Plate Hangers

The Adhesive Disc Hanger is the answer to the visible plate hangers discussed above and to unsightly wires. They are simple to use and inexpensive. Most important, though, is that they keep the plate secure with permanent adhesion that will not harden over time or deteriorate. There are a variety of disc sizes available depending on the weight of your plates.

Make sure the back of the plate is clean. Scour it to be sure or wipe with rubbing alcohol. Dip your fingertip into a little water, then rub your wet finger over the adhesive side of the disc. Wait three to seven minutes for the adhesive to get sticky. Press the disc firmly onto the plate and let it sit overnight to dry. Use the hook and nail included in the package to hang the plate on the wall.

If you want to remove the disc later, soak the plate in warm water until the adhesive loosens.

Safety Pins

Guess you are trying to picture plates attached to the wall with safety pins! Here’s the deal: gather together your plate, small piece of felt, medium-size safety pin, hot glue gun and hot glue.

Clean the plate. Put a generous amount of hot glue over and around the lower ½-inch of the pin, extending the glue onto the plate. While the glue is hot, press the felt scrap into the glue—don’t get burned! Once the glue is dry, pull on the safety pin. If it comes off, clear all the glue off the plate and start over. If the safety pin is nice and secure, put a nail in the wall and fit the round circle on the pin over it.

If you want to remove the glue later, use the hot air from a hair dryer to soften it.

Pop Tabs

Yes, we mean those tabs on cans that we pull up to get to the soda. Purists can use a D-ring with clip, but, really, the pop tab works just fine.

Use Clear Grip by Gorilla Glue or E6000 Craft Adhesive. Clean the plate. Position the pop tab so that it is centered and not visible over the edge of the plate. Follow the directions on the glue packaging. Let the glue cure for 24 hours, then hang the ring on a nail.

Mind you, you cannot remove this kind of glue.

You surely will enjoy creating your own “art installations” with your plates, but beware, searching for the plates can become addictive! Beautifully addictive. Just keep in mind, plates that you love will always be more valuable to you than any you might acquire because they are valuable to others.