Whether it's at a garage sale, flea market, or swap meet, you're likely to spot a beautiful old dish languishing in a corner, long separated from its original set. You may even have the odd dish hanging around in your cupboards, collecting dust. There's no reason to hide it or resist the urge to buy a few more. Dishes make fabulous decorating accents.


Beautiful dishes don't have to match; in fact, a display is often more interesting when they don't. Whether you're combing through scattered stacks at a yard sale or sorting Grandma's dishware from the attic, many plates can be united by a single color or a pattern, such as roses, that can be the common thread running through your collection.

If you enjoy shabby chic decor, use a mismatched collection of plates when you have company. This makes for an eclectic table sure to trigger conversation among guests. Or, you can use the collection to make a striking decorating statement.


Whether you focus on dishes of the same or random sizes, all look terrific in place of standard framed art. An old-fashioned set of pink-and-white dishes looks smashing mixed with a sprinkling of a new plates in bright aqua or chartreuse. A set like this looks at once collected and cohesive, yet trendy. Studding your display with a few newer pieces or plates of a contrasting color, such as buttercup yellow with a collection of blue-and-white dishes, adds a springtime fresh touch.


You can also create a fresh, striking collection focused on a non-traditional color. While blue, white and pink are traditional -- and easier to find -- look instead for plates with a green-and-white pattern. Browns, golds, purple and red can also make a unique statement. Old hotel and restaurant dishes in black and white are another option and have a fabulously graphic look.


Plate racks are always an option for displaying your collection, but one of the best ways to call attention to plates it to put them in unexpected places. A large platter hung over the kitchen or dining room door makes a bold statement. Or, try placing platters or plates along a stove hood. Instead of the usual mirrored tray in the bathroom, use a large platter in a coordinating color to corral bottles and jars.

Using stands, add decorative plates to bookshelves, or top a stack of books with a plate or teacup-and-plate combination. Don't stand on convention; even large washbowls can be mounted on a wall as unique, three-dimensional pieces of art. Try adding a collection of plates on either side of a bed or mixing them with sconces and figurines for a look that stands out. If you have a small wall or niche, this is a perfect spot to display your collection with panache.

(For more information, contact Kathryn Weber through her Web site, http://www.redlotusletter.com.)