By Karen Parr-Moody
A little Asian can go a very long way, as any interior decorator will tell you. However, that comes with a caveat. When the Asian are pieces are more a subtle “whisper” than a crashing “gong,” they can be organized in groups or sprinkled throughout one’s décor, rather than used as one “statement piece.”
GasLamp dealer Elizabeth Burton has such a fancy for Asian that a quick look at any of her booths reveals a fine-tuned assortment. In her front wall booth, she features kimonos, jewelry, vases, and fun household items. In her two larger booths, one might find a kitschy, mid-century lamp with a couple of Asian figures dressed in candy-colored clothing. Then, on a visit to her showcases, one might find more refined pieces that are both highly unusual and highly collectible.
Take these fabulous pieces from Burton’s front booth in the photo, right. One is a vintage Kikkoman Japanese sake bottle hand painted as a quaint geisha ($45; S-104).With the many high-end sakes that are now available in Nashville, one can imagine serving such a beverage, hot or cold, from this charmer. Then there are these unusual chopstick holders ($20 each; S-104). Functioning like spoon rests, these porcelain holders bring a hint of the Orient to any hip table where Asian fusion cuisine is served. The colorful geishas are certainly hard to pass up, particularly if one is planning an Asian themed party. They could easily be used at each place setting. Or, if a hostess is being extra creative, they could be included in a parting gift bag. For only $20 each, one could be tossed in a gift bag with assorted teas, and the guests would be most appreciative.
In Burton’s showcase, she has an unusual collection like no other in the hundred-plus booths at the mall: It is that of antique opium weights, as seen in the photo at left. Now, it’s been more than a century and a continent away in which these were used to measure such illicit drugs. That said, these little darlings, done in a variety of metals – bronze, sterling and copper – are perfect for a vignette anywhere in the house (left-right, Thai copper pelican opium weight, $85; bronze Opium weight from China, circa 1860, $115; sterling Buddha opium weight, circa early 1800s, $395; all at Showcase S-104).
Also in Burton’s showcase is this unusual perfume bottle in the photo at right. The Chinese and Japanese are historically known for their deft hand at what is called “one-stroke” painting. Another way in which they plied their craft was to paint the insides of bottles in “reverse paintings,” such as with this beautiful perfume bottle ($325; Showcase S-104). The birds in the painting speak to the Asian belief in them as symbols of immortality.
Continuing one the theme of hand painting, Burton features these two porcelain vases, at left, in her showcase (vase at left, $95; vase at right, $125). They both include the wonderful painting technique known as moriage, in which raised beads and lines of paint form part of the overall decoration. The vase on the left is from the 1960s; the vase on the right is from the 1870s.
When it comes to Asian, some items may not appear, at first glance, to fit the bill. However, it is their material and technique that make them so. Such is the case with this stunning piece of hand-carved ornamental teak, in the photo at right, that is found in Carol Williams’ booth, Aunt Enid’s Attic (photo, right, $145; Booth B-110).
Decorating with Asian is not an end all deal. One does not have to create a “themed” room, not by a long stretch. The idea is to put a piece here or there, or to create a vignette of beautiful pieces. That way, one creates an eclectic look that has some real Asian texture and flair. Because there are few styles that impart the punch that Asian does.