The Orchid Pot + Spring Refresh

By Kate Riley March 16, 2015

We spent the weekend spring cleaning the house and garage, everything indoors was dusty and cluttered and the garage was the definition of a disaster. Last year, we’d brought home from Matt’s grandmother’s estate furniture and boxes of belongings and we’ve been housing it in our garage, slowly distributing the possessions to relatives.

I try not to be too sentimental about my own material things since they can get lost or destroyed, and when I die someday I’m not taking them with me. But some of my things possess meaning because they were a gift, are attached to a special memory, or belonged to someone I love.

As I was sorting through the last two boxes of her things, I came across a charming little pot. What was so interesting about this particular pot was that I had been casually looking around for a chinoiserie ceramic version for an orchid, nothing cheap looking, one with intricate detail and personality, and there to my surprise in that last box of possessions sat the prettiest little pot there ever was with no indication as to whom it should go to. At that moment, it was if it winked at me.


chinoiserie pot with orchid

Grandma Verna labeled all of her things the last few years of her life, jotting down the origination since she had kept only the special treasures from her travels. Most everything had a note about the source and who she wanted to have it. She and her husband had traveled all over the world, Europe, Africa, India, etc. and she kept journals of her travels, ones we brought out from time to time to read to her but not that it was necessary, her mind was as sharp at 103 as it was at 53 and she could recall every detail she had written down in those journals from fifty years before.

The pot had no note attached to it so I decided to adopt it and make it part of the collection of things she had already intended find their way into our living room. Grandpa’s piano. Artwork from their 1978 trip to India. Their Swiss gold LeCoultre Atmos clock from the 1960s. 

potted plant vignette

The find inspired a spring refresh in the living room, it’s the first room you come into when you enter our home so I like it to be bright and welcoming, elegant yet casual. I swapped a few things around from shopping my house, like the wing back chair that sat upstairs.

I brought in some of my old favorites, the white sculpted urn, the fretwork canister. I also added a few new things, the chain link mirror I ordered from Lamps Plus and a few accessories found at HomeGoods such as the navy geometric pillows and the orchid pot on the mantel.

navy white mantel centsational girl


Matt is an orchid whisperer and his grandmother was one too, she had the most beautiful orchids all over her home, many gathered on top of her credenza and in bloom throughout the year. Whenever we would visit and comment on their beauty she would say “Never over water!” and “Find them a happy place!” (in filtered light).

navy and white living room


blue orchid pot gold link mirror


When I was a little girl, calla lily plants grew outside my bedroom window in the side yard of our house, we’d run past them when we were playing and my sister and I could see them if we leaned out the first story window in our shared bedroom. Big bunches of them even in in mini form remind me of my childhood home.

calla lillies in speckled vase


reading chair navy pillow console table


I bought a few orchids at Trader Joe’s on Saturday, they have so many inexpensive exotic varieties. That beautiful blue vase filled with cherry tree clippings from our yard was also from HomeGoods. I wish I could claim it was DIY but it’s not, how cool is the drippy paint effect? Three of the four art prints I created on my own, the abstract is from Minted. 

art prints and vase


A trio of pillows found their way to sofa across from the mantel, the diamond Ikat is from Joss & Main purchased a few years ago, the medallion pillow I found at Pier One.

living room tufted sofa with navy pillows


pillows on sofa


All of it inspired from a little pot that made its way into my life, my new treasure. A reader shared this is a classic pattern, Mottahedeh’s Tobacco Leaf pattern.

orchid in chinoiserie pot

Isn’t it funny how certain flowers remind you of things from the past just like calla lilies remind me of my childhood home. I’m curious, is there a certain flower that you attach to a memory from your past? I’d love to know!


  1. Such a beautiful pot – your grandma sounds like a really neat lady (who obviously also had great taste!). Your living room looks gorgeous – love all of the spring blooms!

  2. Lilacs remind me of home, my mother has a huge, amazingly beautiful garden – as in just over one acre of roses, perennials, annuals, giant flowering bushes, more roses(300 at last count!), wisteria, a planted pond, trees, bulbs, you name it, it’s there! She has four lilac bushes, two different varieties on either side of the yard. My favorite variety was just upwind of my bedroom and the smell of lilacs reminds me of the start of spring!

  3. Love, love, love your living room! Comfortable, yet classy! And lilacs remind me of my childhood. Had huge bushes growing outside our home in NH. The smell of lilacs always brings me back there.

  4. My very first planting experience was a peony. I also remember daffodils by the back door, and bountiful and prolific rose bushes on a wooden fence from my childhood home in New York. My mom would pay us a penny apiece for all the Japanese beetles we plucked off the rose bushes. Mom wasn’t very happy when we also picked them off the neighbors rose bushes but brought them to my mom to “pay up”. Thanks for allowing me to remember these things.

  5. Lilacs. We had them in a row of hedges when I was a little girl. To this day, the scent of lilac takes me back to being 6, spring, and the excitement of weather changing (we lived in Michigan). I love how flowers can do that!

  6. When I was very young my father was stationed in your neck of the woods, in Nevato, CA. I have very fond memories of playing outside in the green green grass, the fields of clover and catching lizards and snails. We had the most fragrant vines of honeysuckle on the side of our house, and I can still smell those incredibly sweet and fragrant blooms! I love your style, and all the beautiful blues in your home reminds me of my own mother’s (and grandmothers) decor. I too have many of their treasures displayed in my home and it brings me such joy to be able to enjoy the things they loved!

  7. Your house looks great and I too love items that mean something to me so much more than those picked up at the store. The flower of my childhood is also a reminder of my grandmother. She always had Tiger Lillys planted all in front of her house. I remember cutting them and bringing them in the house. The funny thing is I inherited her set of silver that has a spot for a monogram on each piece. She never had them monogrammed because she didn’t want to ruin them for the future owner. I’m actually going to have them monogrammed with her monogram. She would think that is ridiculous. She had them for more than 50 years and never monogrammed them. Now they will finally have her monogram.

  8. I love your home – it is so light and cheerful, and you can never have too much art, in my world! I did want to ask where you purchased the grey side table. It is lovely with it detailing.

  9. I love the thoughtful yet casual way your living room looks. So cozy and inviting but beautiful and fresh. I just love that little pot, so beautiful yet understated. The black French doors are fabulous, too.

  10. Hi – I just wanted to tell you I loved your post and wanted to share a little more about your pretty pot. The pattern is called “Tobacco Leaf” and it is originally an 18th century pattern designed for export from China. Originals are museum pieces and more recently very high quality reproductions have been made my Mottahedah. If you google the pattern name you will find lots of information — this was an extravagently detailed and highly prized pattern at the time.

    Separately, I am going to be posting some monograms on my blog in the next few weeks that were inspired by your posts on color theory.

    Best wishes :)

  11. I love the smell of jasmine-we had a bush that wrapped around our front porch. Also-we had the most beautiful pink camellias that my mom would float in a little silver bowl on the coffee table. There were also a ton of roses-the woman who sold my parents their home was a champion rose-grower. It’s funny because unlike my mother, I have a black thumb-but I do love how flowers look and smell!

  12. my mom was a fantastic gardener. Bleeding hearts, Passion flowers, roses, and wild sweet peas remind me so much of home. I miss home in the spring and summer.

  13. This post just brought back so many great memories of my childhood! My mother’s home decorating included many pieces that my father sent back from Viet Nam; Jade flower sculptures, ivory carvings, beautiful ebony black with inlaid abalone shell horse pictures and various watercolors of asian scenes. Over the years as she moved from place to place, sadly all these treasures disappeared.
    As for favorite flower memories, I remember being invited to play with a school friend’s home. When we arrived at her home there was a huge hydrangea plant, some flowers were bigger than my head. I have always been fond of them since, in every color!

  14. Lily of the Valley takes me back to my childhood and it is the flower of my birth month. They grew on one side of our house and always bloom in the Spring! A few years ago I transplanted some from a neighbor to my own patch and when they blossom, I pick a few and display them in a tiny vase in my kitchen window where I am sure to let the fragrance reach my nose each day.

  15. I love, love, love your living room! Your grandmother had fabulous taste and how wonderful you can incorporate her relics from traveling into your own home. The orchids are my favorite, my grandmother too is an orchid whisper :) She has passed down that love of house plants to me as well; a room has so much more life when you have plant in it.



  16. Peonies bring me back. There was a whole hedge of them lining one side of the backyard of my childhood home. They bloomed in late May/early June, right as the weather was breaking in West Michigan. It was always the first sign of summer.

  17. I love your space, its warming and welcoming perfect for the first thing you see when you walk in. That pot is DARLING, I love the colors and pattern definitely a treasure

    Thanks for sharing

    Lauren | LB Designs

  18. I always remember my dad making us eat honeysuckle in our backyard, at the house I was born in. I’ve always loved the smell of the bushes, since. Our house is starting to fill with succulents everywhere and since we have big ol’ black thumbs in this house, that’s a success in itself. :) I love your new pot and the story behind it. :) Decorating with things from loved ones makes my soul happy.

    xo Ashley

  19. I love all the blues and golds! And of course, the flowers! Spring has certainly set in your house. Maybe I should add more flowers in my house too to make it more spring-y.

  20. How beautiful, Kate! I love simplicity in everything! Tasteful, classic, tranquil and elegant all seem to describe your room!
    A certain lilac tree wafted its scent towards my bedroom upstairs as a child growing up in Massachusetts 50 years ago! The wallpaper in my room was a large old-fashioned print of blue and lavender flowers—to this day, that is my favorite color combination!
    And my mother’s bright red geraniums planted in a bed growing by the sidewalk!
    Oh my! Those were the most wonderful days growing up in New England in the 60’s!!

    • So many memories from flowers! Red geraniums remind me of the church we went to when I was a girl Pamela :) They were all over the property. Agapanthus reminds me of my grandmother’s street, all the neighbors had them, the list goes on…

  21. Beautiful! Where is the white vase (that is on the grey table with the blue drippy paint vase) from?

  22. I have a question. I notice that you bring things out and put them away, or maybe you don’t? Do you store your things somewhere and bring them out later? Maybe, you like a decoration or two right now, and then don’t bring them out for a year or two? Do you store them in a basement or something? Or do you have out all your things and just rearrange them around the house? Actually, it’s something I was discussing with others about your blog and they had the same questions! An example that I’ve noticed that your Christmas trees have themes. Do you put away ornaments that do not go with your theme and keep them for another time? I would love a post on your storage!

  23. I remember we had honeysuckle growing in our back yard along a fence. It was do fragrant, and just talking about it now evokes the memory of the scent. Love your pot, and boy do I love orchids (they do well with my black thumb), tulips, and peonies. In fact, it was such a gloriously beautiful day today (sunny and 70’s) that I got out and brought home a wonderful small orchid for the bathroom and tulips for the kitchen.

  24. I never usually reply, but this post brought back many good childhood memories. For me, peonies, tulips and lilacs Remind me of childhood house on the south side of Chicago. We only had a few tulips, but I absolutely loved seeing them come up and their beautiful color. We had a huge lilac bush right by our driveway, so everytime we went anywhere I could smell the flowers. Plus, our neighborhood had lots of lilacs, they remind me of bike riding with my best friend. And peonies, they lined our elderly neighbors fence next to our backyard. She would let me pick them to bring inside. I was amazed at the ants on them and how pretty the flowers were. I still adore all these flowers and have planted them for my children to enjoy. Who am I kidding? I enjoy them more I think!

  25. Love seeing your beautiful home! And enjoy how you move things around to change up.

    For me it is gardenias. They were in my mom’s wedding bouquet which she had dried and saved. There was a gardenia bush at the house where I grew up. We have recently downsized houses and there is yardwork to be done — so now I’m reminded that I need to add a gardenia to the landscape.

  26. A beautiful story of how to pass things on! I don’t have kids but have things from travels. This makes me think, what is my plan? How will people (an estate liquidator I assume) know what these are and where they’re from and their value? I should document! I’m partial to poppies because my grandpa was called Poppy while we were growing up. My cousins couldn’t pronounce Grandpa so we called him Poppy. He died over 20 years ago now. Poppies still make me think of him.

  27. When I was little our next door neighbor had a Banana Shrub (Michelia figo- a member of the magnolia family) with blooms that smelled just like bananas. I would sneek into their yard and pick a bloom or two and walk around the neighborhood with those blooms practically sticking out of my nose! Fast forward 35 years- When we bought the house we are in now I made sure to plant two banana shrubs at the end of our front porch so that when they bloom in Spring I can go sit on the swing and enjoy the smell. Turns me into a kid all over again.

  28. Delightful post. Beautiful little pot. Charming, fresh, elegant but comfy living room. My memories are of a huge magnolia tree at the front of the house and my mom’s bed of snapdragons, other blooms and lots of herbs, particularly mint and dill, outside the back door of the kitchen. Favorites today (not sure why) are tulips (especially white, yellow or salmon), peonies and poppies. It’s so neat to find an inspiration piece and be able to build from there. My inspiration piece is my large canvas of aspens (they could be birches) in early fall with green and brilliant yellow leaves but no red yet. I’ve had a ball building my living room around that canvas and still, after two years, to paraphrase Maria Killam, it makes me smile every day and every moment of the day.

  29. What a fun little exercise! Gammy will always be Tropicana roses, Mom is lily-of-the-valley, Aunt Jean is Peace roses and the home in Leesburg my family has lived in for 40 years is portulaca (moss roses) and lilacs. Ah, this makes me a little bit sad.

  30. Gardenias remind me of Christmas (here in Australia) and Camellias remind me of home and my Mum who always had them and still does x

  31. My mom always had purple irises growing at the ends of our front porch, and I always think of her when I see them. I just came back from a visit with her, celebrating her 71st birthday…thanks for the reminder of childhood years.

  32. love this . You free associate like I do. Grandma sounds like a cool person and you were lucky to claim her. My father planted iris everywhere as long as he lived. That was my sisters name. she died when I was a newborn. I suppose that was his way of remembrance.

  33. your home is just gorgeous and the orchid in the pot is perfect. Lovely pot.

  34. Peonies. We had a very large bush in our backyard. I remember trying to carry a large bouquet to my teacher. Ants were crawling up my arm. Forgot to shake. Or to young to know to shake.

  35. SNAP DRAGONS! My Aunt Sophie grew them all along side of her house under her kitchen window. She showed us how to squeeze them to open them and how they would ‘snap’ shut. The smell brings me home! They are ALWAYS a part of my garden here in Phoneix!
    I LOVE what you’ve done with your prints!! Ima copy cat you!! ;)

  36. Kate,
    I can’t find the source of your rug in the picture? Can you please share?

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