Coffee Sets – Are They Beautiful Dinosaurs?

Meissen Riemerschmid
Richard Riemerschmid, for Meissen porcelain factory. 1905
Cast porcelain with hand painted underglaze decoration.
At the V&A, London
Some objects are beautiful as well as useful, but then time moves on and they become purely ornamental. It would appear that the usefulness of the coffee set has had its day, well, in my home anyway.

Slater Sunray for Shelley

Eric Slater for Shelley Potteries, Fenton UK. 1930
Bone china, thrown, trimmed and shaved on a lathe. Printed in fawn and painted in enamel colours.
At the V&A, London

Of course, there is nothing to stop you collecting beautiful china and displaying it in its own right as aesthetically pleasing, but there’s a little tinge of sadness when something previously functional is no longer used. And, I’ve realised it is the ugly machine that’s finally taken over in my kitchen this past decade. The Bialetti Moka pot and the cafetière, both attractively designed, had a few glory years, but now they’re permanently at the back of the cupboard as the boring, grey machine actually makes the best coffee.

Nowhere as beautiful as the above Meissen, my own coffee set has suffered the loss of the small milk jug, the sugar bowl has been repaired more than once and the coffee pot has been relegated to occasional use as a flower vase.

Coffee pot as flower vase!
Coffee pot as flower vase!