Vases may be one of the oldest players in the design game, but that doesn’t mean they always hold their own as decor. If you’re among those who are looking for a vase that looks as smashing on duty as it does off, look no further than the advice (and shop!) of Nashville-based Chairish seller Robin Rains. Robin jets off to Europe twice yearly to source for her store, and while all goodies are fair game, it’s found vessels, in all of their impromptu splendor, that she goes especially gaga for. “I love that vessels are the meeting of function and beauty,” Robin says. “They make for great conversation pieces thanks to their sculptural and artful quality.” From garden urns to confit pots, discover five chic vessels Robin’s always down to swap out a traditional vase for.


Three ceramic jugs repurposed as vases stand in front of neutral painting

Terracotta Urns

Originally Used For: “These were most likely used to hold water in Spain. The warm patina of the clay urns is characteristic with years of consistent use. I just love how the neutral tones in the clay blends well together when grouped.”
Try Filling With: “Forsythia in the spring and bittersweet vines in autumn look lovely and seasonal.”
Scout Your Own In: “Palafrugell, Spain.”

Antique carved wood side table with glass jug used as a vase with stone bowl


Originally Used For: “The clear glass bottle on the table was used to transport or store wine in France. If you love wine and antiques, there is nothing better than something that marries the two!”
Try Filling With:
“Any type of cut branch from your backyard. I also love the dried look of pampas grass branch.”
How to Keep Them Sparkling Clean:
“For the interior, try white rice in soapy water or vinegar and shake around. Another suggestion is to use salt and ice—pour the salt over the ice and shake and spin until clean. For the exterior, just wipe with a damp cloth or paper towel.”

Metal Bunsen burners with glass beakers are used here as vases

Glass Beakers

Originally Used For: “Utilitarian glass beakers were typically used for medical research or by any specialized industrial production facility in Europe.”
Try Filling Them With: “These pharmacy glass vases look great with bare branches and eucalyptus. Anything natural is the way to go!”
How to Branch Out with Them: “Since laboratory glassware was made on a very limited scale compared to household or kitchen glassware, these antique beakers stand alone as an industrial statement. They are wonderful grouped on a dining table with candles, or one beaker with a simple green branch is lovely on any table surface, kitchen island, or powder room.”

Ceramic canisters and jars are repurposed to be used as vases

Crocks & Confit Pots

Originally Used For: “The larger ceramic pots in beautiful shades of cream and off whites are actually Italian, from the late 1800’s. They were used to store and preserve cooked meats in Southern Italy. The smaller confit pots are French and were used to transport and store olive oil and vinegars. These come in a variety of sizes and are from the 19th and early 20th century. They’re so useful in the kitchen for storing salts, spices, jams, etc.”
Try Filling Them With: “Gypsophila (also known as baby’s-breath) and eucalyptus. Both are long-lasting and look just as good when dried.”
How to Branch Out with Them: “They’re great for holding kitchen utensils or used as a planter—vintage crocks infuse a space with old-world charm.”

Stone planter sits on a marble-topped sideboard in front of antique mirror

Footed Planter Urns

Source Your Own In: “France. Specifically, Nice, but they can be found in different regions in Europe.”
Try Filling Them With: “Mood moss (clump moss) is my go-to filler for antique urns and vessels. The key to making moss look good is to soak each piece in water and squeeze the water out to mold into the desired shape. To create a mound of moss in a container, you can put bubble wrap in the bottom of the container base and mound moss on the top layer only. This will save you time and moss!”
How to Branch Out with Them: “We frequently use outdoor garden urns in our interior spaces, either on a piece of furniture or on a pedestal as a sculptural element. We also love turning unique pieces into functional table lamps.”

We often place a single vessel on a pedestal or group them together with books to create a clean, pared down and sophisticated aesthetic.

Robin Rains

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All photos courtesy of Robin Rains

December 3, 2019

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