How do I display my vintage teacups?

Warning, long story ahead!

I’m not super good at interior decoration, but I have some items that I’d like to display in my home. I want to display these meaningful items in a way that doesn’t look like a thrift shop display. My partner is a minimalist and doesn’t do sentimental, but he’s fine with whatever display I come up with. We have a pretty eclectical interior with mostly inherited old dark furniture and rugs and curtains and posters in bright colours and graphic prints, and I am looking for a way to display that feels contemporary rather than oldfashioned (if possible).

I have two empty shelves, each is around 85x30 cm so quite wide but not very deep.

On the first shelf there’s currently this display:

Teapots that belonged to both of my grandmothers and behind that assorted religious items inherited from several relatives and some candleholders handmade by my carpenter grandfather. The metal teapot is the most significant item to me, it belonged to my recently deceased grandmother who practically raised me. I honestly don’t really love the other one, but I somehow ended up with it and it’s one of the few items I have that belonged to my other grandmother, who died a long time ago and I didn’t know well, but feel connected to. I thought it would be nice to combine them but if anyone has a better idea I’d love to hear it.

These I just unpacked - 8 complete sets from 3 generations of my family and some extra saucers. I couldn’t leave the saucers but I don’t really know what to do with them. I have no space for the sets in the kitchen so they need to go on this shelf. The saucers could just move to the kitchen but they are fun so maybe someone has a better idea.

I would like to not do any permanent damage to the cups and teapots because everything still gets used, but I’m open to anything else!

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Lovely tea things! And the wooden candleholders are so beautiful, too.

Being a sometimes-cake-decorator, the first thing that popped into my mind was a tiered, cake-like display. (Actually just the front half of the cake, if you know what I mean; a half-round.) Maybe even a teapot at the top? But don’t actually know if the shelves are tall enough for that.

Another option might be to create a display that is almost like an ornament box, with a separate section for each cup. That might look a little more modern/minimalist.

However, I’m really not great at interior decorating… so eagerly awaiting what ideas others have!

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Thanks, your ideas have been very helpful! I’ve found this picture that is almost exactly what you describe:

I like that idea, but it doesn’t fit the shelf. But of course, just because this space is empty doesn’t mean they need to be put there. Maybe another place is better.

I also really like the idea of multiple layers, I’m going to play around with that tomorrow. Maybe I can find something in the house that would be suitable.


Acrylic risers would be good. That way you get different heights as well as depth. I used to work retail and used risers for collectibles. Acrylic risers might not be readily available but different height glass jars would work. I have also painted different cans like soup and tuna. Paint them the same color and the uniformity of color makes then disappear.

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I have been experimenting with layers for a bit today. I went with the cake stand idea with the teapot on top and came up with this basic idea:

I need to find a jar or can to put the teapot on but the shelf is high enough for 3 layers. I like the look of the old books but I think I may prefer a round shape, so I’m going to play around with this a little bit more. If I can’t find something suitable at home I will look around for risers. I think the local wholesale business supplies store that I go to for office supplies also has a retail departement, so maybe I could get them there.

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Ok, Mr Imma hates this. He says I should use the full width of the shelf instead of making one big pile, those cups need their personal space!

I also came across this display that I love:

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Ooooh! That is cool! CD holders are genius — I’d think the cubbies would be the perfect size for the cups. Probably too small for saucers.