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Footbaths, cachepots add panache to any décor

Through the years, I’ve come up with a short list of absolutely essential and incredibly awesome home accents that I have got to have on hand when I decorate. The items on my VIP list are so gorgeous, so hardworking and so versatile that they stand head and shoulders above the rest.

I call them my building blocks because I use these amazing pieces over and over again in new and unusual ways to add style and whimsy to home interiors. If you’re on the hunt for multipurpose pieces you can use in dozens of ways to make your home even more beautiful, here are a few of my favorites.


I confess that I don’t know the history of china footbaths, but a friend who is crazy about all things English tells me the people who used to lived in large, drafty manor homes filled these gorgeous trough-shaped bowls with steaming water, then plunked in their frozen feet to defrost.

I’m not sure whether this account is accurate, but I love the thought of these gorgeous pieces being used in such a practical way to make daily life more extraordinary, because that’s exactly how I use them in my home. While I don’t stick my tired toes in my footbaths, I do use them to add sophistication and panache to ordinary displays.

Today’s replica footbaths are so affordable and so versatile that you’ve just got to have one or two in your lineup of home accents to use when you want to lend grandeur to a display or entertain in style.

These impressive pieces look stunning standing all by themselves in the center of a dining-room table, on a buffet flanked by two lamps, atop a bookcase or armoire to fill all that hard-to-decorate dead space or tucked in a bookcase. If you like to freshen your home’s look for each season, all you need to do is change out the contents of the footbath to fit your mood. I like to fill them with zippy lemons or limes in the summer; then, in the fall, I pour in a medley of colorful gourds.

Footbaths also make gorgeous planters, loaded with anything from orchids to geraniums to ferns. Or fill your footbath with treasures you want to show off, like a set of antique books.

If your footbath is fully sealed and food safe, use it as a serving piece when you entertain. I love them as salad bowls, breadbaskets or soup tureens. Pack with ice to chill wine and soft drinks. Or use it to keep boiled shrimp or other cold appetizers fresh.


“Cachepot” is a French word for an ornamental container used to conceal a flowerpot. One of my all-time favorite ways to use cachepots is to fill them with large ferns and display them in a corner of a grand room to add height, texture and color to the space. In fact, a fern in a blue-and-white cachepot atop a wooden riser has become a signature part of the Nell Hill’s look.

But the uses for this exceptional decorating tool don’t stop there. You can use a cachepot just as you would a footbath. Or employ it to contain all the practical stuff in your home with beauty and elegance. Put one on your kitchen counter to hold cooking utensils, dog biscuits or plastic bags. In your bathroom, roll up guest towels and tuck them into a cachepot, put the cachepot on the floor and fill it with toilet paper, or use it as a wastepaper basket. In your office, use a cachepot to hold mail, printer paper or today’s assignments.

When you entertain, use a food-safe cachepot to display long baguettes or celery sticks. Fill it with ice, find a gorgeous silver scoop and you have a one-of-a-kind ice bucket.

Have fun as you experiment with these fabulous decorating tools. If you come up with new and inventive ideas, tell me about them so I can try them out, too!

Mary Carol Garrity owns three home furnishings stores in Atchison, Kan., and wrote several books on home decorating. Write to Mary Carol at nellhills@mail.lvnworth.com. Her column is syndicated by Scripps Howard News Service.

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