ironstone pitchers | which way should the handles face

by | Feb 22, 2023 | Antiques, Decorating, Ironstone | 38 comments

This post has been sitting in the drafts for a while and I opened it up, looked at the pictures, and it made me smile.  So, let’s dust it off.  This post draft came from a few comments I’ve received over the years about the direction of the handles on the ironstone pitchers in my photos.  Obviously, I place things carefully and intentionally but had never thought about which way the handles should face.  I just arrange them in a way that looks aesthetically pleasing to me.

Over the years, though, several blog readers have pointed out that most of my handles tend to point left.  Then people ask if I’m left-handed.  I’m actually right-handed, but I play several sports as a lefty.  I do left-handed cartwheels (when I did cartwheels), play mini golf, and hold a bat as a lefty.  I throw with my right hand, though.  All of that to say, I might have some left-handed tendencies that mean I often pick up and put down things like pitchers with my left hand.  Which is why a lot of a pitcher handles face left.

white ironstone pitchers | miss mustard seed

As I looked through arrangements of ironstone pitchers year after year, I do see a strong leaning toward the left-handed-facing-handle preference.

white ironstone pitchers | miss mustard seed

white ironstone pitchers | miss mustard seed

white ironstone pitchers | miss mustard seed

white ironstone pitchers | miss mustard seed

white ironstone pitchers | miss mustard seed

white ironstone pitchers | miss mustard seed
white ironstone pitchers | miss mustard seed

Oh, but not always!  I was able to find a few pictures where I placed the ironstone pitchers with the handles pointing right…

white ironstone pitchers | miss mustard seed

white ironstone pitchers | miss mustard seed

white ironstone pitchers | miss mustard seed

white ironstone pitchers | miss mustard seed

I remember this one where I turned a couple of ironstone pitchers opposite of the others just because I was in the mood to mix it up.

white ironstone pitchers | miss mustard seed

(A funny thing is I saw the piece above for sale recently on Facebook Marketplace.  What goes around comes around!)

In my current house, I seem to be sticking with the ironstone handles pointing left in most cases.

white ironstone pitchers | miss mustard seed

I do think that the arrangement of the ironstone pitchers has more to do with access to the piece and how it is situated in a room.  Maybe?  But, I don’t really know.  It is fun to think about, though, and look back over my shelf-styling decisions.

So, which way should the handles of ironstone pitchers face?  I’ve decided, after this thorough, official, and scientific study, that ironstone pitcher handles should be left-facing and everything else is wrong.  Not only is it wrong, but it might be against some antiquated, obscure laws that you’re not aware of.  And I might need to confiscate your particularly rare antique ironstone pitchers to make sure you don’t commit any, you know…crimes.  I’m just trying to protect you.

In all seriousness, they can obviously face any which way you want.

I have written a lot about ironstone over the years and you can find more articles about what it is, why I collect it, and tips for starting your own collection HERE.


  1. adolman

    Interesting observation that many, but not all, of your pitcher handles face left! Perhaps because of my long-ago background in publishing which specified having the subject of pictures face towards the gutter (center of two-fold spread where the content is) rather than off the page (leading the eye away from content)–I tend to arrange pitchers with the spout facing towards the center, and the handles facing towards the sides, therefore having pitchers on the left with handles facing left, and pitchers on the right with handles facing right, so that the spouts all face to the center. I think there is no right or wrong way to do this, though–just do what is pleasing to your own eye. And your styling always looks great, no matter which way the handles are facing–keep up the good work!

    • Mary Jo McGovern

      I was the layout editor of my yearbook (oh so many years ago!) and do the same with my ironstone pitchers! Old habits die hard! 😊

      • Kay Hess Grogg

        Mary Jo McGovern and adolman- I agree. My habit is to follow rules of publishing (yearbooks were my training). Or is it because we go with which hand we pick it up with? Oh heavens, this could keep everyone up all night thinking about this heavy subject. LOL Kay

  2. Meredith Russell

    I tend to put handles toward the right, because I pick things up with my right hand. I broke my left wrist many years ago, but it seems I still favor my right hand for heavy jobs. I like the publishing related excuse for pointing things toward the middle to achieve symmetry as well. Thought provoking article on why some arrangements look more right than others!

  3. April

    Left seems easier on my brain. Maybe because we read left to right?

  4. Catherine Jennings

    Actually, as a graphic designer, the spout should point to where you want to direct people’s focus. If the spout point to an empty wall, the wall will be the focus (you probably don’t want that). It’s a rule learning in design an advertising. Just an FYI 🙂

    • Alice

      I agree. In my advanced painting classes my professor, who was well known, instructed us to always use composition which kept the eye of the observer within the composition. To direct it outside would be a self defeating purpose. I don’t think pointing handles all to the left or the right would rise to the level of crime but I would likely go with his advice in arranging collections I wanted to showcase.

    • Sheila Anderson

      I totally agree with this, and this has always been my rule of thumb. If pitchers are on both sides of a fireplace, for example, then you want the spouts toward it and the handles away. The focus will then be on the fireplace.

      • Shelley Humpal

        This is very thoughtful and a fun conversation. As a designer and a collector of many earthenware and pottery type items transferware included, I have a lot of handles. It is all about the composition and creating movement from one moment to the next. In something like a cupboard there can be many compositions within that cabinet to create the whole. To keep the eye traveling from one composition to the next I tend to use the spout as the transition, moving the eye along. So I will have left handles on the left and right handles on the right. I very rarely line up a collection of anything, choosing to utilize several different textures in my cabinets. If I was doing a row of pitchers though I would have the handles either left or right depending on where I want the eye to go next. You know the pitcher police are really looking at this conversation and I’m sure a jury of our piers will come to the same conclusion. There is no right way. It DEPENDS!!! Thanks Marian for a thought provoking post.

  5. Marcie

    I have pitchers, teapots, creamers, gravy boats, and all manner of handled objects…and they point in all directions! It all depends on what else is on the shelf with them, or how well they can be seen depending on what may be in front of them. I tend to go with whatever pleases my eye in that particular circumstance. But I do love your attempt to confiscate the naughty ones! LOL

  6. Dawn Beaton

    I always put the handles out, so on the right side they go right, on the left side they go left.I

  7. Margery

    I loved this post – it was fun to see all the many ways you’ve displayed your ironstone but also because it “made you look”. I just checked my display china cabinet which has many things with handles and some point to the right and some to the left but some pitchers are spout forward, handles facing the back since these, including my Quimper pitchers, have images on them that look best that way.

    • Sandy A

      First, your Ironstone collection is amazing! I find I turn handles of pitchers either to the left or right of center of shelf or cabinet they are sitting on. If only one or two, usually to the right. Any way you place Ironstone…it’s beautiful!!

  8. jinny spencer

    I’m smiling about this blog! It’s about time you addressed this! Every time I saw one of your photos with the handles on the left I would mentally cringe. I knew if I ever stayed overnight at your house my nighttime mischief would be to turn the handles to the right of center so they faced the center! So, so happy that others (mostly) agree….it just balances it all in my mind. We all have our quirks, you do Marion and I’ll do Jinny!

  9. SUSAN

    😁That’s funny. I find that it depends on which side of a shelf mine’s on. Left side of shelf, the handle points left. Right side, it points right. 🤷‍♀️ just saying.

  10. Rita

    Mine face differently depending on where they are. I do have one floating shelf in my kitchen with a row of pitchers and they all point right – probably because I used my right hand to sit then on it. Fun article. Now everyone is checking their handles.

  11. Teresa

    I have the same blue bowl but mine might be a smaller size. I love mine!

  12. Sandra Miller Pitts

    I have never really thought about handles. I am a lefty and put things away differently than my right handed sis. Looking at the pictures I realized the right turned handles made me feel a little uncomfortable and I might be tempted to turn them left. Lol

  13. Irene Kelly

    If the pitchers are close to a window or door I place them facing towards the window or door. If not then I place them facing towards the arrangement they are in. For example on my kitchen large deep window sill I have a sugar bowl and the matching pitcher facing the bowl and both are sitting on a matching tray type dish. And all my other arrangements thru out the house are placed with care to enhance the shelves they are sitting on and the rooms they are in.

  14. jaclynkpotter

    All publishers and yearbook editors unite!!! Everything I see…I see thru the eye of a page layout…just can’t help it!! All my ironstone spouts face the center!!!

  15. Deborah Raney

    My sister and I (she, a lefty, me, right-handed) decided years ago that it had to be about handedness, since she turns her handles all to the left and mine all turn to the right. We hadn’t even noticed until she came to my house and helped me decorate and I had to go behind her “righting” all the pitcher handles that were turned the “wrong” way! I think you’ve proved our theory since you turn them both ways and lean ambidextrous!

  16. Deborah Raney

    Years ago my sister and I (she’s a lefty, I’m right-handed) decided it must be handedness that determined which way a pitcher’s handle should go. We hadn’t even thought about it until she came to my house and helped me decorate, and I had to go behind her and “fix” all the handles she’d turned to the left! I think you’ve proven our theory since you turn yours both ways and lean ambidextrous.

  17. mary

    I loved this conversation! As a professional decorator, I have always used the spout facing the center of the vignette method.

  18. Jeannine

    I know this isn’t about pitchers and the direction they face, but it’s related. I make quilts and some patterns are done on the diagonal. They’re often done the opposite way from the way I like them (thus the relationship to the pitchers). The diagonal most people do and most patterns show is top right corner down to bottom left corner. I like it the reverse! Top left corner down to bottom right corner. And I change the pattern to reflect that when I’m making it. It just feels wrong to me the other way!

  19. Karen Bunrs

    I am right handed, but place the handles facing left. I like how it leads the eye to follow the spouts to the right where I have other items to view. I think it depends on where you what to lead the eye of the viewer.

  20. Cynde

    Interesting!!!! I have always had anything on the left side having the handles facing left and anything on the right facing right, in other words, so the handles point out and the pouring spout points toward the center. I’ve never really thought about it, I just seemed most appealing to me. Marian, you have us all thinking!!! Thank you for your blog, yours is my favorite…love to see how you are making this new to you house your own, lucky house, it will be beautiful!!!!

  21. N

    Ha, ha! Entertaining post, Marian. I think mine all point to the right because I’m right-handed and that is the hand I would grasp the pitcher handle with to use it, especially if it were filled with liquid because my right hand is stronger. Sooo…I think that the direction the handle faces is entirely up to the owner of the pitcher! Although, I would like all the handles to face the same way or the handles of the pitchers on the left of the display to face left and the ones on the right of the display to face right. But that’s just me. The bottom line is: Do what pleases your eye! Thanks for visiting this most important subject!

  22. Crystal

    I’m right handed but left eye dominate, which means I hold rifles on my left shoulder while my brother holds hi on his right. I tend to pick up things with my left hand as well and often read magazines from back to front. Not sure any of this matters, but it’s fun. I personally feel my eyes are “more comfortable” with handles to the left…. so you don’t need to come and confiscate my pitchers. However, if you’re ever in my area, I will gladly send you to my handles to the right neighbor.

  23. E. in Miami

    I always decorate my server for all holidays with a corresponding tea set. To me, the teapot (in the center of the tea tray) will always have the handle on the right, and the creamer is always of the right, with its handle on the right, with the sugar bowl on the left. I never really thought about it, it just looks right to me! I guess that’s all that matters!!

  24. Sharon

    I don’t have a preference. But I do think in most cases they should be facing the same way. I am left-handed and I think I have a tendency to put the tall on the left or start from the left. But I don’t care for a pitcher facing away from the other objects especially if it is on the end of an open shelf. Makes me think it is ready to pour off the edge of the shelf.

  25. Theresa

    All handles on the right as I am right-handed only and if the handle was on the left, I would grab the handle with my right hand and have to spin the pitcher around to remove it from the cabinet and risk striking the piece next to it. Maybe that is why there is so much chippy ironstone out there??? 😉

  26. Chris

    I always put the pitchers to the left. I just think they look better
    and are easier to pick up. I am right handed.
    No rules , just put them the way you love them.

  27. Cheryl


  28. Cynthia Johnson

    What a fun post! Without looking around my house I said to myself that if the pitcher is on the far right in the chest the handle is on the right and if on the left side the handle is on the left..thus facing toward the middle and open space. As well on a table I put the handle on the left or right so that the spout faces the most open area. So for me it’s about giving space to the spout and not closing it in. I checked it out and this is how it is…of course, for the most part 🙂

    Great fun!

  29. Kim

    Okay, you made me go check all of my household handles, and I’ve got them going every which way!

  30. Nina, The Collected Farmhouse

    Marian, you always share the most beautiful photos and you never cease to inspire me!

  31. Olivia J

    Love this post! My handles are usually pointed in all directions! I usually have the my handles on on the left side pointed out towards the left and then the ones on the right pointed out to the right!

  32. Pat

    I just looked at my cupboard of pitchers. The spouts are pointing to the middle of the cupboard. Right side of cupboard, handle on the right & the opposite for the left.


Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…

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