If you have recently browsed an interior decor magazine or Pinterest home decor category pages, then you might have come across glass cloches, a peculiar yet charming a decorative element that seem to light up any room by their own presence.
Glass cloches, also known as bell cloches, glass domes, or bell jars, are more than ever back in home decor. Derived from the french word for “bell”, cloches were originally made of a solid piece of glass shaped like a dome. They were used in the 18th century by French gardeners to protect early garden plants from bleak cold and frost, and hasten crops to maturity.
In the 19th century, glass cloches were mainly used by naturalists as tiny Wunderkammer to showcase their delicate finds like insects, plants or small taxidermied animals.
Nowadays, these beautiful glass domes help sublimate any object, by making it look like a small trophy or a tiny world of its own. Glass cloches can showcase almost anything and be placed anywhere to bring a refined decoration touch, protect and display cherished objects and recreate this precious atmosphere inspired by curiosity cabinets.
What type of item can I showcase under a glass cloche?
Glass cloches can house any type of (reasonably sized) object and in any quantity, from rare orchids and objects of curiosity to a collection of antique pocket watches. There are no rules regarding what can be showcased and what cannot. It’s just a matter of taste. So be dairy!
However, keep in mind that the cloche’s empty space is just as important as the object itself you wish to feature; so be careful not to overdo it or overload the space available under the dome. Sometimes, less is more. Particularly when it comes to home decor and design.
For instance, one can choose to showcase a single object in order to highlight it (a feather, a vintage light bulb, a dried flower, a bird nest… even an old rusty sign!).
Or opt for a collection of stacked objects (old books shards of antique glass or ceramic, black & white pictures, music scores, seashells, pebbles…).
The most adventurous and experienced decor enthusiasts can even try to recreate a still life by combining together elements like wood, moss, stones, and taxidermied insects. The idea is to turn a “simple” object into a precious thing you wish to showcase. Whatever you choose to do with your glass cloche, you will notice that it almost systematically draws attention to itself.
Creating a terrarium with a glass cloche
Alternatively, a plant can also be placed under the cloche, provided you manage to bring it air from time to time. It is generally advised to use specific types of plants, like cactus or succulents, which are known as being usually durable.
More and more florists and online stores like Etsy offer terrariums under glass. These decorative objects come in different forms and at different prices. But all of them use the glass cloche principle. If you have green thumbs and you are manual, know that there are many tutorials that will allow you to create your own floral compositions, still life, or terrarium using glass bells found in flea markets or antique shops.
This simple tutorial on YouTube for instance, allows anyone to make a beautiful terrarium inside a glass dome/pot/bowl at home. Anyone can follow the simple instructions in the video to make their own terrarium and enjoy the beauty of this small living ecosystem capable of sustaining itself for a very long time with very little care.
This other YouTube tutorial features an upside down glass cloche with a concrete base. The creator of this tutorial used a a rock, some pebbles, soil, fern, two different kinds of moss and a small shamrock.
Where can I buy glass cloches and how much do they cost?
Highly desirable and trendy, cloches can be found almost anywhere. In fact, many department stores now sell them in different seize and variations. Depending on your taste and budget, you will be able to choose between a simple glass or plastic dome and more fancy variations featuring for instance a dome with a vintage-like wooden pedestal inspired by Scandinavian design.
However, the best place to find them is of course flea markets or antique shops. If the object itself matters just as much as what it holds, and if you’re not too much in a hurry, we highly recommend you to look for a genuine cloche. Unlike newer editions, old glass cloches see their value increase over time, particularly if they’re in mint condition. Earlier this month, we attended the Grande Braderie de Lille. And we spotted quite a few vintage glass cloches, like the one pictured below, without even searching!
In terms of price, “modern” cloches are generally sold somewhere between $30 and $100 (like on Houzz), while a vintage glass vacuum laboratory bell jar can easily reach $300. Once again, your budget will mostly depend on what you want to achieve with those cloches, and how many of them you need.
If you’re short of original cloches (or on a tight budget…), one great advice is to mix contemporary and sophisticated vintage glass domes with genuine cloches found at the flea market. Alternatively, you can try your luck on Etsy, which has a large selection of reasonably priced old and new glass cloches.
One last tip: if you do not have glass domes of different heights, you can use a stack of books to bring some variety in your collection!