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Whether you’re setting a table for a casual weeknight meal or a larger fancy feast, a solid dinnerware set is essential. Finding yours boils down to personal taste, of course, but there are a few tips and tricks to getting the right fit, especially one that will suit your needs for years to come. For starters, know that not all dishes are created equal—you’ll want to search for pieces that are durable and versatile. And then start asking yourself some questions: How often do you entertain? Are you game to hand-wash something delicate or would you prefer dishwasher-friendly materials? And what sort of storage space are you working with?
If you’re ready to build out your collection, consider this guide—backed by our Style team, including chief creative officer Kate Berry and style editor Julia Stevens—a starting point. We put together our favorite examples of different looks: the tried-and-true classics (think vintage-esque pairings of blue and white or French glass), formal gold rims, modern silhouettes in earthy tones and textures, and more. But note that our of-the-moment suggestions simply put a face to each style. As always, you do you.
Let’s get one thing straight: All-white plates are a good bet in the dinnerware department. Exhibit A: They truly match anything. Exhibit B: Food looks really good when served on them. Plus they don’t have to be boring—that’s why we suggest opting for a set that features unique details. Arhaus’s Avignon collection, for instance, brings an eclectic rippled edge to plates and cereal bowls that would look lovely layered at the table. The same goes for the exaggerated rolled rims of the sculptural Gianfranco Frattini CB2 collection, ideal for the matching pasta and soup bowls to nestle within. (No joke: Berry, a former tabletop editor who has at least 15 different patterns and sets, has had 34 pieces from the Frattini collection in her cart since Black Friday.).
If you don’t really consider yourself a collector, prefer to reserve colorful patterns for the tablecloth, or tend to gravitate toward uncluttered designs in general (from your jewelry to your closet), we recommend sticking to simple sets in neutral colors. Our ideal minimalist dinner plates downplay textures and pattern play in favor of clean shapes and subdued palettes. Both our preferred picks are made from stoneware that skews a bit more modern; featuring a raised lip or organically curvy silhouette that’ll still stack neatly in a kitchen cabinet. They promise to elevate your spread to a more sophisticated setting.
Blue and white ceramics have been around for centuries, and the style continues to be heralded as a versatile choice for both daily and formal occasions. We personally love the intricacies of the stamped Blue Italian from Spode, featuring a pastoral vista as detailed as a Dutch Masters painting. On the flip side, there’s also nothing wrong with keeping the color combo simple, such as the bistro look of Martha Stewart’s Cliffield set. Despite their fancy visages, these suggestions are safe to tuck into the dishwasher after a meal.
Is your initial reaction to vintage dinnerware to reserve it for display purposes only, safely tucked behind the doors of a china cabinet? Here’s how to enjoy the look without having to keep your set under lock and key. Glass plates from Luminarc, a French-made brand with 19th-century roots, are delicate and incredibly light but stack well. Its 12-piece tempered set comes in match-y teal and blush pink, as well as a cool-toned pairing that shoppers note is a breeze to dress up or down. Other old-school vibes can be had in the shape of a leafy green—primarily with these kitschy cabbage plates by Bordallo Pinheiro, a Portuguese brand that has been crafting veggie looks since the 1800s. We’re grateful that the the “lettuceware” craze that started in the 1960s continues to stick around.
These earthy-toned sets really lean into the natural appearance of stoneware, and speckled details give them a rustic edge. They prove they can vary in appearance depending on the glaze—Joss & Main’s Siterra set showcases a shinier finish, while East Fork’s has a matte look. This particular material is typically easier for potters to work with, which is why the price tag can be on the lower side (especially compared to our other picks), making it a great choice for those who need to buy in bulk. Stoneware is a bit weighty, and that extra heft, particularly for larger collections, may require more room in your cupboards.
If you (aspire to) live in a home with a covered front porch, shiplap walls, and an apron-front sink, you’re probably looking for farmhouse-inspired dinnerware. Thankfully this style doesn’t only depict illustrations of cows or chickens. We’re talking exposed clay rims, Splatterware, and a soft color scheme. It’s a crowd-pleaser, which is probably why the Royal Doulton pattern, a dippedlike effect, has been around (and beloved) since 1815.
Dinnerware trimmed in gold may bring to mind memories of formal dinners at one’s grandparents’ home, but that doesn’t mean we dislike it. On the contrary, it’s an incredibly elegant style, especially when applied with a contemporary touch. This 16-piece set at Neiman Marcus delivers an elevated border, and a more affordable Bed Bath & Beyond set offers a lovely take on the detail. The organic shape lends a more modern feel to what could read as stuffy—and buyers agree. One comments, “They are slightly different from a basic round plate; however, I like the uniqueness. I have tested these dishes in the dishwasher and so far they passed the test and washed perfectly. This is a beautiful set, and I have decided I am going to use them for decoration and special occasions when setting my table.”
Exuberant tableware that feels as authentic as a coveted family recipe? Look no further than these pattern-positive sets. If you’re feeling splurgy, try hand-painted scenery across a 20-piece ensemble of earthenware made in Portugal. Not in the market for a $500-plus dinnerware set? Then look at this similarly hand-glazed alternative from West Elm. Each plate is decked out with Scandi-inspired decals of holly berries and pine. (For a limited time, the salad plates are 40% off; that’s just $62 for a set of eight, perfect for hosting your next holiday feast.)
After you’ve landed on your dinnerware set, use singles or small groups to layer in personality for salads or dessert. Our Style team suggests that if you like a particular pattern but can’t get an entire set (like, say, from Nymphenburg, a Berry favorite) pick from the serveware or select a smaller piece to layer with patterns you might already have. As for the really exquisite finds that are as pretty as a piece of art or actual antiques, you could even add them to your wall so guests can admire them from afar.
With the best dinnerware sets, durability should definitely be top of mind. Serving chicken stroganoff on a chipped plate or passing guests a scratched soup bowl sounds unappetizing, right? You’ll want these pieces to be able to stand up to heavy, everyday use, which is why ceramic is such a great bet and the material that appears the most in our suggestions.
In ranking from superstrong to tough enough, porcelain almost always comes out on top—it won’t balk at extreme temperature swings—though bone china is a close second. Stoneware also fares well against heat and metal flatware markings, whereas earthenware is a bit less resistant to these sorts of things and often can’t be tossed in the wash (though we wouldn’t totally categorize it as delicate either). On the other hand, glass or pieces decorated with metal details like a gold band require fussier maintenance. They also likely shouldn’t be placed in the dishwasher or microwave. Of course, there’s always melamine and enamelware that you can take outdoors without worry, since they won’t shatter when dropped.
While there’s no rule that your plates, bowls, and dishes have to match, working from a base set gives you a launching pad. Figuring out how many pieces to start with, however, is all dependent on your lifestyle and household.
Sets are commonly sold in 12, 16, 18, 20, and 24 pieces, though it can vary as to what’s actually included. Some only include dinner plates (in this case, the set is usually smaller, like four, six, or eight), whereas others can also include a salad plate and soup or cereal bowl to complete one place setting; these must be purchased in multiples to make up a full table. A few of our picks even include cups or mugs. So be sure to check what your chosen set actually entails, otherwise a 20-piece set usually includes everything needed to service five people. The bigger the set, however, the harder it may be to replace anything that breaks. That’s where mixing and matching comes into play.
The size of your dinnerware set also drives the price tag, but other factors include the quality of material and how it was made. Hand-painted or hand-glazed, for instance, will typically cost extra—as in hundreds of dollars more. One of our best tips for verifying quality dinnerware is to check out where it’s from. Portuguese and Italian tableware, in our experience, is likely worth the price.
Don’t let fake rules hold you back. For example, if you’re trying to save money and see something you like, there’s no harm in picking up a set of just three or four plates. Though do keep in mind the “good luck plate” rule: Buying one extra in case another breaks means you’ll have a matching plate, even if the design is discontinued.
Absolutely not! There’s certainly a traditional, formal way to set a table, though Domino editors agree you should feel free to add in as little or as much as you want. There’s no real hard-and-fast reason to have a dinner, bread, salad, and dessert plate, but here are a few tips to consider:
There’s a reason restaurants serve up an order on a white plate—it’s a blank canvas, letting the food shine. For our Style team, though, it’s hard not to live by a “more is more” mantra. Their advice is to start with a set of white porcelain dinnerware for a neutral backdrop, then expand by adding extra pieces like dessert or salad plates in bold patterns. Our personal recommendation at the moment? La DoubleJ.
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