The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Dinnerware
Set the table in style with dinnerware that you love. Dinnerware is the champion of your dining table, and it’s much more than plates and bowls for serving food. Beautiful dinnerware complements your meals, sets the tone for your at-home dining experiences and expresses your personal style. From formal settings for elegant dinner parties to casual pieces for everyday use, knowing and understanding the differences between the different types of dinnerware is the key to choosing a set that’s at home in your home.
Call them what you will – plates or dishes – dinnerware can be a focal point of your table. Before you start thinking patterns and colors, it’s helpful to begin your search by focusing on the material you like. Common dinnerware materials include bone china, porcelain, earthenware, stoneware and melamine. Each type of dinnerware has its own benefits that can help you make your selection:
· Bone China: Lightweight and elegant, bone china is a durable option for both every day and special occasion dinnerware because it resists chipping. It’s the strongest variety of china, and unlike fine china, it’s typically dishwasher- and microwave-safe.
· Porcelain: This versatile material has a non-porous surface and excellent durability resulting from high firing temperatures. These pieces are typically dishwasher-, microwave- and oven-safe. Watch out for porcelain dinnerware with metallic accents – these make microwaves a no-go.
· Earthenware: Earthenware offers value, durability and casual appeal. It’s one of the oldest industrial materials, and it gives your dinnerware substantial weight. It’s a good idea to avoid sudden temperature changes, high heat from the oven or high settings on the microwave, to keep this dinnerware looking its best.
· Stoneware: The special finishing glaze on stoneware dinnerware sets gives the material a smooth appearance and an impermeable finish that makes it family-friendly and ideal for everyday use. Stoneware is more durable than earthenware, but you’ll still want to keep it at even temperatures without exposure to high heat or freezing. Pieces with hand-painted designs may require hand washing.
· Melamine: An entertainer’s dream, melamine dinnerware is shatterproof and break resistant, which makes it ideal for outdoor use. Melamine dinnerware sets are typically dishwasher-safe but aren’t suitable for your oven or microwave.
Blending your personal style with your dinnerware is easy! These pieces come in a variety of designs ranging from casual to elegant and everything in between. Formal dinnerware sets are typically made from china or porcelain, while stoneware, earthenware and melamine make great casual dinnerware. Choose durable dinnerware sets for everyday use, shatter-resistant options for kids and outdoor parties, and fine materials for upscale dinner parties and formal gatherings. You may want to have one set for everyday use and another for special occasions and holidays.
Beyond formal and casual design considerations, dinnerware sets can be further divided into four styles: solid, banded, patterned and hand-painted. Colors and patterns are a great way to express your personality and complement your home’s decor. For the most versatile formal dinnerware, you might choose a neutral such as white or ivory. Selecting dinnerware with a border or rim detail can add color and personality while still showcasing the food itself. For casual dinner plates, make a splash with the colors and patterns that appeal to you: Be adventurous! If you’re shopping for longevity, consider going with options that are classic instead of trend-driven. Solid or banded white pieces are timeless, versatile choices that make a stylish base when you want to add more colorful accent pieces to your table, and they make food look great.
Selecting a Set of Dinnerware
Once you have a good idea of what you want, it’s time to consider the different options. Should you buy a dinnerware set, place setting or open stock? The answer really depends on a variety of factors, including what your personal needs are. Consider the following:
· Formal dinnerware is often sold in place settings, which include all the pieces that one person would need at the table. Ideal for individuals or couples building their collections, most place settings include five pieces: a dinner plate, salad or dessert plate, bread plate, teacup and saucer. Some sets may include soup bowls.
· Dinnerware sets include multiple place settings to take care of the whole table. Most common sets are 20-piece sets, which offer service for four people. They usually include a dinner plate, salad plate, teacup and a saucer for each setting.
· Open stock is dinnerware sold piece by piece. This is ideal for anyone who only needs a few pieces or someone who wants to mix and match within a collection.
Most experts recommend having eight to 12 five-piece place settings to ensure you have enough dinnerware for general use and entertaining. If you’re buying two sets – one for every day and another for formal use – you might choose four to six casual place settings and up to 12 formal place settings. It really depends on the size of your family, the frequency of which you entertain and the amount of space you have to store extras.
Another idea is to buy white dinnerware that works for formal and casual use, and then dress it up or down with accessories such as placemats, chargers and linens. You can use accessories like napkins to add color and personality to an otherwise neutral table. Alternatively, these accessories can tone down boldly colored or patterned dinnerware.
Before you buy stacks of dinner plates and a dozen or more place settings, it’s helpful to consider the amount of space in your cabinets and cupboards available for storage. This is also an important consideration when you’re deciding whether to invest in one set that can do double duty or two sets for different types of occasions.
Caring for Your Dinnerware
Just as you want to consider storage space before buying dinnerware sets, you should also think about special care considerations before making your final decision. For example, dishwasher-safe, break-resistant dinnerware gives parents peace of mind, while microwave-safe dinner plates make reheating leftovers a breeze. Break-resistant dinnerware sets are ideal for outdoor entertaining. Always check the care instructions to verify if your dinnerware is dishwasher-, microwave- or oven safe.
To keep your dinner plates, bowls and other pieces looking great, follow these tips:
· Remove hard-water spots on dinnerware and glasses by soaking pieces in white vinegar for three minutes before rinsing and towel-drying.
· Remove coffee stains from mugs and fork marks from plates by rubbing a paste of baking soda and water over the area before rinsing and drying.
· Stack plates and bowls that you use frequently, but nestle fine china or chip-prone dinnerware in a padded storage case or with felt between each piece to prevent scratching.
Set your table your way. Whether you choose formal dinnerware, casual dinnerware, something in between or both, having dinnerware you love gives you the ideal opportunity to brighten up a table and create new looks in a dining space for weeknight meals or entertaining with guests. From mixing and matching different styles to looking for interesting textures, Pottery Barn understands dinnerware is open to your personal interpretation. And with so many options to choose from, it’s easy to narrow down your choices now that you’re equipped with key guidelines to make the selection that’s just right for your needs.