Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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What to look for in dinnerware sets

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Written by Vera C. Last updated on .

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Stack of stoneware dinner plates - what to look for in dinnerware sets

There are some things you need to be aware of when you're picking dinner plates or dinnerware sets. You'll want something that works beautifully for all occasions - whether it's a dinner party or just every day.

Some people opt for two different sets of dinnerware - one that is fancier for special occasions and one set of casual dinnerware. Regardless of which situation you're in, it's important to know how to pick dinnerware.

1. Ease of care of your dinner set

The first consideration is purely practical - you'll want your dinnerware set to be dishwasher safe. This is true whether it's an everyday dinnerware set or one for special occasions. The last thing you want after a big dinner party is to be washing dishes by hand!

Fortunately, many (but not all!) of today's modern dinner sets are dishwasher safe. Always check the product description or the label on the box before buying.

It also helps if your chosen dishes are microwave safe as well. Many of today's plates are microwave safe, but not all - again, check this before buying. In particular, plates with metallic accents (gold or silver edging) are unlikely to be microwave safe. If you already have some other dishes that are microwave safe, then you can use that for any microwave needs, but don't make your only set of dishes be non-microwave safe.

2. Consider the plate colors and whether they could go with a range of different tablecloths and napkins

The color and style of your dinner set is largely a personal decision. Whether you're seeking modern dinnerware or a traditional look, whether you're going for minimalist, unique, or designer plates, you should get something you personally like. But when deciding what color plates to buy, you should at least take into consideration whether they could go with different tablecloth and napkin styles for different occasions.

For example, if you might one day host Thanksgiving and you want plates that will go with a cream tablecloth and orange napkins, you probably don't want your dinnerware set to be bright red.

Fortunately, many dinnerware sets - even designer dinnerware sets - are being made in relatively neutral colors to go with a plethora of table linens. Plate colors such as white, cream and gray all work beautifully with almost any color table linen. You're not limited to just neutrals for your dinner plate colors - simple green accents work well at all times of the year. And of course, if you want to go with a bold bright color of plate, by all means do so - there is nothing wrong with going with unique dinner plates in rich vibrant hues. There's nothing wrong with having your plates be the main focus of the dinner table. Just make sure you've given at least some thought to how you'd match table linens.

If on the other hand you're seeking a minimalist dinnerware set you probably don't need to worry about this because most minimalist sets come in light natural hues anyway.

3. Check availability of replacement pieces - or buy extra pieces now

Inevitably, a piece is going to get broken at some point. If these pieces are still available individually, this becomes a huge practical advantage because the entire set needn't be rendered unusable for large groups through the loss of one plate.

Availability is best checked online from the maker of the china (printed on the underside of an item), instead of from the store it was purchased from. Retail stores may stop stocking a particular line of dinnerware even though it is still being produced, but the brand will likely still sell individual pieces direct to customers online. Or course, current availability won't necessarily help ten years down the track, but while pieces are still available it will be cheaper to replace them than to purchase entirely new dinnerware sets.

Alternatively, when you purchase your dinnerware set, simply purchase a couple of extra individual pieces at the same time of the most commonly used items such as dinner plates, bowls and small plates. This way you're already ready if a piece gets broken.

4. Avoid melamine dinnerware

Melamine is a chemical that is a by-product of coal extraction. It's used in a variety of plastics, including in melamine dinnerware. Even though melamine dinnerware can be made with pretty designs and can look more like ceramic dinnerware than like plastic picnic plates, you shouldn't use it. Melamine is toxic to humans, and when microwaved or used with hot foods, melamine can leach out of the plates and into the food you eat.

The only time you might want melamine dinnerware is if you want shatter-resistant plates that will never be used with hot foods and never microwave, for example for picnic use or on a boat. Even then, you'd want to be sure you're only using it with cold foods (not grilled foods, for example). I recommend avoiding melamine altogether and simply using disposable paper plates for picnics.

5. Best places to buy dinnerware

Whether you're looking for the best dinnerware sets for everyday use or something more fancy - porcelain dinnerware for example - here are the best places for each price point.

Best value for money dinnerware

For a good range of beautiful ceramic and stoneware dinnerware sets at a surprisingly affordable price point, I recommend Wayfair. They have everything from modern to traditional, minimalist to unique, casual to designer brands.

Another option for cheap dinnerware sets is Target. You can get stunning designs that look just like fancy designer dinnerware, but at a cheap price point.

Best mid range dinnerware

If you're willing to go up a little bit in your price range, then you'll love the wide variety of dinnerware sets that become available to you at Macy's. Even though you might think of it as a pricey store, Macy's often has automatic markdowns on their items, particularly on some of the more costly dinnerware sets. So you could get a really wonderful dinner set for much cheaper than you might have expected.

Best high end dinnerware

If you're wanting to make a statement with your dinnerware and you're willing to splurge (and why not? - you don't buy dinnerware every day!) then there are several options for you.

For a high end modern minimalist look, Crate & Barrel dinnerware is your best bet with top quality dinner pieces in beautiful neutral hues. In particular if you're looking for the best white dinner set, I recommend starting there.

If you're looking for something pretty that is entirely different from the look of your mother's generation, then you should take a look at the dinnerware at Anthropologie.

Lastly, if you want stunning designer dinnerware then you should definitely check out Neiman Marcus. Many of the dinner set designs are in vibrant colors that will make you feel like you're in a villa somewhere in Europe.

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