How to set the table in style with your favourite dinnerware

Dinnerware is the main attraction of many a dining table. It’s much more than crockery for serving food. Beautiful dinnerware enhances your meals, it also sets the mood for your home dining experiences as well as expressing your personal style. Understanding and grasping the differences between the different types of dinnerware, from formal settings for elegant dinner parties to the day-to-day pieces for everyday use, is the key to selecting a set that feels at home in your home.

The types of dinnerware materials

Call it what you may – dishes, plates or crockery – the focal point of your table can be your dinnerware. Before you start wondering about patterns and colours, focusing your attention on what material you really like would be a helpful start. Bone china, earthenware, porcelain, melamine and stoneware are the most common dinnerware materials.

These types of dinnerware have their own benefits that can assist in making your selection:

Bone China: Bone china is a durable, lightweight and an elegant alternative for both everyday and special occasion dinnerware due to the fact that it is chip resistant. It’s the strongest range of china, but unlike fine china, it’s typically microwave and dishwasher-safe.
Earthenware: Earthenware gives off an air of value, sturdiness and casual appeal. Being one of the oldest industrial materials, it also gives your dinnerware significant weight. To keep this dinnerware looking its best, it’s better to avoid unexpected temperature changes, like from the oven or high settings on the microwave.
Porcelain: Porcelain is a versatile material that has a non-porous surface and incredible durability resulting from high firing temperatures. Porcelain pieces are typically dishwasher, microwave and oven-safe. Some porcelain dinnerware pieces contain metallic accents, so be aware as this makes these a microwave no-go.
Melamine: These sets would definitely be an entertainers dream, being shatterproof as well as harder to break or chip. Melamine dinnerware is perfect for outdoor use. Melamine dinnerware is not suitable for your oven or microwaves though, but are typically dishwasher-safe.
Stoneware: Stoneware dinnerware sets have a special finishing glaze that gives a smooth look to the material and an impermeable finish, making it ideal for everyday use and family-friendly. Stoneware sets are more durable than earthenware, but will still need to be maintained and kept at even temperatures. If you opt for Stoneware, be careful not to expose it to high heat or freezing temperatures. Also, bear in mind that pieces with hand-painted designs may require hand washing.

The styles of dinnerware

Incorporating a personal touch into your dinnerware set is simple. They come in a wide range of designs ranging from casual to stylish and a whole lot in between. The more formal dinnerware sets are usually made from china or porcelain or stoneware. Earthenware and melamine these make great casual dinnerware sets. It is best to select durable dinnerware sets for your everyday use, a shatter-resistant set would be ideal for youngsters and outdoor parties, and finer materials for the more stylish dinner parties and formal gatherings. It’s a good idea to have one set for your everyday use and other sets especially for holidays and those special occasions.

Now that we know what styles of dinnerware are available, it’s time to go beyond formal and casual designs. We can further divide dinnerware sets into four style categories: hand painted, patterned, solid, banded. A great way to express your personality and complement your home décor is to use colours and patterns. Choosing a neutral such as white or ivory is the most versatile of formal dinnerware sets.

Choosing a dinnerware set with a nice border or rim detail will add colour and persona while still showcasing the meal itself. For the more informal dinner plates, why not make a splash with the colours and patterns that attract you. Be adventurous. Consider going with pieces that are classic or traditional instead of trend-driven. If you are purchasing for longevity, solid or banded white pieces are timeless, versatile options. They make an elegant base when you wish to add more colourful accent pieces to your table, and they also enhance the look of the meal.

© Agentur LOOP / GRUNDIG

Selecting a set of dinnerware

Once you have decided what you want, it’s time to consider the different options. Should you purchase a dinnerware set, place setting or open stock? The answer relies on a range of factors, which includes what your personal needs may be. Before deciding, 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 colour and personality to an otherwise neutral table. Alternatively, these accessories can tone down boldly-coloured or patterned dinnerware.

Assessing space considerations

Something to consider before you go out and purchase stacks of dinner plates and a dozen or more place settings is the amount of storage space you have available. It is also important to take into consideration when you are deciding whether to invest in one set that can do double duty or two sets for different types of occasions.

Caring for your new dinnerware

Just as you’ve considered your storage space before buying dinnerware sets, you should also consider the special care your dinnerware needs before making your final decision. For example, dishwasher-safe, break-resistant dinnerware would give parents more peace of mind, while the microwave-safe dinner plates make reheating leftovers a jiffy.

Break-resistant dinnerware sets are perfect for outdoor entertaining and if you have kids in the house. It is a good idea to check the care instructions to verify if your dinnerware is dishwasher, microwave, and oven safe.

Follow these tips to help keep your dinnerware sets looking great:

  • Soaking pieces in white vinegar for three minutes before rinsing and towel-drying helps to remove hard-water spots on dinnerware and glasses.
  • Removal of coffee stains from mugs as well as fork marks from plates is made easy by rubbing a paste of baking soda and water over the area before rinsing and drying.
  • Stacking the more frequently-used plates and bowls is okay, but to prevent scratching and chipping your fine china dinnerware, put it in a padded storage case or with fabric between each piece to keep it safe.

© Agentur LOOP / GRUNDIG

Set your table your way. Mix and match different styles, and look for interesting textures. It’s all open to personal taste. And with a variety of options to choose from, you are now equipped with the key guidelines to make the selection that is just right for all your needs. Happy hunting.