If you’re looking for the perfect dinnerware set, a simple online search reveals an intimidatingly large selection – the materials, styles, and prices vary wildly. However, with a few guideposts set out beforehand, you can make the most informed and confident dinnerware purchase possible. Below we’ve identified seven expert tips that will make your next purchase easy and dare we say – exciting!
What is the most durable dinnerware material?
Durability is an important consideration when choosing dinnerware, especially if you have kiddos running around or plan to host large events where guests may get a little clumsy toward the end of the night. Aside from accounting for mishap potential, durability gives you a good idea how long you’ll be able to enjoy a new set of dishes. We’ve included some pros and cons of each dinnerware material listed below so you can consider your options.
This material is made of fired ceramic. It is fired at a higher temperature than some of the other materials listed below, providing added strength for durability. Stoneware is thicker and consequently sturdier than other varieties and is often finished with a ceramic glaze that can be shiny, matte, or satin.
- Can be used daily
- Achieves a casual look
- Versatile with easy maintenance
- Microwave, oven, and freezer safe
- Sensitive to sudden changes in temperature
- Can be porous, trapping stains and flavors, if not fully glazed
Is stoneware for you?
- If you love curling up on the couch with a hot cup of tea or coffee, ceramic cups will soothingly warm your hands as you sip.
- A glossy finish offers a delicate appearance, especially if you choose a curved body style.
- Ceramic dishes come in a variety of shapes and colors, allowing you to easily match your kitchen and dining décor.
- Not sure which style to get? A simple white ceramic dish can be a great starting point – this style is a staple for any chic kitchen.
- Muted colors are a step up from the classic white options, while offering a unique and inviting look to your dinner table.
- Choosing bolder colors and shapes makes a louder statement and livens your dining room to set a bright mood.
These terms refer to dinnerware material made of fine particle clay. These materials can include kaolin and quartz, among others, and like stoneware, porcelain and China are fired at a higher temperature. This makes for an incredibly durable and nonporous product. These dishes tend to be constructed delicately with fine details, adding to their overall elegance.
- Dishwasher, microwave, and oven safe (unless specified otherwise by manufacturer)
- Upscale appearance
- Ideal for formal events
- Dishes with metal accents are best washed by hand
- Dishwashing detergent restrictions
Is porcelain/China for you?
- If you’re looking to add a luxurious feel to your kitchen and dining spaces, the use of porcelain and China is perfect.
- Often embellished with metal accents, fine paint, and/or colors reminiscent of precious stones, porcelain and china offer an air of refinement unmatched by other materials.
- This is the kind of dinnerware that impresses guests and immediately turns dinner into a formal affair.
This material is fired at an extra high temperature, is nonporous, and can last a lifetime! This is the kind of material that survives a heavy fall onto a hard surface.
- Extremely durable
- Will not break or chip
- Dishwasher and microwave safe
- Fantastic for family environments, especially where young children are present
- This material is more practical than elegant
Is vitrified glass for you?
- If your household is constantly bustling with the pitter-patter of tiny feet (and paws!), vitrified glass dinnerware can be your best friend. Aa vitrified glass dinnerware set will provide you with the peace of mind only a nearly indestructible plate could.
- Available in different colors.
- These pieces are perfect when you want durability, practicality, and when you are willing to appreciate a casual look.
This material is ceramic that is glazed and fired. While it may sound just like stoneware, it is not as durable. The appearance of earthenware is rustic – it tends to be thick and weigh significantly more than other materials.
- Attractive, often incorporating hand-painted designs
- Dishwasher and microwave safe (unless specified otherwise by manufacturer)
- Porous material; may trap stains and flavors
- Prone to chipping
Is earthenware for you?
- Are you a fan of natural, earthy tones that bring a sense of peace and tranquility to your home environment? If so, earthenware is a great addition to your home.
- Often available in muted, neutral tones (think forest green, ocean blue, and sand), this material brings an alfresco, organic feel to your home.
- Choose a hand-painted option to add a unique accent or keep the vibe simple with solid colors.
This material is made from a combination of porcelain clay and bone ash (derived from animals). It is fired at a temperature just slightly lower than regular porcelain to create a lightweight and delicate finish.
- Dishwasher, microwave, and oven safe (excluding styles with metal banding)
- Extremely durable
- A pricier material than regular porcelain
Is bone china for you?
- Do you want a versatile dinnerware set that you can designate for everyday use and arrange beautifully for special occasions? Bone china offers this flexibility, providing a delicate appearance with sturdy reliability.
- Bone china pieces are usually a warmer white color than porcelain, providing a toned-down look that effortlessly emanates glamour.
- You can easily dress up your eating area with accented bone china, bringing a royal feel to your dining environment.
This material is made of plastic. It boasts a virtually indestructible, inflexible glossy finish that is BPA-free.
- Fantastic for outdoor use
- Dishwasher safe (top rack)
- Versatile and affordable
- Not microwave or oven safe
Is melamine for you?
- You want indestructability? You found it in melamine!
- These dinnerware sets come in a huge selection of styles, some mimicking fine china, others in bold primary colors, and still others that appear much like the natural tones of earthenware.
- Melamine is so versatile; you can have a set for your patio table and another for your indoor dining room.
- Best of all? This material is super affordable and will stand the test of time, children, and as many guests as you can handle!
How do I choose the perfect dinnerware set?
Run through this checklist to be sure you’re choosing the best dinnerware set for your needs:
- Do you like to entertain? Choose a casual dinnerware set and a formal dinnerware set.
- How many people are you feeding? Sets of 12 are traditional but if you like a smaller gathering, go for sets of 8.
- For casual dinnerware, opt for microwave, oven, and dishwasher safe options.
- Choose the colors and shapes that represent your interior decorating style. Here’s a quick cheat sheet:
Mid-Century Modern: Choose a minimal design with refined lines.
Industrial: Choose metallic accents and distressed finishes.
Nautical: Choose white, sand, and blue accent colors.
Scandinavian: Choose simplicity and functionality; white and gray tones are ideal.
Bohemian: Choose a carefree, rich and vibrant set.
Farmhouse: Choose wood like appearances (you can find this in melamine) and opt for white and beige base colors. Try a bright yellow or turquoise to accent this interior design style.
Shabby Chic: Choose soft, milky colors like whites and pastels.
What is the best everyday dinnerware?
You can’t go wrong with melamine dinnerware. These sets are so versatile both in use and appearance, you’re sure to find the perfect pieces to complement your existing décor.
- If you love the appearance of porcelain and china, for instance, but hesitate at the price tag, a melamine set that mimics china pieces will fulfill your interior design vision without denting your wallet.
- On the other hand, if you love the rustic look of earthenware but are concerned about chipping, recreate your desired look with melamine for a more durable dinnerware set.
- You can use melamine indoors or outdoors.
- To complement a modern environment, choose clean and crisp styles within a simple color palette.
- For industrial environments, choose cool tones like slate blue, silver, and brass.
- For a boho-inspired environment, choose bright colors and geometric prints.
What is the best formal dinnerware?
Porcelain and bone china are the most formal of the bunch and have the heftier price tags. But adding the kind of luxury these materials bring is really an investment that elevates your interior décor.
However, if you’re trying to stay within a budget-friendly lane, ceramic and melamine can also be used to create a formal dining experience. Choose a style with an upgraded feel and be sure you’re opting for the extra pieces that make your dinnerware formal, including bread and butter plates, salad plates, cups and saucers, and a soup bowl.
If you are going all out and presenting a large quantity of food to your guests, be sure to shop for additional items, like fruit and dessert bowls, a teapot, pitcher, and a gravy boat. Even with a budget-friendly material, your dining table will be dressed to the nines!
Consider the size of your new dinnerware set.
It’s easy to fall in love with the appearance of a dinnerware set and forget to consider plate sizes! Before your final purchase, be sure that your dinnerware will fit comfortably into your kitchen cabinets and within your dishwasher, if you won’t be hand washing them. Also, don’t forget that if you’re choosing a microwave safe set, those dishes should also fit comfortably inside your microwave oven.
Do I need more than one dinnerware set?
Maybe! Do you have two or more designated entertaining areas? If so, you may require a different style in each location. At the very least, having an indoor set and an outdoor set is ideal when you plan to entertain outside during summer months and entertain inside during winter months. Or, if you start a party outdoors and move it indoors as the sun sets.
Vitrified glass and melamine will work great outdoors, while ceramic and porcelain will complement indoor décor best. Try spicing up your kitchen with a wall mounted rack so you can exhibit the artistry of your dinnerware! After all, beautiful plates should be displayed.
What types of drinkware and barware are there to choose from?
If you can think of a drink, there's probably a specific glass for it out there! However, choosing drinkware & barware for your home is a balance between having a few different types of glasses and… not taking over your cupboards.
Here are the most popular glass types:
An everyday glassware set is for water, juice and other soft drinks. Because it involves the glasses that you'll use the most, it must feel comfortable to hold, be durable, preferably dishwasher-safe, and easy to store. These glasses are usually tumbler-style and follow a simple design, although quirky glass mason jars have risen to popularity over the past few years;
A stemware set includes glasses for wine, and can either be purchased as an all-purpose set or as one that includes specific glasses for each type of wine;
There are many different types of glasses for liqueurs and spirits. The most versatile are short-stemmed liqueur glasses with a rounded body, tumbler glasses for a drink on-the-rocks or a small cocktail, thicker shot glasses, and taller highball glasses for mixers and larger cocktails;
There are also individual cocktail glasses for specific types. The most popular are the iconic Martini glass with a long stem and a wide mouth, bowl-shaped Gin balloons, the Margarita glass with a wide rim for salt, and the more versatile Hurricane glass that, with a long curved bowl and a short stem, is perfect for piña coladas as well as many other cocktails;
As for beer glasses, you can choose among the traditional bar-style pint glass, a slimmer pilsner glass if you mainly drink lagers, a continental glass with a larger bulbous body for craft beers, or the bigger, classic tankard glass with a handle.
How many items of drinkware should I buy?
Unless you've created a huge bar area in your home and are passionate about crafting different cocktails or impressing your guests with the right glass for any drink, be realistic!
Consider your drinking habits, household size, regular guests and storage space:
Everyday glassware sets usually include between 4 and 16 glasses. Because you can use them for more than one drink at the time (e.g. water and juice), you should have more than one per person and a few spare glasses for guests, or else you'll find yourself always having to wash them;
When it comes to wine, the most space-optimizing option is to get an all-purpose stemware set, and you should definitely take guests into account. However, if you're truly passionate about wine, consider having larger red wine glasses that allow their bolder flavor to emerge, smaller bowls for white and rosé as they maintain a cooler temperature and their floral aromas, and tall flutes for champagne and prosecco, which preserve the bubbles;
If you're after a versatile solution to save space, you could go for tumblers or highball glasses, that can be used both as an everyday item or to serve cocktails, spirits and mixers;
If you are planning on organizing some Gatsby-style parties, then you should look at sets of 12 or more;
As a minimum, have double the number of people in your household when it comes to everyday glasses, four for wine, and 2-4 glasses for the drinks that you enjoy more often.
Know how to care for each dinnerware type prior to purchase.
Remember, porcelain and china with metal accents will not hold up well inside the dishwasher. If you know, for a fact, that in your household dishes will always be run through the dishwasher, avoid sets that require more delicate care.
Bone china cannot be scrubbed with abrasive materials; be prepared to use a soft cloth along with a mild detergent. Be mindful of sudden changes in temperature when washing as well – if not careful, these changes can cause bone china to crack.
Soap and detergents should be avoided with porous materials, like unglazed ceramics. If used, they can seep into the clay’s pores and settle, releasing into your food during meal preparation. To clean your earthenware and stoneware, use hot water, a stiff brush, a bit of baking soda, and lots of elbow grease!
Your most convenient materials are vitrified glass and melamine as they are ultra-safe for dishwashers. These materials are not porous, so you won’t have to concern yourself with staining or the trapping of detergents or food flavors. Plus, they’re super versatile and will fit any occasion.
Feeling informed? A few expert tips for choosing the best dinnerware go a long way! Now you know how to best complement your existing décor, how to be practical with your choices, and we bet you already have a favorite in mind. Go on, peruse a bit, and make the best dinnerware purchase you can!