This Restaurant-Approved Trick Will Change the Way You Buy Dinnerware


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When many of us dream up ideal dinnerware sets, we imagine ourselves curating something absolutely magical, absolutely unique, absolutely us. Maybe we’re mixing and matching artisan pieces. Maybe we’re pairing a bold pattern with a complementary print. Maybe we’re stocking up on an array of vibrant colors—or sticking with one decidedly versatile shade. 

I, for one, have always longed to assemble a collection of stunning, statement-making ceramics. Plates that feel hearty, yet delicately crafted. A palette that feels bright, but subdued. Details that feel artisanally imperfect, but veritably coherent. My dinnerware would be elegant. It would be surprising. It would delight every guest who encountered it.

But when it came time to purchase a bona fide dinnerware set, my partner argued for a decidedly different approach. A former line cook, he suggested we do what restaurants do: favor plates that are crisp, sleek, and most importantly, open-stock. 

For the uninitiated, “open-stock” really just means “endlessly available.”

The aesthetic portion of his argument was easily justified: Minimalist dinnerware is efficient. It pairs well with any dining room table, set of flatware, or dinner party theme. It’s timeless, so you don’t have to worry about it looking gauche in a few decades. And it’s so straightforwardly sleek you’ll probably never get sick of it. Treat your dinnerware like an investment piece, and you can get as trendy as you want with everything else—all the while knowing your plates will fit right in.

The practical portion of his argument was equally impenetrable. Open-stock dinnerware isn’t just sensible—it’s the most rational option a shopper has. For the uninitiated, “open-stock” really just means “endlessly available.” Stores will stock certain items for years—sometimes even decades. So if you break something that’s open-stock, you can reliably replace it with an identical piece. 

What’s also cool? Open-stock items tend to be available for purchase in sets and individually. So when you’re first stocking up, you can buy a few cost-effective sets. Then, when it comes time to replace something, you can buy it on its own. The alternative would usually be buying an entire dinnerware set to replace one plate. And at that point, you might as well just overhaul your entire collection, right?

It pains me to say it, but my partner’s dinnerware shopping strategy is decidedly superior to mine. No more buying extra plates on the front-end just in case something happens. No more throwing together mismatched dinnerware collections because the plates you bought a year ago are no longer available. And no more buying an entire dinnerware set just to replace one broken plate. 

Trendy plates are pretty, but they’re not worth all the turmoil. Thankfully, there are tons of open-stock dinnerware collections on offer that are equally lovely—and not at all impractical. 

white plate set
CB2 4-Piece Drift Reactive Silver Grey Place Setting $42

This CB2 set feels at once classic and contemporary. The silhouettes are timelessly practical, while infused with just a touch of edge.

black dinnerware
CB2 4-Piece Crisp Matte Black Place Setting $26

Minimalism doesn’t have to mean white—or even light. This dinnerware set would look stunning rendered in any color, but it looks particularly sophisticated in jet black.

gray plates
Crate & Barrel Mercer Grey Round Dinner Plates, Set of 8 $48

Fans of artisanal ceramics can surely appreciate this Crate & Barrel dinnerware set, which manages to combine form with function absolutely masterfully.

black dinnerware set
Open Kitchen by Williams Sonoma Matte 16-Piece Dinnerware Set $104

This Williams Sonoma set doesn’t complicate things: Each piece is offered in a classic silhouette—and a slightly (and delightfully) less classic palette.

white dinner set
Crate & Barrel Bennett 5-Piece Place Setting $83

Each form in this dinnerware set is incredibly sleek. If you want dinnerware that feels interesting but not distracting, this is an excellent place to start.

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