9 Things to Consider When Choosing a New Set of Dishes

dinner table

Cameron Whitman/Stocksy

New dishes can be a lot of fun—that is until you have to wash them. But as fun as a new set can be, when you really think about, committing to new dishes is actually a really big decision. After all, most of us eat at least one or two meals at home every day, which means you'll be spending a lot of quality time with those dishes.

To help you decide which direction to go in, we have a few things you should consider before making your final choice.

What Type Of Dish Should I Buy?

Dishes are obviously available in a variety of different materials. But one of the most common types is fine china, which is made from a combination of clay, kaolin, quartz, and feldspar before being fired in a kiln.

Most traditional fine china must be washed by hand because it often has hand-painted designs and metal accents, so it's often more expensive than other materials.

There are also a few subsets within the china category. For example, china that’s dishwasher and microwave safe is called Casual China. And if you turn over a plate and it’s labeled Bone China, that means it has a bone in it, probably from a cow.

Is Formal China Necessary?

While formal china is often beautiful, it isn’t necessary or practical for everyday use. However, it is wonderful to bring out for formal meals, holidays, and the occasional dinner party. If you want it, buy it, but don’t forget to pick up rubber gloves as well.

If you’re going to splurge, the 1948 Collection by Jonathan Adler is a total showstopper. It's also dishwasher safe for up to 500 washes as long as you're smart, and select your dishwasher's delicate setting.

metallic china
Jonathan Adler 1948 5-Piece, Service for 1 $151

Consider Casual China

Casual China dinnerware is a more ideal option for everyday use. If you want a formal china look, without the maintenance. Kate Spade's Eden Court checks every single box in this case. It features a traditional style gold rim around the edge and whimsical yet polished butterflies and is both dishwasher and microwave safe.

china set
Lenox Eden Court Plate $32

Melamine Is Another Solid Choice

Melamine is essentially a high-quality plastic. It’s a great choice for families with young children, those who like to eat outdoors, and anyone who just wants something durable and casual, especially if you have a tendency to break dishes. Keep in mind that most (but not all) melamine needs to be washed by hand and is a no-go for the microwave.

These Thomas Fuchs Dishes are affordable and look like modern art pieces. Available in cream/navy, green/navy, and light blue/navy color combinations, they’re also dishwasher safe and BPA free.

green and blue plate
Thomas Fuchs 1/2 & 1/2 Melamine Dinner Plate, Set of 4 $73 $56

As-Is Stoneware

Stoneware dishes are made from clay and fired at a higher temperature than porcelain, so they’re nice and durable. Hudson Grace’s Graphite Collection is certainly a bold choice. For those who like an ultra-modern look, this black matte textured dinnerware is effortlessly stylish.

black dinner plate
Hudson Grace Graphite Stoneware Dinner Plate $21

White Plates Don't Have to be Boring

Many people choose basic white dishes because they’re a safe choice that will easily blend with different accessories and décor styles. And while you can’t technically go wrong with a white plate, you can go boring with it. A plain white plate just isn’t an exciting choice, but a textured white plate such as a basket weave wins every time.

The Nantucket Basket Five Piece Place Setting by Wedgewood is microwave and dishwasher safe and perfect for daily use. It complements any style, kitchen, or food, but pairs especially well with contemporary homes.

white plate set
Wedgwood Nantucket Basket Five Piece Place Setting $95

Consider Mismatched Options

If you don’t want all of your plates to match, they don’t have to. Vietri’s Santorini collection has four different dinner plates in each set. A variety of bowls are also available, which you can choose to match or mismatch if you please.

mismatched plates
Viva x Vietri Santorini Assorted Dinner Plates, Set of 4 $80

You Don't Have to Buy Single Place Settings

Buying a box with multiple place settings is a great way to save money on dishes, especially if you only want basic pieces. (Eating soup from a salad bowl isn’t a crime.) The Godringer Rayo set, for example, has a contemporary marble design that stands out on any table. The 18-piece collection has service for six with a dinner place, salad plate, and bowl. It looks just as attractive as something three times the price.

marble plate set
Godinger Rayo Dinnerware Set, Service for 4 $95

Size Matters

Playing dishwasher Tetris every single night is not my idea of a good time, but is my unfortunate reality because my dinner plates are just a little too large for the rack. I’m a renter and didn’t have this problem in my last apartment.

However, if you own your home or plan to stay where you are for a while, I highly suggest measuring any dishes you are considering unless you’re really good at Tetris. Or choose “the lazy solution” and eat off salad plates whenever possible. It’s also a great way to be conscious of portion sizes.

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