Tuesday, January 18, 2011

6 Must-Have Sets of Dishes

I love dishes!  I love setting the table with different plates and bowls, I love matching the dishes to the type of food we are serving, I love coordinating the linens and plates - I really love dishes!  Recently though, I've been thinking about how many sets of dishes are the right number to own.  At what point do you step over the edge and move from dish lover and dish collector to dish addict.  I've been getting some flak from Kate, who has talked me down from the edge when I've wanted to buy more dishes at the thrift store, and my friend (you know who you are) who thinks I have too many dishes.  So I've been pondering how many sets of dishes are optimal.

While I love all dishes, for me the thing that makes the biggest impact on a table is the plates so I don't buy all the side plates and bowls that go with every set.  Plus I love the mismatched look so I'm happy to pair bowls and plates from different sets.  I'm a bit cheap so I only buy plates that are from the thrift store or on a great sale somewhere.  Until now I have only bought dishes when I could get eight or ten plates or bowls so that there were enough to set a complete table when we had guests.  It has recently dawned on me that soon there will only be two of us at home (tear, tear) and I have started to look out for sets of four plates. 

I do realize that all we really need is one set of basic white or cream dishes, but where's the fun in that.  So here is my list of the six sets of dishes that I see as being just the right number - not too many to store, but enough variety that you can have fun setting the table.  There is definitely overlap between the categories so you may or may not need all six types.

Here's my list of the six must-have sets of dishes.

I think a set of plain white or cream dishes are a basic minimum and always look classic and pretty.  

 Pottery Barn

White dishes can look modern or traditional depending on their shape and style and on what type of cutlery, drinking glasses, linens, and centrepiece you put with them.

You can add other colourful dishes to change the look and add some interest,

Sarah Richardson's table via House of Turquoise

or change the linens on the table to take the same dishes from casual to formal.

I love the look of a table set with porcelain dishes that have some silver or gold trim and maybe a thin decorative line around the edge or some pretty flowers on them.  They make such a lovely table setting for a more formal meal.  Many people have some fine china that they received as wedding presents or inherited from family.  If your formal china is sitting in a cabinet not being used, then I say it is time to get it out and enjoy it.  Nothing elevates an occasion like setting a pretty table with cloth napkins, fresh flowers, and fine china.

By Christmas dishes I really mean ones that look good on your table at Christmas.  While some of the dishes that are specifically meant for Christmas are lovely, I think it is a pity to have to store something that is only used for one month of the year.  In my opinion it would be so much better to find some cute red and white patterned plates (like the ones in the first photo below, which I adore), or green plates, or white with gold trim - whatever makes a Christmas table special to you and can be used again at other times.

Martha Stewart

When you are having a hearty stew or a home-style dinner, these are the dishes you need.  They make the table seem warm and comfortable with a down-to-earth charm.

When it's stir fry or sushi that's being served, then some Asian-inspired dishes are just the thing.  There are a variety of styles of Asian dishes from rustic glazed dishes to white ones with stylized flowers, birds, and dragons on them.  Asian dishes are also sometimes square-shaped.  

To add a little variety, you need a few dishes in the just for fun category.  They might be some nice bright dishes like these sunny yellow plates,

or some lovely pastels ones,

Country Living

or some blue ones like these pretty transferware plates,

Southern Accents

or these gorgeous navy floral ones,

or some charmingly quirky ones that speak to you.

To me those six types of dishes cover most seasons, events, and meals, but aren't too many to store.  What about you?  How many sets of dishes do you think is the perfect number?

Later this week I'll show you which ones I have.
Linked to Inspiration Friday at Southern in My Heart


  1. I love this post, Grace :D I don't think you can own too many dishes unless you've run out of storage space, LOL! My weakness is table linens, I must confess...I do have formal china, cream dishes (not white), pottery dishes, and a few fun dishes. I do not have any Asian or Christmas dishes, but I do have some Fall or Thanksgiving dishes. I think it would be fun to have heart-shaped dishes for Valentine's Day, anniversaries, and birthdays, even. Thanks for an amazing post, Grace! My favorite picture is the one from Country Living with the formal china. I love all the colors :D

    Ricki Jill

  2. Oh noooo you are becoming a chinaholic like me!!!
    I want all white dishes too but my hubby might have heart failure if I bring home another set!
    Love the photos Grace!

  3. I have a white everyday set, and a set of fine china...and I just found a set of red damask Pottery Barn plates at Goodwill for a steal! I figure I can use them with my white dishes for Christmas OR Valentines Day! Of course my other weakness is glassware to match...

  4. I'm a self professed dish-a-holic and I'm reluctant to say how many dishes I actually, but we'll leave it at a lot! I think your suggestion of these 6 different types of dishes is wonderful...is it bad that I have several sets of each of these types...all except the Asian dishes. So that means I need to add another set right...I'll tell Mr. Tide you suggested it! ;-) Great post!

    Kat :)

  5. Those are some beautiful dishes. And I have to agree with you on your must haves. Like everyone else, I'm dish-a-holic and am running out of storage space :-)

  6. Great post! I got married last summer and received my first "real" dishes--white and silver china, a creamy white and tan mixed set, and Spode Woodland....I am in LOVE with them and feel a lifetime of dish love coming on!


  7. You can never have too many dishes!!!

  8. A great bit of research. I am at a point of choosing a set of dishes. Not sure what I will choose but something chic and casual.

  9. Great advice and beautiful inspiration photos, Grace. I have a fine china set of 12, white with a pretty blue, that I got for free from my sister. Besides our plain white Corelle for everyday (16 place settings for the dishwasher) we have an inexpensive white 16 place setting set (from Real Canadian Superstore) that I use for frequent family buffets. Inexpensive so I'm not afraid to see little great nieces and great nephews with it, and white so we can layer red chargers or it goes with just about anything. The best purchase lately was two dozen square white 'caterers' plates that I now use instead of paper plates for big crowds, bbqs etc. Yeah, lots of white, lots of crowds, but it works for us.

  10. okay so I guess I'm the odd one out here. WE only have white dishes and china! I would love more, but storage is a major issue in my house! I guess we do have a couple of sushi plates . . . but that's about it!

  11. I have some inexpensive big white dishes for every day from Tai Pan. Then I love my yellow/red patterned dishes from Walmart of all places. I would like to find a series of white dishes of all different styles for a fun mismatched setting!

  12. I love all these pictures of dishes that you posted! Having sets of dishes that express yourself is a necessity! Thank you for the post and your comment!

  13. Such a pretty post. And I do think you are right! However I lack storage and so it is only white everyday and my good china that I have. As my white everyday has chipped and broken I find myself picking up more when I see something that will fit at the thrift stores but you may be surprised to learn that the white dishes that have lasted the longest were bought at...dollarama! I love visiting historic mansions where they have entire rooms dedicated to storing china. You need one of those!

  14. this is a great post - my name is sheri, and i'm a dish addict.

    I have blue willow, jadeite, lenox china, pottery barn, stuff from goodwill, it goes on and on...i'm running out of room as i now have some under my bed.

  15. I love this post!!! I've been so inspired by all of the amazing dishes I have seen in blogland and it has revealed to me just how boring I have been! I need to really start adding to my collection because it comes down to time to set the table for a party and I feel like I just resort to my same ol' boring stuff. Thanks for the motivation and for sharing this at Inspiration Friday this week!

  16. Why only 6? Don't let (jealous?) people dissuade you from having more. Someone has to cherish all the dishes that people find "out of style". Check out my miscellaneous collection(s). Click the keyword hutch.