Wondering what things to consider when buying new dinnerware? It seems so simple: a plate is a plate (is a plate… never mind.)
But buying a new dinnerware set in 2021 is easier said than done – there are endless offers on the market nowadays, and multiple things to consider. You might wonder what to look for in a dinnerware set and how to pick the right set for you and your fam.
And you may be shaken to your core when seeing some of the price tags, and ask yourself what difference does an expensive dinnerware set really make?
I recently went through the process of buying dinnerware, and as it quickly becomes a significant investment, I wanted to share my dinnerware buying tips in this short dinnerware buying guide.
For a while, dinnerware had been on my list of things to buy, but I knew it would require some investment, which is code for research. When Pablo and I moved in together last year, the union of our two sets of chaos became too much for two type-A’s to cope with. Alas, the research began.
In this post, I’ll walk you through what the key considerations of buying dinnerware are, and what to ask yourself before going ahead and placing an order.
I’ll also briefly talk about what we ended up getting and why, but for a full review of our Villeroy & Boch Royal set, including which pieces we got and how it worked out for our everyday use, so… #staytuned.
The Key Considerations To Make Before Buying Dinnerware Are:
… How long you expect to have the dinnerware for, including whether you’d want to be able to buy replacement or expansion pieces down the line
… What durability and aesthetic you’re looking for in your dinnerware
… Whether you want to be able to set a full matching table, including serving platters, bowls, and gravy boat
… Dimensions of the dinnerware vs your kitchen cupboards
… And of course, finally: How much you want to spend (hint: how much you’ll end up spending on dinnerware will partly be a function of what your conclusion to the first three points will be.)
Daily Joys: These two serving bowls are both great both as fruit bowls and for salads or side-dishes.
What Are The Different Dinnerware Materials?
What your dinnerware is made from has quite a few impacts. The durability or toughness of the dinnerware, the color, weight, and of course the price.
When I began researching dinnerware materials, I quickly found myself confused looking at all the different names: fine china, bone china, porcelain, bone porcelain… Let’s start with the most common material, porcelain, but before we get into that let’s clear up a bit of confusion.
The word porcelain itself comes from the old Italian word, porcellana, meaning cowrie shell, but the name China is commonly used as porcelain was originally invented in China over a centuries-long process.
So What’s The Difference Between China And Porcelain?
One way to think of it is by comparing it to rose gold and gold, where adding a bit of copper to the gold alloy changes the composition and color slightly while the overall nature of the material remains largely the same.
The composition of materials used to make porcelain varies widely but is generally made from a mix of different minerals like kaolin (clay), feldspar, or quartz.
Bone porcelain or bone china includes bone ash in the composition.
… And What Is The Difference Between Bone Porcelain And Normal Porcelain?
Generally, bone porcelain will be stronger than regular porcelain, and has a slightly more ivory color which I personally find very beautiful. I find that conventional porcelain turns into a cold, dull grey/blue color with time.
It allows for a lighter, more elegant design and look of the final product. To know if a piece is bone porcelain or not, you can simply hold it up against the light – bone porcelain is slightly translucent which porcelain is not.
Bone porcelain is microwave and dishwasher safe and is a durable addition to your kitchen, but also tends to be more expensive.
Regular porcelain is of course a highly durable material, but not all porcelain is made to the same standard or quality, so I recommend you research the specific brand.
Sure Thing: true bone porcelain will be translucent when held up.
Make Sure You Can Buy Replacement Pieces For Your Dinnerware Set
One of the most important things to consider when buying new dinnerware in my opinion is whether or not it is likely to stay in production for the foreseeable future.
There are two obvious reasons for this: One, dishes break, and two, you might want to grow your dinnerware set over time.
Sticking with a classic set that will stay in production is key. Most dinnerware manufacturers will give at least a 6-month notice of discontinuation of a dinnerware line to allow people the option to buy spares, but some lines are less likely to be discontinued than others. It of course has a lot to do with trends.
Even if you never break anything, consider this. We started with a set of 8 as we are just two adults and rarely host more than 4-6 people for dinner. However as soon as your family grows you’ll likely want to add more.
The minimum I advise you start with is for 6 people, and for most households 12 would be the most you’d need.
Cover Your Basics With A Full Set In Classic White
As we started the process of picking out a new dinnerware set, I found myself salivating over gorgeous patterned pieces. In the end, we took the common-sense advice: buy white and I haven’t regretted that decision once.
I’m extremely happy we bought a full set in classic white because it allows me to have all my basics covered once and for all. All food looks delicate when presented on a classic, white plate.
I still have the option to add on a set of bold starter plates if I want without investing in a full set that might look dated in a few years or have gone out of production because of changing trends.
Clean And Classic, Tried And True: White dinnerware will make anything you serve on- or in it look absolutely stunningly delicious.
Pick A Dinnerware Set That Comes With Serving Platters, Bowls etc
When we think of dinnerware, we often think of plates, but dinnerware also covers all of the serving platters and bowls. One of the things to consider when buying new dinnerware that was extremely important to me was that I’d be able to really set a full table.
I really wanted a simple aesthetic through and through, and so one of the things I’d look for in all the lines was whether serving platters, gravy boats etc would be available as well.
Far from all lines or sets have this option, and I’m very glad we found a set that did – I’m still missing a few pieces, but will continue to buy them over time.
In fact, the line we ended up with offers a number of smaller bowl-sizes, including these mini ones (see image below) which I find we use very frequently as they are perfect for a variety of things.
The Jack Of All Trades: From small snacks to holding olive pits to single servings of ketchup, jam, peanut butter or even for soy sauce whenever we have sushi, these do it all.
Making Sure Your Dinnerware Fits Your Cupboards And Dishwasher
One of the more practical things to consider when buying new dinnerware is whether it’s gonna fit in your cupboards. We actually didn’t think about this before buying, and just barely lucked out.
Don’t just factor in the depth, but also take into consideration how tall the full stack will be and whether there’s enough clearance to lift bowls and soup plates out.
The dishwasher is the other thing that needs to accommodate your new dinnerware, so pay attention to this as well.
Buy The Best You Can Afford – And Wait For Sales
I’m a big believer in buy nice or buy twice, and my general philosophy is that the more you use something, the more you can allow yourself to invest in it.
Buying a full dinnerware set is a significant investment if you factor in that you’ll typically need minimum breakfast/lunch plates, dinner plates, and pasta/soup plates in addition to cereal bowls, all x 6-12, in addition to a few pieces for serving. In my review I’ll cover exactly what we bought and tips for how to put together a great dinner set.
This all means that it can really pay off to hold out for a sale. Do your due diligence and research if your brand of choice ever has sales. We got our entire 72-piece set on sale and saved a significant amount on it – almost half the price for the same quality.