6 Helpful Things To Consider When Shopping For New Dishes

Reader Intelligence Report

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A few weeks ago we asked readers to share their best advice for buying a new set of dishes. From those responses we pulled 6 helpful shopping tips for anyone looking to invest in new dinnerware:

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1. Get the right size dishes for your cupboards, shelves, and dishwasher.

You may love the look of those big, beautiful plates, but you won't love them so much when you can't close your cabinet doors! Consider your space and storage restrictions before buying anything.

Just make sure you get dinner plates that fit in normal cabinets (assuming you have them). I love our Pottery Barn dishes, and they're super durable, but the dinner plates are exactly 12" diameter. Most upper cabinets seem to be 12 inches deep, but that's from the front to the wall, not the inside of the cabinet space. Probably more of a hassle than necessary. - LikelyLaura

I had to return a set of Martha Stewart dishes because the dinner plates were too tall to fit in my standard dishwasher - the fan would smack the top of the plate! I found this out on the maiden run when I unpacked the new dishes and placed them in the washer. They ended up being repacked and returned that same day! I try to buy Made in America or Made in England for dishes as I'm afraid of the stories of lead and other chemicals in items from China. -Wendy A

A lot of today's plates are just HUGE! For those watching portion sizes, a smaller plate really helps. I also looked for plates with a rim (as opposed to a coupe shape), or a large plate with a smaller food area. [Also consider a] reasonable dishwasher footprint - when the mugs from our set need to be replaced, I'll be looking for something narrower. The mug area of our dishwasher fills up days before the rest of it is full. Same applies to cupboard space. - craftybeaver

I really like all white with little to no embellishment, but have a hard time finding things that aren't too big! We have a mini set from Williams-Sonoma and a lovely larger set from Crate and Barrel. - esausville

2. Look for open stock so you can customize to your needs.

You don't need to buy a 5-piece set if you know that you're mostly interested in dinner plates and soup bowls. Open stock options let you pick and choose exactly what you want, and even better, easily replace a piece if it gets broken.

We bought open-stock white from Crate & Barrel. I love it! It is basic and works with everything. Over time, I have added different serving pieces—also in white—from all sorts of brands and spots. It has created a unified table, and the white shows off the vintage when I mix and match. Also, at $6 a plate, when one chips it is no big deal. We own 20, due to lots of parties at our house, so buying a new plate is easy. -Shabbydiva

I look for... open stock so I can customize the number of bowls/side plates/dinner plates and ignore the cups and saucers; stackable on a shelf and in a dishwasher; and an attractive design that will look good even if covered with spaghetti sauce. -fabricwench

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3. White is classic, and bone china or porcelain will never let you down.

You can never go wrong with white dishes. They're beautiful, classic, and versatile. They make a great base set, and you can always accent with colorful bowls or mugs.

Just white. It's simple, and I do think food looks more elegant and appetizing on a white background. I know not all shades of white are equal, but it's much easier to buy more pieces that aren't part of your set. - gloriana232

My general advice would be: Bide your time, look for sales, go for classical, simple, white pieces (bone china!) that you can match with anything. A white bone china plate will look great with the vintage glasses you found on a flea market or the colourful salad bowl you bought on your trip to Greece...Pure, white bone china is versatile. So... Go for it. - German Girl

My advice is to choose bone china or porcelain - they are the most durable forms of dinnerware. Stoneware and earthenware usually come in prettier glazes, but they're more prone to chipping. -DanielleM

I've been selling dinnerware for 17 years, and for everyday simplicity, you cannot beat porcelain. It is fired twice at the highest temp, and is the most durable of any dish. Start with white plates and add all kinds of cool colors and patterns in the other pieces. They can be gently buffed with Barkeepers friend and look brand new. They can be dressed up or down. Stoneware or ceramic is where you will find the best color saturation. They are fired only once so are a little more fragile. - SweetiePetitti

I have white bone china plates and pasta bowls, but I think for soup bowls I will collect individual pieces I like in whatever colors or patterns they might be. (I do this with my place settings too; I only own one of each.) But the drinkware match. - lepidoptery

[Go for] white. Food looks great on it and it's easy to mix in new pieces while maintaining a cohesive look. Also easy to use fun table linens to brighten things up or get festive for the holidays. - craftybeaver

I think serving pieces are so fun to mix and match. We even have some fun orange soup bowls. But I love the continuity of those basic white plates, bowls and mugs. - Shabbydiva

4. Buy enough pieces to host a big dinner party.

There may only be one or two people in your household right now, but it's wise to plan ahead for bigger families, parties, and gatherings. You'll be so glad you did!

If you have the space and can afford it, get at least enough settings for the biggest dinner parties you can envision yourself hosting within the next decade (just your own immediate household? family Thanksgiving? big potlucks?) — then a few more, if feasible, in case you misestimated or pieces break. - Bibliovore

I think it's important to get a good number. My set has 12 now and I regularly get to the bottom of the stack, especially when entertaining. - emcap

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5. Buy one set for both everyday and formal dining.

You don't need to buy two sets of dishes. Invest in one nice set, and then dress it up or down with linens and extra serving pieces. You'll save space and money!

If feasible for you, don't get separate sets for everyday and formal dining, but one group of dishes you'll be pleased with for any occasion. That'll let you enjoy your best dinnerware all the time, and spare you extra storage and moving. - Bibliovore

I am always baffled at the number of people who have two different sets. Whatever for? If you have really small kids (like kindergarden or younger), buy a special dishes for them (though I'd still go with porcelain or ceramic as soon as they are old enough to know that you don't bang your plate on the table), but don't deny the rest of the family the beauty of your good dishes. So what if something breaks every now and then? Everything is replacable if you buy smart! - German Girl

6. It's worth it to spend money on great dishes.

If you plan to live with these dishes for years to come, don't skimp on quality. Spend a little more to get exactly what you want, even if it takes you longer to get a complete set.

Personally I think you should opt to spend a bit more for a quality set that will last a long time (not only in durability but the style/pattern) in a neutral color (glossy white) so you don't have to replace the set if you change your kitchen design. - Justin Long

It is so worth it to me to have plates that make me smile every time I put them out. I highly recommend taking good care of yourself and indulging when it's called for. - MaggieG64

* Bonus Tip: Crate & Barrel's Aspen Dinnerware is a great place to start.

A number of Kitchn readers recommended the Aspen Dinnerware line from Crate & Barrel. If you're shopping for basic, white dinnerware that you can live with for years, this is a great set to consider.

We also have Crate and Barrel's Aspen. It fit everything we were looking for: plain white with rimmed plates, fine enough for formal dinner but sturdy enough for everyday, regular-sized plates (we used to have Macy's Cellar stoneware that wouldn't fit in our cupboards or microwave!), and reasonably priced. I love whiteware because it's so easy to mix and match serving pieces and linens and food looks really pretty on it. - Emily G.

Another vote for basic white porcelain! We registered for Crate and Barrel's Aspen plain white dinnerware (my mom wanted me to register for china - no thanks!). They are great for every day, and can look fancy when necessary. I will be able to buy replacements forever, and when I don't, white mixes and matches. - Annie

I vote for Crate and Barrel' Aspen. I have purchased extra pieces and it goes with everything. I has Corelle and really liked it too, but a word of warning. It gets super hot in the microwave and if you drop a plate and it does break, it shatter into dangerous shards. And those shards travel! Had them everywhere! - Augieang

Another vote for Crate and Barrel here. I have a old Noritake Blue Haven set that was my husband's grandmother's... and while it's nice and durable the pattern is so sixties. I use them everyday, but I also bought C&B's plain white Aspen dinner plates, Aspen low bowls, the square bowls and some small oval shaped bowls. 6 of each and I paid $101 Canadian total. Bargain. - Michelle @TheTiffinBox

(Image credits: Bethany Nauert; D Squared Photography; Faith Durand; Ceramik B.)

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