What Should I Consider When Buying Dinnerware?

Jessica Hobby

Many shoppers are overwhelmed when trying to decide which dinnerware to choose for their home. Dishes are a necessary household staple that can convey personal style and add style dimensions to a kitchen and dining room. When buying them, shoppers should take special consideration regarding their use, size, cost and care.

It is important to consider storage and cupboard sizes when purchasing dinnerware.
It is important to consider storage and cupboard sizes when purchasing dinnerware.

The first thing to consider when buying dinnerware is how it will be used. Dishes are primarily divided into two categories: formal and casual. Some people may opt to buy something that is in between, however, many people choose to eventually have two sets so that they have one for everyday and one for holidays and special occasions. It is most common to find brighter colors and patterns on casual dinnerware and more muted or plain colors on formal dishes.

Some people choose to buy special dinnerware for holidays.
Some people choose to buy special dinnerware for holidays.

Once you have decided on a formal or casual look, another thing to think about is size and place settings. To use already existing kitchen space without having to buy a buffet or additional storage, it is important to measure your cupboards before you purchase dishes because sometimes new ones just don’t fit. Obviously, place settings for six will take up more space than those for four. A more common problem to be aware of is not being able to close the cupboards because the plates are too big. Additional space will also be needed for any extra serving items that may come with the set, such as a serving bowl, a platter, a sugar bowl, or a creamer.


It is also important to consider your budget when deciding on what kind of dinnerware to purchase. Most common, casual plates and bowls are less expensive than formal dishes. Full place settings can also challenge a budget as well as space. Depending on your budget and needs, you may buy a complete set with six or eight dinner plates, bowls, cups and saucers, and other items, or you might want to buy individual place settings.

A wooden serving bowl.
A wooden serving bowl.

The material that the dishes are made of is another factor that should be weighed in the decision-making process. The most popular kinds of dinnerware are made from bone china, pottery or earthenware, porcelain, stoneware, and glass. Most of these are made of clay, but they differ in how long they are fired in a kiln and what kind of clay is used.

Stoneware, pottery, and earthenware are all made of similar clay, but stoneware is fired at a very high temperature so it tends to be more scratch resistant than the other clay options. Porcelain is made of high quality clay that tends to be brittle and may break or chip easier. Bone china is a type of porcelain that has bone ash added to it, causing it to be very strong.

The most important thing to remember is that a dish will almost always eventually get broken. You may want to avoid buying closeout dinnerware because replacement pieces may be hard to come by. It is important to check with the manufacturer to find out if individual replacement pieces are sold separately.

A coffee cup from a casual porcelain dinnerware set.
A coffee cup from a casual porcelain dinnerware set.

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Discussion Comments


Another way to create a unique look for both formal and casual settings is to buy individual pieces that can be mixed in matched.

If you buy pieces in a consistent material or weight, it is very easy to find solid colors and patterns that you can use together or separately. It looks lovely if you place one large plate of a solid color at the bottom, a slightly smaller patterned plate in the middle, followed by another smaller solid plate on top.

If you are considering buying dinnerware try to check out a few sellers websites to see what the various brands offer.

You might just have fun creating your own look, versus just displaying what a manufacturer would like you to display.


If you don't have the budget for both formal and casual dinnerware it is good to go with a modern design that can be used for both.

I purchased a set of very simple stoneware plates that came in a variety of sizes, and were a neutral color. They were fairly inexpensive, sturdy and a fantastic square shape that made them look very stylish.

If you have modern looking plates that are strong and hold up well, you can simply dress up your table linens to create a formal look.

Try to shop around and find some uniquely shaped plates in neutrals, and you will be set no matter what you need them for.


The idea of porcelain dinnerware "...tends to be brittle and may break or chip easier" is inaccurate. Also, the durability and scratch resistance does not depend on "how long they are fired."

Porcelain is known to be a very strong clay when fired to a high temperature, so much so it is used in industry for its strength and durability.

The concept that it is brittle and breaks easily is due to the fact it is such a strong material, it can be made very thin. If thin it becomes translucent, meaning light can shine through the porcelain wall. At that point, the thinness of the porcelain makes it delicate and can break easier than thick clay walls.

I make porcelain dinnerware on the potter's wheel and have chosen this clay for the reason of its durability. It is chip resistant and with high fired glazes which I use, the design is fused into the clay body, therefore, it cannot be washed away, making the dinnerware dishwasher safe.

So, the length of time in the kiln is not the issue that makes it stronger, but the firing temperature. And the porcelain clay is actually the strongest of all possible choices for ceramic dinnerware.

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