Setting the table

I'm not one for "tablescapes". There are bloggers out there who are extremely creative when it comes to setting the table with different serving pieces and accessories. I'm always in awe of the variety of place settings, glasses, and silverware that they are able to store...their homes must be huge!

In my little condo, I have one set of plates, though half were lost while I was in graduate school. All of my kitchen items were stored in my parents' basement during that period and I imagine there's a box in a brother's storage unit containing half of my discontinued Villeroy & Boch china. I have a set of every day glasses and a good amount of Waterford that I use for special occasions (and sometimes for not-so-special occasions). I have a simple set of Reed & Barton flatware and a set of hotel silver an aunt gave me.

I've started to think about making my half set of dishes complete so I can entertain a little better and a little "greener" (when more than four people are involved, I wind up with disposable plates...ick). I have a few options:

1. Use Replacements, Ltd and Ebay to make the collection whole. Each dinner plate is selling for $80 and each salad plate is going for $50. Seems like an extremely expensive option.

2. Buy a few plates in a similar pattern to the original to complete the set. Wedgwood's Edme is close, but it's definitely not a excellent match.

3. Buy a whole new set of everyday dishes and sell the Villeroy & Boch china to Replacements. I kind of like the Hudson and Dotty dishes from Bloomingdale's, but the website doesn't give much information about them other than saying that the Hudson set is stoneware and the Dotty set is porcelain.

4. Keep the half set of Villeroy & Boch for everyday use and start collecting fine china for entertaining.

The last option, while probably not the most realistic, was definitely the most fun, so I started surfing a few sites and looking at china.

Years ago, my mother told me to pick china, crystal, and silver patterns so future gifts could be tucked away. I only wound up picking my Waterford, which my mother and a few aunts have given me over the course of about a decade. You might have spotted it when I showed pictures of the dining "nook" back in April.

I never got around to picking out china or silver, but I spent a little time daydreaming about it during that three year span when loads of my college classmates got married. At the time, I loved white Phillipe Deshoulieres, Raynaud, and Christofle china with a big, ornate, platinum band. It was serious stuff. It was also insanely expensive. As a grad student, it was fun to float through the fine dining section of Bloomingdale's during my lunch breaks (I worked two jobs, one at Banana Republic in a mall) and dream about throwing sophisticated dinner parties on very sophisticated china one day.

Just as my decorating become more relaxed in recent years, my taste in china has become a little more playful. The place settings that caught my eye the other night while I was browsing were totally different from the ones I liked ten years ago. Here are a few of the patterns I loved:

Oddly, I found that the teacup can "make or break" my feelings about a pattern. Kind of funny since the teacup isn't exactly prominent throughout a meal. The Kate Spade cup with the dragonfly on it was a deal breaker. I love the accent plate, but not the entire set.

So, what's your style when it comes to place settings? Do you have a set of fine china reserved for special occasions? Are your everyday plates and your special occasion ones radically different?

Keep in mind, this is just for fun. I don't think I've quite settled on what I'm going to do about my incomplete set of plates...though I'd love to hear your opinions about the options!


  1. that jaipur set is heavenly! i wish they would just nix cups altogether when it comes to settings. we were looking for casual ware for our registry and ugh, the cups were ruining so many sets.

  2. I have a large amount of my wedding china and even though I like it, I rarely use it. Since I love to set the table with pretty linens I picked up a "caterers set" (12)of white plates from Pottery Barn and love them! I sometimes use them with a set of salad plates in white with a wide red band that I bought years ago at Crate. No matter what I use them with, they always coordinate perfectly.

  3. As my husband will tell I LOVE china! When I was twelve my aunt & uncle started taking freighter trips to South America and would bring back a place setting for my birthday...
    so I now have 12 totally different styles, shapes and patterns...
    & when you use them together you don't need any anything else to set a fabulous table.

  4. I love the stoneware by Denby. Super sturdy. Ovensafe. Dishwasher safe. But maybe too chunky for your taste.

    If you love what you have, why not get some other dishes that can be mixed and matched with the V&B?

  5. PS: I love colorful patterns like the Green Lace, but I think for basic China it's best to have something neutral and simple - because you can always jazz it up with fun lunch or salad plates when you want a splash of color. But it could be hard to commit to a bright color for all china for 30-50 years.

  6. Jeannine, I can totally relate to your situation. I never got married so never got to put china on my list (which is probably a good thing, as my tastes change every 6 months!). Anyway, now I am considering buying a set but (a) I don't NEED it and (b) it is stupidly expensive.

    I have ikea plates that I love (white with pale grey-blue rim) but they lack that upscale charm for a big evening event. I would love to have a set of bone china with the same look, as I have not tired of it and a little more fun than plain white but no pattern to conflict with.

    I see a lot I like but none enough to justify the expense. Then again, I don't want to waste any more money on something mediocre. And I am being held back from buying serving pieces, which I sorely need, as I "wait" for the right idea to come along. So I feel your pain!

    I was thinking of starting to buy odd china pieces, but I just don't have that boho ability to pull it off. I have so many odd pieces now that it is driving me up the wall. I cannot imagide adding to the chaos. I want this to be neat and organized but find I just have more and more clutter, so a "set" would be really nice, to set the foundation and make it all coherent.

    And I agree, the tea cup is the dealbreaker. I don't even want tea cups - I often look at sets with coffee cups, but then I would have to buy all separately...

    As you can see, I've thought about this a lot, haha.

    Love your cabinet with all the Waterford. Stunning!

    xo's Terri

  7. By the way, the Wedgwood Edme was quite nice in person. I don't stop to shop for this stuff, but came across it at an outlet mall in Houston - I love neoclassical, so it was one pattern that finally caught my eye. But I am looking for something a little "prettier" that Jaipur from Michael Aram.


  8. I have too many dishes :) We have a regular every day use set from Crate and Barrel as well as china from our wedding (Vera Wang Blanc Sur Blanc). Then I also have a mismosh of plates, teacups, other dishes that I inherited from my great grandmother. I love it all although we have rarely used the china. I have always loved those Kate Spade polka dot plates, but stuck with something more classic when picking out china for our wedding - I was worried I would hate it when I got older.

  9. I would use what you have for everyday use. Why not (it's what Nate Berkus does...)?

    I feel like I see full sets of china at estate sales and on Craigslist all the time. We're talking super nice, interesting sets of dishes for under $300. I would look into it if I were you!

    I love my IKEA 365 plates~ they're super cheap, white, and look great with fancy or everyday meals.

  10. We couldn't agree on china when we were engaged, so we never registered for any. Later on, we decided that we didn't need it so we've never had it.

    Our daily dishes are white Italian stoneware from Williams Sonoma that we've had for almost 20 years. I still love it. Most of my serving dishes are white or clear glass.

    We also have a lot of pottery made by my husband's aunt. It is mostly tones of blue and some browns (sounds awful, but it's not) that goes well with my collection of cobalt blue glasses.

    For large-scale entertaining, I've been going to Goodwill and other thrift shops and buying white dishes in all kinds of patterns, which makes things fun and eco-friendly when we have one of our big dinner parties.

  11. My china was a gift from my late birth grandmother, and it is very similar to the "Tulle". It is bone edged in platinum with matching crystal.

    My everyday stuff is from JC Penny and a dark brown oversized. Not my favorite style, but it is functional.

    The sad thing is, I haven't even used my China once. I hope to do so soon!


  12. I do not tablescape. I do not do china, either. I like everyday dishes personally. I do love that Green Lace pattern, though!

  13. After many unfortunate accidents with expensive china I now only have plain white china.It is wedgewood but sold without pattern. It can be bought very cheaply ie £2 a large dinner plate, which means that I don't avoid using it for everyday use as well as special occasions. It also means that I can add or delete parts of it if I get fed up with certain shapes. This also avoids the problem of patterns dating.I add interest with other accessories on the table such as napkins and tablecloth. I also have two sets of cutlery one silver plated and one gold plated so I can chop and change as the mood suits me.

  14. I love the Jaipur and Tulle sets a lot!!

    For me growing up my parents threw 6 course dinner parties every other weekend. One of my chores on the weekends was to polish the silver (lol I hated that chore) my sisters and I learned from an early age how to properly set a table and how to properly serve which side you take the dirty plate away and which side you put the next course of food down etc.

    My parents had a ton of crystal glasses, china and silver. I got into antiques when I was a pre-teen one being silverware. My father bought me a set at an antique store which I still have today I think I have enough for 10 people. My parents china was promised to one of my sisters however I did buy a few replacement pieces just to put in my own china cabinet for fun.

    I love the idea when it comes to china, mixing pieces together, I like the idea of using a very simple pattern for most pieces then buying say the salad plate and tea cup in a more ornate pattern by doing this you can buy a few different sets for the seasons. My current china isn't much, I have lots of teacups since my sister and I started at a young age everywhere we traveled we would purchase a china teacup (if we traveled separately we always brought a china cup home for the other as well as a xmas ornament from each travel). However my china dinner plates are antique each plate has a different black and white scene of places like Buckingham Palace etc. My parents had three sets of china, their main set was an ornate gold and ivory set, their second set was the same as I just described black and white scenes, their third set was my grandmothers (I still have one plate from that set somewhere), If my parents were hosting a large party they used the gold set since that set served 12 I think. If it was smaller parties my mom used whatever set she felt like using.

    My every day set is white I love all white every day ware, I have two sets though one has embossed grapes on the edges the other set is embossed stripes I guess. I can't commit to anything but all white for every day since I know I would grow tired of a pattern or color too fast.

    I'd buy the carling way dinner plates to serve 10 to 12. Then I'd purchase the salad plate and tea cup set in both the Jaipur and Tulle that way you can have two completely different looks for different occasions. My goal is to do something like that a simple base with 3 or so different style salad plates and teacup sets I would probably purchase these styles to coincide with the seasons..

  15. Too floral?
    Too I don't know what? (love the salad plates)
    Too plain?
    A little flexibility, buying a set you really like, perhaps, instead of one you truly love, and patience go a long way. If you pay $80 a plate you have no one to blame but yourself. Plus you'll be less likely to use it and hate anyone who breaks one.
    No one says you have to keep it forever, either. When your tastes change your china can too.

  16. KGS, I'm not sure I understand your comment! You seem to have missed the part of the post where I wrote that this is just for fun.

    The patterns to which you linked are far to old fashioned for me, but thanks for the suggestions. :)

  17. Yes, I have more space and am a habitual table scaper. Here is a link to my last post on entertaining.
    I find the bid/ask spread on replacements to be prohibitive. I like to trade china on e-bay.

  18. I love Larabee Road. Its so much fun, yet it can be formal. I probably won't register for it for our wedding, just because we have no place to store it, and whats the point of owning something if you can't use it or atleast keep it within every day site. Whats your favorite "everyday" set of dishes?

  19. I would use the V&B everyday, then see if you love it enough to buy more or want to change your pattern all together. About 10 years ago I started buying nice bone china and crystal for myself. My taste then was much simpler and modern but I still love my china. The china pattern is Elegance White by Mikasa and I use it every day. Because there is no metal banding I never have to worry about rubbing that off over the many dishwashing cycles. And since bone china is hard I have knocked my plates around quite a bit and only broken one salad plate
    and the crystal is a discontinued Vera Wang Blanc sur Blanc
    Sadly, this crystal was too thin and fragile to last and most has been broken.
    While I hope to one day have something as awesome as the Jaipur or even the Roccoco inspired and thickly gold banded Phillipe's or Raynaud's, I love my china because food looks great on a simple white plate. It might not be the pattern that I love, but I love its dependability.


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