How to select a dinnerware set?

blue sophie conran for portmeiron dinnerwarwA reader, Tracy asked me a question about the Celadon dinnerware collection by Sophie Conran for Portmeiron. Can that lovely light blue clash or compete with the food?

My answer is yes and no. That is why I suggest you get some pieces in white and other in blue (celadon). Mixing two solid colors is quite fashionable and sophisticated as I explained in Swedish design tableware with Höganäs Keramik.

My own experience

For my job, I am trying dinnerware all the time. I usually buy 2 place settings and I use them daily for a while. I bought my Sophie Conran’s place setting all white plus some additional Celadon salad plates.

I used them mostly for dessert and under the soup/cereal bowl. As you can see from this picture, bowls look great with noodles inside. The color is wonderful for a breakfast meal. For serving soups, the blue highlights a carrot and ginger soup, a minestrone soup or a cauliflower cream. As I am writing this, I realized that I bought plates but I should have bought bowls also.

My next test would be the Biscuit dishes. If you wish to have a hint of modern country charms, the biscuit color provides it. I find it is strange that retailers in my area carry them less. I think they are missing out.

Seven simple tips on buying a dinnerware set

  1. Examine first what you like to cook and how you dish your plate.
  2. Dinnerware available by the pieces is best because you can replace broken pieces or add place settings later on.
  3. For entertaining, the magical number is 12 place settings. Having 16 is the best number. For most of your dining parties, having 16 place settings will double your number of small plates (see point 4). If you are on a budget, start with 8 place settings, even for your everyday dishes.
  4. If you can, get twice as many salad/dessert plates as you always use at least two per dinner: one plate for the appetizer and the second plate for the dessert.
  5. If you serve a salad after the main dish, you could use a bowl for casual luxury entertaining. You can stock cheese plates. Otherwise, a simple trick is to start a dishwashing cycle (assuming you own a quiet dishwasher) after the first course. This way, your salad/dessert plate will be cleaned for the cheese course.
  6. Pattern dinnerware livens up your tabletop instantly. If the pattern runs to the center, the pattern may interfere with your food presentation. For that reason, solid color or pattern rimmed dinnerware are more practical. Last summer, I purchased a black & white baroque pattern with a large print running farther than the rim. White spaces dominate the plates with no print directly on the center so the food looks great.
  7. The color of your dining room should not be your primary concern. Simply check that there is some level of harmony. Harmonizing the tablecloth to your dinnerware is what will bring everything together.

I hope this help you Tracy on making your choice.

Top photo: February 2008 issue of Canadian House & Home – © photo by Mark Burstyn
Buy online: Sophie Conran by Portmeirion 6-Inch Cereal Bowls, Set of 4
Bottom photo: my own Bandana dinnerware set from Stokes – no more available

  • C. Westby
    February 21, 2009 at 00:14

    We bought Sophie Conran tableware less than 2 years ago and are very disappointed. The ridges on all our dinnerplates are turning black so we contacted Portmeirion about the problem. We were told that if we were using stainless steel cutlery, the metal was wearing off on the glaze of the dinnerware due to the extremely hard glaze used. Basically they said it was our problem. We bought these dishes based on their own description of these dishes as durable, everyday dishes. We use a good quality stainless steel cutlery for everyday use and no where in the Portmeirion advertising for these dishes does it say that is not appropiate. I do not know anyone who uses sterling silver cutlery for everyday use. Apparently there have been numerous customer complaints regarding the same problem as ours. The dishes are misrepresented and we regret buying them. We will pursue fair compensation.

  • My latest pasta bowls by Sophie Conran | At Home with Kim Vallee
    July 5, 2009 at 19:30

    […] If you are on the market for a new dinnerware, I invite you to read my Seven simple tips on buying a dinnerware set. […]

  • Keith Cox
    September 30, 2009 at 18:58

    We live in Brampton and we own a set of sterling silver cutlery purchased from Birks and it has turned yellow. I tried cleaning it with a sterling silver cleaner but it is still scummy yellow colour, could you reccommend a sterling silver cleaner available in the Toronto area that would help to clean the silverware.


  • Claudia Mejia
    April 27, 2010 at 23:03

    We purchased a 14 place setting of Mikasa, Hampton Bays. We have enjoyed them for the last 8 yrs if not longer and as the joy lingered the lovely dishes (mostly salad and dinner plates) adquired a pattern of their own reminicent of a “busy” road map in a gray or gold colour…not a good look. Now I’m ( begrudginly) on the hunt for new china and wondering what on earth is one to do with the undamadged pieces and can no longuer replace the damaged ones?…and if this was caused by dishwasher detergent, what is a safe cleaning product. Is china more fragile than I had anticipated? I really like the Shopie Conran collection but I hope no magic maps are in their future!