The dishes we use everyday are important – they bring style to our table and set the scene for the food we eat. How our food is presented makes meals feel special and adds occasion to both relaxed and formal dinners.
With our busy lifestyles we want a collection of crockery that is adaptable; it needs to be suitable for special occasions as well as everyday dining. Saving fine china for only formal occasions is now a thing of the past as we want to make the most of our beautiful things and share them with the people we love at every mealtime.
So how to choose the right designer tableware? Finding pieces that are practical, durable, stylish and timeless is a tall order – to help you make the right investment, our team of Houseologists have put together a buying guide of the most important things for you to consider when shopping for crockery.
Consider materials when you’re choosing your crockery as these are as important as the design itself. All dinnerware starts as a humble lump of clay – it’s the way it is manufactured that gives it the different classifications. Most crockery falls into one of four categories:
This is the oldest form of dinnerware. It’s made from unrefined clay and fired at a low temperature. Earthenware always needs to be glazed to make sure it’s non-porous and tends to be durable and hard-wearing. This type of crockery has a more rustic, natural feel and is perfect for casual place settings.
Stoneware is one of the most popular choices for everyday crockery – it’s more durable than earthenware and is affordable too. It’s made from refined clay and fired at a higher temperature than earthenware, giving it a good texture and and chip-resistant surface. Like earthenware, this style of crockery is ideal for everyday, casual dining.
Porcelain is very hard-wearing and practical. It’s dishwasher, freezer and microwave safe, making it ideal for the demands of a busy kitchen. Clay is fired at a high temperature and takes on a very white, smooth surface when covered in a clear glaze.
Bone china has a vivid, white finish and is traditionally used for a formal dining set. The vitrifying process makes it tough and chip-resistant, and despite its delicate appearance, it is considered the strongest and most durable type of tableware. The vivid white, translucent base also makes bone china an ideal material for decorative designs, and many of the pieces you find in stores today are even dishwasher safe, meaning you don’t need to save your fine china for special occasions.
The style and amount of crockery you need depends on your lifestyle and how you will use them. Make sure there are enough dishes for every place setting and it’s always a good idea to keep extra dinner plates and bowls so there’s plenty for serving your culinary creations and when other items are waiting in the dishwasher. Even if you don’t intend to use your corckery regularly, it’s always a good idea to purchase the pieces you need for a formal setting so you have everything on hand when you need it.
For a formal setting you will need:
• Dinner plates
• Salad plates
• Bread plates
• Soup bowls
• Cups and saucers
Traditionally, households have two sets of tableware – one for informal, everyday use, and another for more formal, occasional dining. Today though many families prefer to use one set for everything or alternate between different sets for the different seasons. Whatever you decide to do, it’s important to consider whether your crockery will be for occasional or everyday use.
This crockery needs to meet the demands of busy family life. You need durable pieces that are freezer, dishwasher and microwave safe and should be easily replaceable in case things break or your family expands. This is the crockery you will eat with of everyday – consider the style of your kitchen and of the other elements on your table to make sure everything blends seamlessly.
If you intend to save your crockery for special occasions or seasonal events, you have the opportunity to choose more ornate designs or metallic finishes that can’t be used in the microwave or dishwasher. To keep occasional crockery safe between uses, consider a protective storage container to keep your dinnerware looking its best. Dinnerware for occasional use is typically of a higher quality and is a bigger investment – because it only needs to be used occasionally, it will last longer; consider this when choosing the materials as well as the style.
03.Crockery care guide
As you start to narrow down the style of your dinnerware and the type of crockery you need, be sure to take some of the practicalities into consideration. Make sure the dishes you choose match the way you want to care for them and how you’ll use them in your everyday life. Consider:
Is your new crockery dishwasher safe or hand wash only? Will your new crockery fit in the dishwasher? Make sure the dishes you choose aren’t too large to fit on a dish rack or on the shelves of your dishwasher. Whatever method you choose to wash your dishes, it’s best to clean and dry them as quickly as possible after use to keep them looking their best over time.
If you regularly serve leftovers or heat food in the microwave, make sure your crockery is microwave-safe. Typically, the type and amount of decoration it has, the bigger impact on whether or not your dishware will be safe for the microwave. Gold, silver and other metallic trims won’t be safe, so make sure the style you choose is compatible with how you live.
Check the size of your cupboards and make sure they are wide enough to fit your largest bowls and plates. This is an often-overlooked factor in the buying process but has the potential to become a major bugbear if you can’t easily and safely and easily store your dishes at home.
Check your dinnerware isn’t discontinued or is about to be. It may not feel important now, but can be a hassle if you end up with less than a full set when you can’t replace chipped or broken items.