The plates, dishes, bowls and cups we use every day are important – they bring style to our table and set the scene for the food we eat, at both relaxed and more formal dinners.

Traditionally, many households had two sets of tableware – one for everyday use, and another for more occasional events. However today, with our busy lifestyles and quest for clutter-free living, many people prefer one set of tableware that is adaptable and suitable for special occasions as well as daily dining.

With a lot of pressure on our tableware to perform and be all things to all meals (and diners!) some may say you should spend as much as you can afford on good quality, timeless pieces that won’t go out of fashion. But with an ever-increasing choice of budget tableware available that constantly rotates with seasons and trends, is it worth spending out when you can inexpensively alternate between sets and keep up with the latest look?

Here’s our guide to buying terrific tableware to help you make the choice!

What are your main occasions?

Think about the occasions at which you will realistically use your tableware the most. Will it be used everyday at family mealtimes, for more informal gatherings such as friends for lunch or coffee, or for evening dinner parties and special events?

If you have a young family who will have their hands on it, expensive items that can get broken easily probably aren’t worth the investment. But if you entertain frequently and your tableware is mainly used by adults, you could afford to spend more.

Consider the items you actually need

The style and amount of crockery you need depends on your lifestyle and how you will use them.  There are lots of variations available so you can go all out and invest in an entire range, or just choose some core basic pieces. Again, this will have an effect on whether you choose to splurge or save; if you want everything to match and decide to opt for a high-end set, it could get very expensive!

Generally, for standard everyday use you’ll probably be looking to compose your tableware set of dinner plates, small plates, large bowls, small dessert bowls, mugs, glasses and cutlery. If you like to entertain and lay out formal settings, or cook specialist cuisine, you may also need items like salad plates, bread plates, soup bowls, rice/ noodle bowls, cups and saucers, espresso cups, a teapot, milk jug, sugar bowl, serving dishes, a gravy boat or cake stand.

If you are set on a fully coordinated look, the different items can become endless, with many ranges also including matching table mats, napkins, coasters, salt and pepper shakers, table runners, storage jars, casserole/oven dishes, fruit bowls and cooking utensils!

Design and materials

The design you choose is massively down to personal preference, the rest of your home décor and own individual taste. However, if you like more simplistic designs, plainer colours and an elegant style, a classic set of tableware that won’t date could be a good purchase as it will have the adaptability to blend with future changes you make to your interior.

However, if you prefer on-trend styles that update frequently, or you like to use crockery as a way of reflecting the seasons within your interior scheme, more inexpensive ranges mean you have the flexibility to keep up with the latest home fashions.

Consider materials when you’re choosing your tableware as these are as important as the design itself. The budget scale ranges massively here from stoneware and earthenware to porcelain, bone and fine china. The material can have an effect on the design, with china looking more delicate and refined, and earthenware chunkier and more rustic.

Think about functionality

If your tableware needs to withstand the demands of busy family life, you need durable pieces that are dishwasher, oven, microwave and freezer proof.

However, if you intend to save your crockery for special occasions or seasonal events, you have the opportunity to choose more ornate designs or specialist finishes that probably can’t withstand extreme heat.

Dinnerware for occasional use is typically of a higher quality and is a bigger investment – because it only needs to be used infrequently, it will generally last longer, so consider this when choosing the materials as well as the style.

Be savvy with storage

It may seem obvious, but 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 store your dishes. Some tableware, especially more modern designs, have features such as stack-ability and multi-functionality for easier storage.

To keep occasional crockery safe between uses, consider a protective storage container to keep your dinnerware looking its best and free from scratches.

Check long-term availability

Check your tableware isn’t about to be discontinued – it will be very frustrating if you can’t replace chipped or broken items in the future, especially if you have paid a lot of money for the set. Bear in mind that cheaper high-trend ranges will turn around quickly, so it is unlikely you’ll be able to get hold of replacements several years (or even months) down the line.

Even if you don’t intend to use all items 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.

The verdict?

Whether you decide to invest in a pricier set or go for a more cost-effective option, it’s important to consider whether your tableware will be for occasional or everyday use, who the main users will be and the sort of look you like.

So, it might be worth splurging on your set if:

  • It will be used mainly by adult diners
  • You like plainer colours, classic designs and timeless, simple styles
  • You prefer more delicate materials like bone or fine china

But, if the following applies, it’s probably best to save!:

  • You have a young family/ busy household
  • You like to keep up with current trends and use tableware to accessorise
  • Your tableware will be used every day and exposed to frequent wear and tear

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