Home Plate

Create your own set of mismatched dishes to score a charming table

by Leah Ashley
Living with Leah

We are living in a culture where everything is “fast.” Fast fashion, fast food, fast furniture and a world ready to be delivered to your front door with the click of a button. With fewer and fewer families sitting down to dinner together each night, it’s no surprise that the emphasis once placed on setting a pretty table has also gone by the wayside. And forget dinner parties. How many people do you know who can actually say they have a dinner ware, flatware and stemware setting for ten or more?

You may be thinking to yourself, “She has a point. I’d better hit up one of the big box stores and stock up on a few more white dishes just in case. The holidays will be here before we know it!” Don’t get me wrong. I love a good, simple set of white dishes – I have one myself. And while they’re versatile and reliable, they can get a little boring to look at in my cabinets and on my table.

I am on a mission to put the charm back into your table settings: I want to create a table that is so inviting, you’ll want to linger for hours chatting and connecting with the ones you love long after dessert has been served. I want your guests (even if it’s simply you and your significant other) to get caught up admiring how pretty and how easy a chic setting can be. With a few simple tips, I am challenging you to think outside the big box stores and start your very own mismatched china collection.

1. Don’t toss that thite set. Technically, I did just insult the plain, white set of dishes by calling them boring. But a simple set of dinnerware can serve as a wonderful foundation to the rest of your collection. They don’t even have to be vintage!

2. Start small. Overwhelmed by the idea of starting a big collection? Start small by looking for fun bread plates, dessert plates or even stemware. You don’t have to rush out and buy it all at once. Half the fun of having a mismatched set of china or stemware is collecting it piece by piece.

3. Choose a color or a pattern. There really is an art to nailing the look of a mismatched table setting. It may look like a hodgepodge of patterns and colors, but for the look to feel “effortless” you will need to stick to either a color scheme or a pattern. For example, pair plates that have a blue and white theme to them. Or run with a pattern, and pick up plates that feature sweet roses, small florals or English landscapes.

4. Layer. Once you’ve settled on a uniting theme, whether it be color or pattern, you can pull out even more colors that mix well with each other. Maybe the majority of your plates feature a floral theme but there is a particular plate with aqua notes in the floral. Look for a plate with a bold aqua rim (it doesn’t have to have florals on it) to really bring out the aqua in the other patterns.

5. Materials matter. Dinnerware comes made in many materials. Porcelain, glass, ceramic, silver, bone china and the list goes on. When collecting a mismatched set, I try and stick to similar materials to make the collection feel more cohesive. Fun fact: the lighter the piece, the more expensive it is. Good china feels delicate enough to take a bite out of.

6. Size matters. Up until the 1960s dinner plates were only about nine inches in size. Today’s dinner plate may be as large as 12 inches! To say that we have a proportion problem in America is an understatement. But that’s a whole other issue. When it comes to mismatching plates, try to keep the sizes of your dinner plates, bread plates and dessert plates similar.

7. Mix it up. Don’t be afraid to use modern flatware or stemware with your vintage plates. Or vice versa. Mixing new and old pieces is a great way to keep the whole setting feeling fresh and modern.

8. Don’t spend a ton. Feeling inspired to run out and score a mismatched collection? Great! Keep my general rule in mind: take your time and find pieces at thrift stores and garage sales where prices are cheap. Plus, when one breaks, oh well … just hit up another thrift store.

Happy Hunting!


Read More From the Makers Issue | August 2019


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