Types of Dinnerware
Dinnerware is the final culinary touch to each meal, snack, or beverage. After the chopping, simmering, and seasoning--or, let's face it, the ordering--your dinnerware pulls it all together.
The types of dinnerware you choose will depend on your family, your cooking or entertaining habits and your personal aesthetic style.
Select the types of dinnerware that are best for each occasion. You may find that you want one set for everyday with your family and one set for entertaining or holidays.
Porcelain is an excellent choice for you if you're looking for place settings that balance formality and affordability. Porcelain dinnerware is highly durable--more so than bone china, which also has a formal look to it. You can put porcelain in the dishwasher or microwave without worrying too much about chipping or cracking, too. The only exception to this is metallic-rimmed porcelain, like the Organic Shaped Dinnerware - Metallic Rimmed offered at west elm. Metal definitely can't go in the microwave. Otherwise, normal care and attentiveness should make sure this dinnerware lasts a long time. Since it's such a balanced choice for most families, you'll find lots of different patterns, too. If you like to pair minimalism with unexpected touches, have fun with a whimsically painted selection.
Bone china is the fanciest type of dinnerware. This choice is elegant and delicate, but still strong. The place settings are made from real bone. The ash of animal bones is mixed with porcelain clay and fired in a kiln at a lower temperature than pure porcelain. This material mix and firing finish is how bone china gets its lightly translucent look, which is prized at formal tables around the world. Many people put bone china in the dishwasher. Even high-design selections can handle the dishwasher and microwave, but if yours is particularly precious, washing it by hand works, too. Just be careful not to chip it against other dishes or cups in the sink.
Earthenware is one of the more affordable types of dinnerware, so it's a great choice for everyday use at home. If you like to dine outdoors, earthenware can be a good choice, because it's easy to replace. Keep in mind it is porous, so it may be more likely to crack if it clanks against hard surfaces during a party. The porousness of the ceramics often means earthenware comes in beautiful, saturated colors that you won't always find with other types of dinnerware. Our Everyday Collection features this deep glaze of color, even in the lighter shades. The waterproof glaze seals the ceramics for a bold but casual use that looks great at every meal.
Stoneware is thicker than porcelain or bone china dinnerware, but more durable than earthenware. Its strength comes from its materials mix. While it's also a fired ceramic, stoneware features vitreous materials in the clay. Vitrification is what makes glass so strong, too. Liquid material is heated and then cooled into a solid. This means you get an everyday dinnerware that needs only a little extra care (like washing by hand), in return for longevity and the same bright glazes as earthenware. Stoneware also looks earthy, organic and refined in neutral shades that highlight its natural texture.
Most place settings include a cup, a bowl, and two plates; one for salad and one for dinner. If you prefer formal settings, you may find extra pieces, like saucers or dessert plates. Some styles have matching serveware, called completer pieces. These could include platters of different sizes, soup tureens, punch bowls, butter dishes, cream pitchers, sugar bowls, gravy boats, sauce dishes or boats and other choices.
You can buy one dinnerware setting for one person based on the size of your family or how often you entertain. Most people make sure they have extra dinnerware settings on hand for parties, BBQs, special occasions, or holidays. Plus, it's greener to skip running the dishwasher until it's full, so having extra plates and bowls around makes it easier to get through half a week without having to do as many dishes, while still enjoying beautiful meals.