The fondest memories are often made when sharing meals around the table. Our experts say the mood of a tablescape depends partly on dinnerware, so you want dishes that are as beautiful as they are functional.
Dinnerware sets make shopping easy since everything you need comes in a convenient, coordinated bundle. We talked to experts about other benefits, plus what to pay attention to while narrowing down your options. We also rounded up some of our favorite dinnerware sets across materials.
How we picked the best dinnerware sets
As you’re shopping for dinnerware sets, experts recommend thinking about the following factors.
- Use case: While browsing dinnerware, think about when and how you’ll use the set. Will you use the included pieces everyday during most meals? Or is it only for special occasions, like holidays, birthdays and dinner parties? Pinpointing your intended use case will help you decide on other factors while shopping, like material, number of settings, style and more.
- Number of place settings: “At minimum, look at how many people your dining table can comfortably sit and then have some extra [dishes] on hand in case you need to use them for serving or prepping,” says Christy Caza, the senior product development manager at Fable, a home dinnerware brand. “No one likes having to wash dishes midway through a dinner party.” If you’re buying an everyday dinnerware set, make sure it has twice the total number of settings than there are people in your household, says Cara Barde, the CEO and owner of Crow Canyon Home. For example, if you live in a four-person household, make sure the dinnerware set comes with at least eight place settings. Also remember that place settings and pieces mean different things — place settings are a complete bundle of dishes one person would use during a meal, while pieces refers to the total number of individual dishes that come in the set.
- Types of dishes included: Most everyday dinnerware sets include plates in varying sizes and a bowl in at least one size, says Julie Robbins, a product specialist at Replacements, which sells China and tableware. Many also come with mugs or saucer and mug sets to use for coffee and tea. Some may include serving pieces, like platters and large bowls.
- Material: The material dinnerware is made from determines its durability, weight, stain or scratch resistance and microwave safety. When deciding what kind is right for you, think about how you live, dine and entertain, says Robbins. Parents, for example, may want the most durable, easy-to-clean material. But if you only want something for special occasions, less durable but pretty, delicate-looking dinnerware could work. (To further guide your shopping, we break down some of the most common dinnerware materials below).
- Design: The color, shape and finish of your dinnerware is a personal styling preference. If you don’t know where to begin, however, start with something simple (classic shapes and neutral colors, like white, off white or gray) and layer in other products to customize the table, says Caza.
- Care: Handwashing dinnerware with a soft cloth or sponge, warm water and dish soap is best, but nothing beats the convenience of a dishwasher if you have one. Follow manufacturers’ care instructions and never put something in the dishwasher if directions explicitly say hand-wash only.
- Storage: Before you buy a 20-piece dinnerware set, make sure you have space to store it. Most plates and bowls are designed to be stackable, but if they’re very delicate, you may have to take extra precautions, like using felt plate protectors or vertical racks when pieces are not in use.
The best dinnerware sets to shop
To recommend the best dinnerware sets, we rounded up favorites of NBC Select staff, brands we’ve previously covered and highly rated options that align with expert guidance. (Any products from Fable or Crow Canyon on our list are there because they came highly recommended by NBC Select editors or have at least a 4.0-star average rating from over 1,000 reviews.)
The most basic dinnerware set you can buy is a bundle of all white bowls and plates, like this one that has a 4.7-star average rating from 6,712 reviews on Amazon. It comes with dinner plates, bread plates and soup/cereal bowls. The dishes are made from Vitrelle, Corelle’s proprietary glass-ceramic hybrid material. It’s non-porous so it won’t stain easily, lightweight and chip- and crack-resistant, according to the brand.
Material: Vitrelle | Number of pieces: 18 | Number of place settings: 6 | Microwave-safe: Yes | Oven-safe: Yes | Dishwasher-safe: Yes
Since these dishes are made from melamine, a type of plastic compound, they’re shatter-resistant if dropped, according to the brand — a plus for homes with kids or outdoor dining. The dinnerware set, which has a 4.1-star average rating from 1,875 reviews on Amazon, comes with square-shaped dinner plates, dessert plates, bowls and 20-ounce tumblers. You can purchase it in gray, green, light blue, mint and red colors.
Material: Melamine | Number of pieces: 16 | Number of place settings: 4 | Microwave-safe: No | Oven-safe: No | Dishwasher-safe: Yes
I put Fiesta’s dinnerware through three moves (one across the country) in four years, and every piece I own is still in perfect condition. Dishes come in bright colors like Turquoise, Sunflower (yellow), Scarlet (red), Meadow (green) and Butterscotch (orange), which make me happy whether I’m eating off a plate or drying off a bowl. All the pieces have a glossy finish and subtle circular detailing that I find eye-catching. They’re also stackable and don’t scratch easily, in my experience. This set of Fiesta dinnerware comes with dinner plates, salad plates and cereal bowls.
Material: Porcelain China | Number of pieces: 12 | Number of place settings: 4 | Microwave-safe: Yes | Oven-safe: Yes | Dishwasher-safe: Yes
Every piece in Fable’s dinnerware set is hand-finished in Portugal and organically shaped, giving them a rustic farmhouse look that’s popular among shoppers, our experts say. The set, which has a 5.0-star average rating from 3,053 reviews at Fable, comes with dinner plates, salad plates, pasta bowls that hold up to 26 fluid ounces and breakfast bowls that hold up to 20 fluid ounces. Dishes are available in colors like Speckled White, Dove Gray, Beachgrass Green and Blush Pink. Since they have a semi-matte finish, they’re susceptible to superficial marks from flatware you can remove with a scouring powder like Bar Keepers Friend and a Tawashi Brush, according to the brand.
Material: Stoneware | Number of pieces: 16 | Number of place settings: 4 | Microwave-safe: Yes | Oven-safe: Yes, up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit | Dishwasher-safe: Yes
Maren Ellingboe King, a food stylist, recipe developer and the author of “Fresh Midwest,” recommends East Fork Pottery’s dinnerware for its function and beauty. Its pieces are handmade in North Carolina and available in colors like Black Mountain, Eggshell (white), Night Swim (indigo), Amaro (burnt red) and more. This set comes with East Fork’s mug, Bitty Bowl, Breakfast Bowl, Everyday Bowl, Cake Plate, Side Plate and Dinner Plate. Since only one of each dish is included, someone who lives alone will benefit most, though you can purchase multiple sets if needed, or consider gifting to a host.
Material: Ceramic | Number of pieces: 7 | Number of place settings: 1 | Microwave-safe: Yes | Oven-safe: No | Dishwasher-safe: Yes
King recommends West Elm’s simple, modern dinnerware sets, and uses one like this in her everyday life. It comes with pieces that have asymmetric edges, including dinner plates, salad plates, cereal bowls that hold 20.3 fluid ounces and pasta bowls that hold 3.8 fluid ounces.
Material: Porcelain | Number of pieces: 16 | Number of place settings: 4 | Microwave-safe: Yes | Oven-safe: No | Dishwasher-safe: Yes
In addition to cookware sets, Dutch ovens and air fryers, Our Place makes tableware. This set includes the brand’s Full Plates, Midi Plates and Demi Bowls, all of which are stackable for easy storage. and beautifully designed with a semi-matte exterior, glossy interior and raw rim. Plus, it comes in mixed colors or individual shades like Steam (white), Spice (light pink), Terracotta and Char (black).
Material: Stoneware | Number of pieces: 12 | Number of place settings: 4 | Microwave-safe: Yes | Oven-safe: Yes, up to 350 degrees Farenheit | Dishwasher-safe: Yes
We love Year & Day’s utensils (specifically its spoons), and you can pair them with the brand’s dinnerware to complete your place settings. The Core Set comes with the brand’s Big Bowls, Small Bowls, Big Plates and Small Plates. Dishes are made from locally sourced clay by artisans in Portugal and they’re coated in a semi-matte glaze that’s available in colors like Moon (white), Lagoon (blue), Dune (taupe), Fog (gray) and more.
Material: Ceramic | Number of pieces: 16 | Number of place settings: 4 | Microwave-safe: Yes | Oven-safe: Yes, up to 480 degrees Fahrenheit | Dishwasher-safe: Yes
Crow Canyon Home’s dinnerware and serveware were centerpieces at my family’s barbeques growing up — since they’re made from enamelware, we never worried about dropping them or banging them around, and it’s hard to take your eyes off the colorful, splatter-patterned exterior. Since moving from the suburbs to the city, I can confirm they’re just as great to use indoors. This set comes with dinner plates, raised salad plates, cereal bowls and mugs. You can purchase them in colors like Burgundy and Cream Splatter, Red Splatter, Black Splatter, Blue Splatter and more.
Material: Enamelware | Number of pieces: 16 | Number of place settings: 4 | Microwave-safe: No | Oven-safe: No | Dishwasher-safe: No
How to style your tablescape
You don’t need multiple dinnerware sets to create beautiful tablescapes. Instead, consider purchasing a simple, quality set and dressing it up with decorative elements. Below are expert tips for styling your own.
- Don’t be afraid to mix old and new, says Barde. She’s recently seen shoppers gravitate toward unique items, which makes for a more interesting table. You can use the pieces from your dinnerware set as a base and layer in colorful or patterned vintage, antique or heirloom pieces.
- Turn to nostalgia for inspiration, says Robbins. “Think about meals from your fondest memories,” she says. “Is there a pattern, color or design element that speaks to you?” If so, identify it and brainstorm how you can bring it to life in your space.
- If your everyday dishes are a neutral color, consider buying serveware or glassware decorated with patterns or colors to brighten up your tablescape, says King. Platters, large bowls, pitchers and wine glasses, for example, can become instant centerpieces.
- Flatware (forks, spoons and knives) and serving utensils also add flair to a tablescape, says King. You can find budget-friendly sets in gold, copper, matte black and traditional silver at stores like Target and Urban Outfitters, she says
- Linens like tablecloths, placemats, coasters and cloth napkins are functional decor, and they’re easy to fold up and store between uses. King is a fan of Atelier Saucier ’s table linens, which come in a variety of patterns and colors.
- Add height to your tablescape with flowers in a vase, candlesticks, olive oil and vinegar in decorative bottles, and salt and pepper shakers, experts say. Doing so helps fill the room and gives the table depth.
Best tablescape accessories
Consider taking your tablescape to the next level by adding color, texture and height through accessories. Here are some of our favorites.
Meet our experts
At NBC Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Christy Caza is the senior product development manager at Fable, a home dinnerware brand. She is responsible for designing and developing all of Fable’s products and has worked in the design industry for 15 years.
- Julie Robbins is a product specialist at Replacements, which sells China and tableware.
- Cara Barde is the CEO and owner of Crow Canyon Home, a enamelware tableware, cookware and serveware brand founded in 1977.
- Maren Ellingboe King is a food stylist, recipe developer and the author of Fresh Midwest. Her work has appeared in Food & Wine, Epicurious, Target, Food Network Magazine and more, and you can follow her on Instagram at @marenellingboeking. She lives in Minneapolis, MN with her family.
Why trust NBC Select?
Zoe Malin is an associate updates editor at NBC Select who writes about kitchen tools, including meal prep containers, pie baking essentials and ice cream makers. For this article, she interviewed four experts about how to shop for dinnerware sets and rounded up highly rated options, expert picks and NBC Select staff recommendations.
Zoe Malin is an associate updates editor at NBC Select based in New York City, NY. She joined the team in 2020 as Select’s first-ever intern. Zoe specializes in topics like home and kitchen, wellness and fitness, pets and household basics from toothpaste to olive oil. Zoe leads Covid-19 coverage for Select, authoring guides to KN95 masks, N95 masks and Covid tests. She also helped start Select’s New & Notable column in 2020, which she’s written ever since. Zoe covers tentpole sale events including Amazon Prime Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and works on articles highlighting minority-owned businesses, like Black-owned coffee companies and AAPI-owned food and drink brands. She’s constantly trying products like sports bras, ice cream makers, tinted sunscreen and more.