Collecting: Dishes and Tips On Dishes

image
This commemorative plate adds a point of interest to wall decor.

In the event you often read my blog, or at least the collecting series, you may think that I am a hoarder. I am okay in this department thanks to a maximization of storage space and the ability to work my collection into the environment.

Mikasa Yardley plate looks good no matter what you serve on it.
Mikasa’s Yardley plate looks good no matter what you serve on it.

Today’s topic is my love of dishes. Some I love for their absolute simplicity (Mikasa’s Yardley, French Countryside or English Countryside or Noritake’s Troy). Some are amazing works of art (Lenox’s timeless Autumn, Noritake’s Grecian Turquoise – well worth an internet click just to see the design).

Detail of the center of a Lenox Autumn dinner plate.
Detail of the center of a Lenox Autumn dinner plate.

My kitchen usually has a couple of sets of dishes at the ready. I love my plain white dishes as well as the traditional Blue Willow set. I also keep the Lenox Autumn in a cabinet and ready at a moment’s notice. Not that I would have a formal dinner party at a moment’s notice, but I do like to use this for a nice dinner when it is just Mike and me.

Noritake Troy ready for the first course to be served.
Noritake Troy ready for the first course to be served.

At Christmas, part of my household’s tradition is to switch out the day-to-day china with Spode’s Christmas Tree pattern. My sister and I both have several place settings of these.  We can then borrow what we need from the other sister to cover our entertaining needs.

Detail of an old, ornate dessert plate.
Detail of an old, ornate dessert plate.

Back in the 1990s, I started collecting antique Petalware on eBay. It is a simple, ivory colored scalloped, glassware that was available for purchased or sometimes might be given away free in a box of oatmeal. Petalware was produced from 1930s to 1940s.  I have had a few, small ladies’ lunches with these dishes because I don’t have very many pieces. I have taken them out a couple of times thinking I would make them available on eBay for another person to enjoy, but when I see them, I can’t let go.

Fruit plates that used to hang on the wall in my aunt's house.
Fruit plates that used to hang on the wall in my aunt’s house.

Many years ago, I was told to select dinnerware based on what it would look like with a scrambled egg served on it. I chose Mikasa’s Yardley for everyday and Noritake’s Troy as my formal pattern. Both patterns have proven to be timeless and elegant. Neither are ornate, but they are both beautiful.

I love to check out patterns when dining out or touring. This was a place setting displayed at a plantation home in Natchez. I believe it was Old Paris.
I love to check out patterns when dining out or touring. This was a place setting displayed at a plantation home in Natchez. I believe it was Old Paris.

Through the years I really wanted something with some color. I purchased, for very few dollars, the Blue Willow set at an Albertson’s in Midland, TX – it was a customer thank you promotion. My family had gone to Aunt Pinkie and Uncle Henry’s fiftieth wedding anniversary in a van. The van had lots of cubbie holes, so I purchased twelve, four-piece place settings, plus a teapot, creamer and sugar for around $30. I poked it all in the cubbies and have enjoyed it ever since.

Lenox tea service ready for entertaining.
Lenox tea service ready for entertaining.

For color in my formalware, a couple of years ago, after decades of admiring, I finally purchased Lenox Autumn. I think this could be the Cadillac of patterns and brands. Lots of people have it, it is timeless and it goes with everything. I love serving dinner on it.

Some basics you may want to keep in mind (or in your pantry):
1.  The good old fashioned glass dessert plates are great to have available. You can use them for salads or desserts or a charger plate for smaller dishes, such as a ramekin or dessert served in stemware. These allow a place to put your silverware when finished, without putting it on your linens. They are cheap, readily available, and will serve you well for decades to come.

Clear dessert plates are great to have on hand. These are ready for serving cake.
Clear dessert plates are great to have on hand. These are ready for serving cake.

2.  When you select new china, you should probably plan to buy twelve, five-piece place settings. Over time, your pattern may not be available, you may break pieces, or your needs may grow. It is best just to plan to buy a full set so you will be prepared for the future. I had an aunt that purchased thirty-two place settings, but she used them all. She often hosted meals in her home for fundraisers or large family gatherings. She invested in matching place settings, so that she could accommodate her average size parties. It is better to cover your needs with one pattern, than to have four or five patterns but not enough that are alike for your party needs.

I like to store my China in the quilted covers specifically made for such. I then put a tag on the zipper of each piece, so I know th contents without having to unzip.
I like to store my China in the quilted covers specifically made for such. I then put a tag on the zipper of each piece, so I know the contents without having to unzip.

3.  I am not a fan of matching serving pieces. The reason is that they take lots of room to store, most of the time I serve plates in the kitchen and deliver to my guests, and it creates more clean up. My exceptions are platters. I use platters for hors d’oeuvres, so they do get used. What probably makes more sense (cents) for storage and economics is to buy classic white serving pieces to go with any dishes that you have are white or ivory/cream for others. So, they would be plain, even if your pattern is decorated. Again, if you change patterns, you will still have basic serving pieces to go with the new pattern. For example, instead of buying Lenox Autumn vegetable bowls, I purchased a bowl in the Lenox Eternal (or the equivalent at the time) pattern, which was the same color as Autumn and trimmed in gold, but had no design. These same pieces can be used with my Troy pattern, thus saving cabinet space.

A Spode pink ware platter displayed in my kitchen.
A Spode Tower Pink platter displayed in my kitchen.

4.  If you need a large set of matching dishes, flatware, dinnerware, etc. but will only need them rarely, you may want to seek out a vendor such as Ducky Bobs to rent from. There is no need to buy a lot of things you will not need again. For my recent dinner party for 22, I already had 24 matching water goblets and cordials (that I used for shrimp cocktail). I went ahead and purchased 24 flutes and wine glasses in the same pattern because I know I will use them (or break them) through the years. I am in a couple of dinner clubs, where we take turns having sit-down dinners in our homes. They will be used.

I love these irregular shaped pottery plates. The color and shape are so earthy.
I love these irregular shaped pottery plates. The color and shape are so earthy.

5.  I am very practical and cheap. So, when I purchase a china pattern, I go for what I think will be timeless. Think of all those peach designs from the 80s or pink designs from the 50s. They are back now, but there was a period of time you might not have pulled them out for your guests. That is a great thing about a quality, plain pattern. It will work for your lifetime. And, these purchases are meant to last a lifetime. I hand wash my Lenox even though it says it is dishwasher safe, just so it will continue to look new for years.

China ready for a dinner party. Noritake Troy on the left and Lenox Autumn on the right.
China ready for a dinner party. Noritake Troy on the left and Lenox Autumn on the right.

If you have been married a while and have no need to shop for a new pattern, just for fun, look online at Macys or Bed, Bath and Beyond. You will see some gorgeous patterns. You probably don’t need them, but it is always fun to look!

Bonus Information:  Storage containers for dishes may be purchased at the Container Store or Amazon.com.  You can probably also find them locally at a kitchen store.  Glass plates are available on Amazon.com and anywhere that sells plates.