Dining

The ultimate guide to choosing the perfect dinner set

Raines Homeware managing director Geoff Topham dishes the latest on dinnerware trends and discusses how to take the stress out of choosing the perfect china

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The ultimate guide to choosing the perfect dinner set

Ever wondered how to choose the perfect dinner set that will suit every occasion? Us too! Raines Homeware managing director Geoff Topham is here to help, dishing the latest on dinnerware trends and how to take the stress out of choosing the perfect china.

Geoff, what are the latest trends in dinnerware?
More and more people are eating a one-bowl meal such as pasta, various Asian dishes, salad and at this time of year soup and now some manufacturers sell more pasta bowls than they do dinner plates!  They are a really versatile vessel and there are many shapes and sizes. Denby do some fantastic bowl shapes – for pasta, rice and soup/cereal in particular.

Do you have to have matching dinnerware?
Why do your dinner plates have to match your soup bowls?  Frequently people are eating more casually, so the table setting is not as formal and it is quite acceptable to have a different dinnerware for the entrée, main and dessert.  They are not on the table at the same time, so it matters not if they are an eclectic mix.  And what fun to have your Grandmother’s priceless entrée plate followed by a white dinner plate or a fancy bowl.

What’s an example of timeless design?
Philippi from Germany is the perfect example.  Their philosophy is that all Philippi products must be aesthetically pleasing, have a function and be fun. Look at the wonderful Wave cheese set or the elegant Bow candleholder.

What are some colour trends you’re seeing?
In terms of colours, mossy greens, swampy blues and naturals are hot this year, bringing the outside in and creating a soothing feel.  The new Denby Canvas is a tactile and classic natural which really stands out when complemented with wooden accessories, but will fit seamlessly into most interiors.

Soup Cereal Bowl

Denby’s Azure bowl, $45.


What is the difference between fine bone china and porcelain?

There are many tableware bodies.  Most use a combination of the same or similar clays and it is often the firing which determines the ‘body’.

Porcelain is very strong, made from a combination of kaolin, feldspar, quartz, silica.  It has a translucence and cool blue-white colour.  It is fired at a very high temperature, which gives it strength and the translucency.  Porcelain is safe to use in the oven, microwave and dishwasher.    Fairmont & Main’s ‘Arctic White’ is made incorporating our very own NZ china clay in the body, which comes from Matauri Bay in Northland.

Fine china is a softer cream in colour and is a good everyday body, functional and versatile. Fired at a lower temperature and often decorated.  Denby Monsoon is a fine china body, as are some of the Royal Doulton ranges.

What is earthenware?
Earthenware is made from rougher (often iron-infused) clays which are more readily available and therefore cheaper.  It is fired at a lower temperature, so a less strong body.

Bone china has the addition of bone ash, which gives it strength and a whiteness.  It is fired at a lower temperature to porcelain and is often decorated and gilded (Lenox, Royal Crown Derby and Wedgwood).    It is also very translucent, so if you hold it up to the light you will be able to see your hand through it.

What is stoneware?
Stoneware is a much sturdier clay, eg. Denby is made purely from stoneware clay taken from the hills around their Derbyshire factory.  There is nothing else added to Denby.  It is fired at a high temperature several times and extremely durable, safe to use in the oven, microwave, dishwasher and freezer.

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Royal Crown Derby’s, Mikado, from $175.


What advice would you give someone who is looking to buy a new dinnerware set?

As with many things, you get what you pay for!  If you are looking to swap out your dinner set every couple of years as fashions change, then cheap and cheerful will do the job.  If you want better quality (something to last longer), stick with a reputable brand and a more classic design that won’t date, like Dansk’s ‘Classic Fjord’;  Lenox’s ‘Marchesa Rose’ or Denby’s ‘Imperial Blue’.

Rather than buying a boxed dinnerset, which may lock you into Cups & Saucers or other items you don’t really use, pick the items you know you will need for everyday use.  Most people buy dinner plates, lunch plates and one or two shaped bowls (pasta and cereal or rice and soup).  Think about what pieces are on the table at the same time, eg. you don’t need your mugs matching your dinnerware so why not have fun with cute or colourful mugs, such as Kirkham’s new ‘Creature Comfort’ or ‘Retro’.

Lennox's Marchesa Rose.

Lennox’s Marchesa Rose, from $39.

What are some of the most popular designs?
While there are always fashion patterns, the classics are often the best sellers.  So Denby’s ‘Regency Green’ or Lenox’s ‘Entertain 365’.  Burleigh’s ‘Calico’ has a wonderful chintzy style, very popular in country homes and with some quirky pieces like covered butter dishes, excellent kitchen jugs and functional big serving platters for the family roast.

‘Bistro Blue’ from Dansk is a simple but effective blue and white also.  And of course white is always popular – Lenox’s ‘Continental Dining’ is an elegant bone china with a simple platinum rim, which is both microwave and dishwasher safe.

Burleigh's Calico, from $26.

Burleigh’s Calico, from $26.


From duck egg to black, coloured dinnerware has become increasingly popular in modern designs, why do you think this is?

Black & White will always be a great combination and is very modern.  Denby’s ‘Jet’ has such a clean aesthetic and fits beautifully into the inner-city apartment vibe.  Coloured dinnerware gives your food a pop and can give a lovely homely feel, eg. the Heritage collection from Denby, which has design features from their past designs and comes in a range of retro colours.

Denby's Jet, from $39.

Denby’s Jet, from $39.


What are the rules? Can you still have a traditional set in a modern home?

The old adage, there are no rules!  Look at the plethora of cafes using electic mixes of vintage bone china china with Crown Lynn and modern hospitality ware. Whatever you like the feel of, which suits your lifestyle and entertaining style is good.  But please USE your tableware.

We sometimes despair to see expensive bone china hidden away in a china cabinet because it was ‘expensive’ or has been ‘handed down’ from a family member.  Dinner and tea ware is made to be used and you will be amazed at how durable good quality bone china and porcelain tableware is.  You are much better to use it every day and enjoy it, than only pull it out once a year.  We are confident that whoever passed it on would prefer you lavished their gift with love, than it never seeing the light of day!

Words by: Nathalie Owen. Images by: Raines Homeware.

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