One of the best tableware wardrobe stretchers is the dessert, or salad plate.
A full dinner service is a huge commitment, like marriage. Dessert plates are more like dating. If you’re not sure a pattern is for you, buying and using only the dessert plates can help make the decision. If the relationship seems to be progressing, you can add in a few serving pieces of the pattern, like a couple of small platters, or the teapot, cream & sugar.
Dessert plates have the added advantage of being stackable, so they don’t take up a lot of room, unlike coloured glassware, which I also adore, but can start to take over if you’re not careful.
Pottery Barn has cottoned on to this notion, and offers some lovely seasonal, inexpensive choices that complement their white dinner services. Their Twelve Days of Christmas set was outstanding, and they had a very pretty set of four game birds with a matching platter last fall for Thanksgiving, and a set of four spring flowers this year.
Spode has some beautifully shaped pieces in a variety of patterns, including their 9” Home Accents series, of which I have the Indian Red and their Blue Room Garden Collection, including Jasmine Rose, Poppy, Rosa and Blue Rose. The Chaise Bleu pattern by Gien is charming, and there are two sets of coloured enhanced dessert plates in the Oiseau Bleu collection by Gien featuring six different flowers and six different fruits.
Tag and yard sales can turn up some very interesting finds, and of course the internet is a great resource. You can mix and match sets of four, six or eight to vary the look of the table.
When purchasing antiques, building your own dinner service through choosing different patterns within a colourway can be great fun. One of my first purchases was a set of cobalt rimmed hand-painted dessert plates featuring pink roses, signed by Mireille. Several years later, when viewing my online scrapbook, Elise commented that she had the matching soup plates available, so I added those. Both dessert plates and soup bowls look wonderful with Royal Doulton’s Royal Gold “all purpose” set of gold & white dinner plates, and with some antique cobalt service plates, both by Royal Doulton, that I have found at different times over the years.
Use your imagination, and try different combinations, and most importantly, just relax and have fun.