The Australian Tableware Buyers' Guide for 2024

10 March 2022


5 min read

Mealtimes are a pleasant part of our day, giving us the chance to connect with our families and enjoy our favourite dishes. Having the right tableware can enhance and elevate the whole experience, more so than you might think.

If you’re new to tableware or just haven’t thought about it in detail before, you might be a little unsure about where to start in your buying journey. As you'll soon discover, there's a bit more to consider before you start shopping and it's important to follow a few basic fundamentals to make sure you the products that are right for you.

Tableware including Jellies Family Carafe from Space Furniture

Important types of tableware

There are four main types of tableware you’ll need to look at. Serveware, dinnerware, flatware and glassware.

Serveware consists of dishes used to serve out of, such as soup tureen, platters, serving bowls, casserole dishes etc.

Dinnerware includes the dishes you and your guests will eat off of, including dinner plates, soup bowls, salad plates, dessert bowls and more.

Flatware includes cutlery like spoons, forks and knives.

Glassware includes cups, goblets, and water glasses.

A full set of tableware will need to include all four of these components, no matter how formal or casual your set is. Your flatware may also need to include some serving pieces like a pair of tongs and a serving spoon but your glassware might need to include pitchers or other vessels for drinks.

The stylish Segment Trays from Città

Tableware materials

There are several different materials your tableware may be made of and depending on what sort of events you plan on hosting (or not), some might be more appropriate than others.

Serveware and dinnerware usually come in plastic, porcelain or fine bone china, although you can find it in other materials like metal and wood. Plastic is typically used for more casual occasions while materials like fine bone china and porcelain suit formal or special events.

Flatware comes in a variety of metals, with stainless steel being among the most popular for day-to-day use. More formal sets may be made of sterling silver or may even be plated in copper or gold.

As you might imagine, most glassware, especially for daily use, is made of glass, although some families opt for plastic sets. More formal glassware is often made of lead glass, also known as crystal.

Artistic and unique tableware at Alexander House- Photography - Photography: Anson Smart

How many sets do you need?

One place setting of tableware – at minimum, a plate, a cup, a fork, a spoon, and a knife – is called a set. How many sets of tableware you need will depend on both your household size and your entertaining plans. If you live by yourself or with a partner, you’ll need between four and six sets; if your household is four or five or more, plan on eight to twelve sets. This will allow you to easily rotate your dishes without constantly running out of clean sets.

You should also think about how much you enjoy entertaining when planning your tableware set size. If you regularly host holiday events or large dinner parties, you may want to plan on at least twelve sets. If you have a large family or friends’ groups, eighteen sets might not be unreasonable.

Cutlery featured in Poliform inserts in a condo in Sydney - Photography: Tom Ferguson

Tableware price ranges

When it comes to tableware prices, you can really pay as much as you want to. Bottom-line tableware sets can cost a couple of hundred dollars for sixteen-set boxes. On the other end of the scope, you could pay thousands of dollars for a five-piece set made of luxury materials.

In general, most people like to land somewhere in the middle for their tableware sets. You get what you pay for and cheap sets are likely to come with defects or may break more easily. At the same time, if you’re not regularly hosting more formal events then the extra expense for a luxurious set might not be worthwhile.

Serveware features on the Seven Table Dining Table from Space Furniture

Deciding what you need

In addition to the cost, the other factor you’ll need to look at when picking your tableware is what pieces you actually need. When you start shopping for tableware, you’ll quickly discover that each set contains dozens of additional pieces. You can get gravy boats, butter dishes, salad tongs, cheese knives, oyster forks - the list goes on.

Sit down and think about what pieces you and your family actually use on a day-to-day basis. Chances are, you’ll find that you need a serving bowl or two, a serving platter, a casserole dish, a pitcher and basic sets of dinnerware, cutlery and glassware. For more formal entertaining, you may want to add dessert plates and forks, salad plates, salad forks, soup bowls, soup spoons, steak knives, a gravy boat and some

Moana Bowls from Steven Giannuzzi Furniture

Think about style

Once you’ve decided which pieces you need, you’ll be ready to start thinking about the style you’d like. In general, you want to keep your tableware style simple and timeless. Even if a more unique and extravagant style seems exciting now, in ten years, it may seem outdated and tacky.

If you’re unsure, stick with the classics. White dinnerware and serveware with round plates and bowls. White shows off food to its best effect and round dinnerware fits well into any table setting. You can always look for serveware that has a few more embellishments to show off your personal style.

Tableware and matching styling on Mill Pedestal Outdoor Dining Table from Eco Outdoor

Learn more about tableware

Picking the right tableware affects your day-to-day life and special occasions too. Whether it's a cutlery set and basic plates you’ll use every day or crystal glassware or luxurious serving spoons you’ll bring out when hosting, you’ll want to make sure you make informed choices that’ll elevate your dining experiences no matter what the occasion.

Related article: Kitchenware essentials that every home should have

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