A Good Home, Christmas Dinner


Thank goodness for Christmas plates. 

They’re not all to my taste, but they seem to be the most colourful thing anyone uses at the dinner table these days. 

Blog Photo - China coloured patterned Christmas 2

It’s a white-out, I tell you. 

Even here in my own household, we tend to use plain white cups, saucers and plates, saving “the good stuff” for when the governor-general comes for dinner. But she still hasn’t visited, so you get the picture….

Whatever happened to dishes with patterns?

Blog Photo - Anne's dishes2

This gorgeous dish set – service for 8, along with completer items — was valued at nearly two thousand dollars (Canadian) in earlier years. Anne, an acquaintance of mine here in Ontario, is the owner and she is now downsizing.

For this beautiful Old Staffordshire Ningpo set, she is asking only $250. Will someone buy it? 

Blog Photo - Anne's dish set completer items 1

Many North Americans considered themselves lucky if they inherited such prestigious dishes or got them as a wedding gift; some spent years scrimping and saving to complete the set. 

Blog Photo - Anne's dish set cup and saucer

So when did we lose our taste for the patterned Royal Doultons, the Limoges, the Royal Graftons and Alberts, the Villeroy and Bochs? 

Blog Photo - China patterned white and blue 800 Vieux Luxembourg

The floral patterns, the pastel colours, the much-valued blue-and whites?

Blog Photo - china coloured patterned 1a

When did white plates become de rigueur? When did we become such boring young and old farts? 

One big problem now, it seems — as older generations downsize their homes — is that fewer people seem to want their treasures.

Blog Photo - China patterned vintage limoge for 8

Tastes have changed. Become bland. Not only do most young adults I know want only plain white dish sets, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything with a pattern on their wedding registries.

Mind you, I do wonder why the earlier generations were so stuck on patterned plates. Was it for the art? Or was it because the meals they cooked were so boring, they needed a bit of cheering up? Did they find the roast chicken and the over-boiled vegetables, simply too depressing?


If you want to buck the tide, visit Facebook Marketplace, ebay, Etsy or other online sites. You will find an abundance of beautiful patterned china, many at great prices.  The pictures above came from Facebook Marketplace.

And if you’re interested in Anne’s gorgeous dinner set, contact me, please, and I’ll connect you with her.

83 thoughts on “White-Out”

    1. It’s remarkable how styles come and go. For year,s hardly anyone would use wallpaper – it was all light grey paint, it seemed. Now wallpaper is back, as are pretty drapes with colour. (Mind you, I have a lot of white or cream-coloured drapes in my home, but I like the patterned ones too.)

      1. I didn’t know wallpaper was back. I always loved it. But there is no going back for me in that area ;). My kids would make fun of me!

  1. I, too, have white dishes and love them. I can add various colored bowls and mugs, and it all goes together. However, I expect patterned china will make a comeback. Trends go and come and then go again.

  2. Our plates and bowls are white with a red design of a stag and snowflakes – they’re probably Christmas plates but we use them all year round! I have a more traditional set of my grandmother’s in the china cabinet – not something I’d buy but I have it for the family history. I think those traditional designs are now marketed as ‘vintage’!

  3. Love them. My ‘very good’ stuff for very special occasions still can cut the mustard, barely. It is Wedgwood bone China Columbia white and gold…24 carat no less and lots of it! Gorgeous. Only problem is that the special occasions are becoming less so they do not come out often enough. Still cannot give it up yet, though.

  4. I do love the vintage floral tea services I inherited, but for dinner I’m one of the plain white brigade, simply because I don’t want to detract from the aesthetic appearance of the food. My worst gripe about modern food serving fads is slates. Serving food on slates, now what’s that about?

  5. I hankered for years to own a Wedgewood or Royal Doulton. When I could finally afford it, I couldn’t decide which would be my forever pattern. So I bought a much cheaper bone China brand, in a cheerful, but classy pattern, and twenty years later have only broken one piece, despite its fineness. We only own one dinner set which we use constantly, for best, for everyday, for grandkids visits, etc. We circulate the usage so the wear and tear is even, but when you pull out the cups and saucers (instead of mugs) you can sure see how luminescent it was originally. Can’t kill it! Every time I think to replace it, I find the modern white china offerings too heavy and chunky, and so same, same.

    1. You’re right! the modern stuff is heavy and chunky, and some of the bones and bowls we have have still endured chips. To have only one broken piece of bone china in twenty years, though, is impressive.

  6. I love china dish sets – patterned or otherwise. My white Bavarian set for 8 has an embossed pattern and they look lovely against a silvery damask cloth, or my Christmas red cloth, or the French blue and yellow patterned cloth. By contrast, the Villeroy and Boch set has fruit decorating each piece, and I love it on a plain cloth or with placemats. And then there is the old Wedgwood creamware called “Morning Glories” for obvious reasons, along with a blue and white Doulton stoneware that I’ve had for years. There are even others!! I have to keep my hands behind my back when I see lovely dishes that now-a-days sell for so relatively little! I simply have no room for any more.

  7. Maybe it’s that the stores are pushing fancy colorful table runners/cloths with changer plates?
    I inherited a Victorian fine hand painted gold border (grapes and vines) china set from my grandmother. It was so elegant and beautiful with all the shapes of the pieces I never wanted anything else for fine ware. Maybe it’s because we grew up with all those colorful Fiesta everyday dishes that the white looked so refined and rich. My daughter has the fine china now and loves it – her everyday dishes are a lovely blue and white floral pattern.
    Your friend’s set is gorgeous – surely some vintage collector will grab it – hopefully someone will cherish it and it will survive many more years

    1. Oh, how lovely to hear that your daughter loves the fine china that you inherited. It’s nice to pass these along through the generations. I hope my kids will want mine too, but right now, it’s all white, all the time!

  8. I’m a bit the reverse. I use a Blue Willow set for myself and up to four people, but for 8, I have to go to a white, hand thrown set, which I still like after 30 years. I also use cloth napkins and silver for every day. I like the luxury of it, and what’s polishing a bit of silver now and then?

    1. I am really bad at polishing silver, but for years we have used cloth napkins on a regular basis. One day, when I forgot to put them on the table, our older daughter asked: “So we don’t use napkins anymore?” I think she was four or six years old, my beloved cheeky child!

      1. Oh, that’s funny! I do like using cloth napkins–and silver used regularly doesn’t need that much polishing. Of course, mine needs it right now…

  9. I fell in love with china on my first trip to England. I bought a Wedgwood tea set, watched the strength of the pound and bought the rest when the exchange rate was in my favor. I had my set long before I married. Hopefully, the trend will change and china will be treasured again.

  10. I still love the patterned type and collect Blue Willow, Luray (pastels), and Fiesta Ware. I think that this “white revolution” may be related to chefs who decided that the food should be the center of attention and not the plate patterns:)

  11. I love this post. I too have primarily white plates since about 1987. I got them at a state fair and they were virtually unbreakable. I left the ivy leaf patterned Corell for my ex and kept the white. I can put anything with it but unbreakable was prime for me. I will admit, I have my former mother-in-laws Haviland china set though quite incomplete. Also all of her English bone china tea cups and plates. No one else in her family wanted them. I treasure each piece and my daughter gets them next. She bought me a set of Lenox Butterfly Meadow. We don’t use any of the others often enough. Mostly it’s just me here. I think we have become quite practical these days. I would love to have those dishes but I don’t have the room and my daughter will be moving in with me shortly so I’ll have even less room and her stuff will go in storage. Find someone that has a tea room. That’s what we’d hoped to do with ours.

  12. Fifty (!!!!) years ago I bought a white Corningware set of everyday dishes that we still use…every day. For years I thought my choice was rather plain & boring, but now am amused to see how “in fashion” they’ve become. For colour, I have supplemented them with green Fireking bowls and for Christmas green Fireking plates, which my daughter covets. When I was a girl, my mother made special trips to a china store in Stratford to purchase more pieces for her collection of Royal Albert ‘Old Country Rose’ china set which now sits unused in her china cabinet. It’s a beautiful set, but none of her daughters want it because my sisters have their own expensive sets and I’m perfectly happy with my Corningware and Fireking. So what’s to become of it? I hope she has a granddaughter who will give it a good home one day, especially because I know my mother scrimped and saved for each piece she brought home.

    1. My goodness, girl. Fifty years! Must have been very well made, right? I remember that the Old Country Rose pattern was treasured by many over the decades. I saw these things in my mother’s and grandmother’s cabinets when I was a child and thought they were so old-fashioned. Plus, they were rarely used. (The governor-general never did visit our homes there either!)

  13. Guilty as charged! I only bring out the Christmas plates, china and silver for holidays and sometimes worry that the kids will think it is too formal. Anne’s dishes are beautiful! It is sad that we have become so casual in our dining. Who will want what I have?

  14. The main reason I don’t use my china… (Both sets are beautiful.)…is I can’t put them in the dishwasher. Both sets are old and fragile. They belonged to my husband’s grandmother and aunt. Gone are the days of washing and drying unless I have to. When I was first married my husband and I would spend every evening doing dishes together.(Pre-dishwasher days.) Call it bonding time if you will.

  15. Just today I had three friends in for lunch and though we did not eat in the formal dining room, I did set the table with white linens and my Old Country Roses bone china. My walls are burgundy and cream to match the roses on the china. We visited around the table long after we finished eating and consumed a second pot of tea from the matching teapot. When I downsized to this home sixteen years ago I bought plain white bone china for everyday use but now that it is so popular, I am thinking I may go back to something patterned. I enjoyed using my colourful china today. I do find that the younger generation have little interest in bone china patterns but hope they will come back one day.I spent several years selling china in a department store and treasured that experience.

  16. I am a full colour and pattern gal. White reminds me too much of the solid clunky china we had at boarding school. Nine times out of ten the food upon those plates was as awful as the plate itself.

  17. What’s funny about this? There is not a plain white dish to be found in my house! (And I, like others, have too many sets of dishes.) And you’re right, the younger generation is not interested in what maybe they consider “too fancy”? Of my own, my favorite sets are stunning black stoneware dishes by Pfaltzgraff and a set of 1920’s amethyst glass bought at auction.

      1. I got them dirt cheap at a nearby Pfaltzgraff outlet before they closed, factory seconds with invisible flaws. The dishes are divided into four quadrants – 2 shiny and 2 matte. They are pretty amazing.

      1. 🙂 I’ve watched the launching of baby turtles several times, Cynthia. Always fascinating. The little tykes really scurry for the ocean. Given everyone who considers them a delicacy, it makes sense to move fast. 🙂 –Curt

  18. I chuckled when I read this because my china is white on white:). But the one I really wanted had tiny purple flowers on it and some gold leaf. I think the quaint old bits will come back into style eventually . . .

  19. Oh, you opened a can of worms with this topic, didn’t you?! I have my grandmother’s china in boxes in the garage (in fact, it’s the pattern you show in the last photo in your post!) It’s pretty, it’s nostalgic, it’s nice . . . it’s not my style. And you can’t give the stuff away!

  20. I love patterned plates, although I have to say none of mine are traditional patterns (though I like some of those too, I just don’t have room for a full set of china)! I have quite a few skeleton dishes, and even Frankenstein and witch plates (though the latter two aren’t china).

  21. I’m a big fan of the blue and whites (or even blue and creams). I like plain white plates for special occasions but the patterned ones for everyday use. I really wanted an expensive cream and blue European design for a long time that would have suited all purposes, but age and good sense have reduced the craving until I had almost forgotten about it, but for your reminder.

    1. I love your reply, Susan. I hear you about having an eye on something that was too expensive. I wanted one of the cream-coloured Villeroy and Boch sets but couldn’t justify the expense. Years later, there was a rare discount, and my friend, as a frequent shopper, had a 40% discount at the same store. I ended up getting the dinner plates at a ridiculously low price. I still treasure them, and always think of my dear friend whenever we use the plates.

      1. Ooh – that was (and is) a treat! Villeroy and Boch make beautiful tableware. I always like it when the shape is as special as the surface design. I did a brief search after commenting to see if I could rediscover the name of the pattern I liked, but it seemed easier to google a result you wanted years ago. These days all you get are a few examples and a whole lot of irrelevant suggestions.

  22. I love colors and patterns, especially if they are birds and flowers. Our current china is modern day dishwasher-safe, but I miss those elaborate patterns and scenes that were more common way back when.

  23. China tableware, I admire its gorgeous beauty. I gave away my mother’s dinner set, but my daughter still has a tea set and the remnants of the coffee set ( all locked up) for the family history sake.
    I also remember a pristine white tablecloth that was a daily essential 🙂 Missing those times. Or may be not? 🙂

  24. I would guess that some of the reason my family had dinner sets like these was because they came from a very poor background and it would have felt like they were moving up in the world. But also it was because highly decorative was the fashion in those days – it cheered up a generally dismal life that many people had. These days… well, for myself, I find them too fragile and I’m afraid I’m one who likes the ‘bland’ dinnerware, but mostly because I can then see what my food is more easily with my rather wonky vision! 🙂

  25. What comes to mind for me is John Keats’ beautiful ‘Ode to a Grecian Urn’. As he said in another poem – ‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever’. Even if the Governor General never comes! Best Christmas wishes to you and your family.

  26. I think the change in tastes might be a result of the fact that younger people eat out a lot more now – and the trendy establishments they frequent tend to show their dishes on white plates. And so do the many cooking shows on TV 🙂 I have to admit that I like colored sets without any patterns.

  27. Ah, I have a set of china from my grandmother I’m keen to keep, for you’re right–there are so many bland dishes out these days! I love my set with blue flowers and silver trim. It’s bright, elegant, and full of memories of Christmases past. 🙂 xxxxxxx

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