How Many Place Settings Should I Buy?

I receive a good many emails each week from the wonderful readers of BNOTP and one question I get over and over again is: How do you decide how many place settings to buy of a particular china? Here’s just three of the e-mails I’ve received on this topic:

1. “Whenever I see a dish sets (usually come in set for 4/box). I am not sure if I should just buy the 4 (in 1 box) or buy 2 boxes. Is hard to find set for 6/box. In my family there is only 3 of us. Are your table scapes usually set for 4 or 6? How do you make those decisions, to buy the 2nd box or not? Could you teach us one day. What should be the basis for a dish collection or MUST haves. I’d love information like that. Even if we don’t entertain a lot, just to make everyday life special (for the 3 of us).
PS: For the dish set I was referring to stores like Home Goods or Marshalls.”

2. “I’m wondering how many placesettings you would recommend buying when you find a pattern you like? I always feel like I should buy 6 or 8 of each pattern but then I don’t have a whole lot of storage. Is there a number that seems to work out best for you?”

3. “I’m just getting into tablescapes and am wondering how exactly to get started? Do you just buy everything on clearance? Allow yourself a monthly budget? How often do you buy for your tablescape? I don’t even know where to start or how to get started but am very, very interested in doing so. Guess I’ll have to visit some of the other posts for Tablescape Thursday!”

I’ve been meaning to write a post about this topic forever and I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to do it…better later than never, right?

There is no easy answer for this question, but I’ll tell you how I decide how many place settings to buy when I purchase china. I’ve tried to come up with an acronym…something you could remember and apply in these circumstances, and the one I thought of is: C.A.P.

C for Cost: If I am shopping for china (on purpose) or just happen to run across some I love while I’m out, cost will most likely play a factor in how many place settings I purchase. But that isn’t the only determining factor.

A for Availability: I’ve learned over the years that availability of the china in the future is an important variable that needs to be considered. I’ll explain more on that in a second.

P for Purpose: For what purpose will I be using this china?

Now, let’s apply CAP to some typical situations:

Let’s say I have everyday china and now I have decided I’m going to purchase china in a Christmas pattern that will specifically be used for holiday meals each year. I know my P (purpose)…it will be for Christmas holiday meals. I know at holiday meals, I could have a large number of folks for dinner…so most likely I will try to purchase at least 12 place settings. Also, I have 12 place settings in the flatware I use at holiday gatherings, so 12 is my standard number of place settings to buy if I’ll be using it for events that could potentially be a large gathering. If you have even larger holiday gatherings/dinners, you may wish to purchase more. Or, buy more than one kind of Christmas china and mix and match. I love that idea!

What about C: cost? If the china is really expensive, I may buy 6 place settings this year and 6 more the next year to break up the cost. Or, look for one of those 12 months, same-as-cash that department stores run occasionally. Just be sure to pay as you’re supposed to so you avoid any interest. They are hoping you won’t, so you will need to be disciplined and careful if you do it that way. Also, for more expensive patterns, let your family or friends know you’ve started a collection and if they are seeking gift ideas for future birthdays, Christmas, etc…you know just the thing. 😉

I also have to consider the A: Availability. If it’s a china pattern that is being produced ongoing right now, I will feel comfortable buying just 6 place settings and then later on buying 6 more. If it’s a vintage or no longer produced china pattern that I’ve come across on eBay or in an antique shop like the Spode, Tower pictured below, I know I’d better buy all I need or can find then, because it may be very difficult to locate more later on. When I purchased the Spode Tower, I found a seller who had 12 place settings, all from the same estate. I bought all 12 since it is so rare to find a seller with that many place settings from a single estate. It was much cheaper than buying individual pieces over many auctions and having to pay shipping every time. Plus, I knew the china should all be from the same time period (1920’s) and the same “red” color. All these factors played into my decision to purchase all 12 place settings at one time.

Another scenario:
What if I come across china in Marshalls, TJMax or HomeGoods that I wish to collect? Again, I will consider C.A.P.

P. Purpose: For what purpose am I buying the china. If it’s china I would like to use on the porch, I’m going to buy 7 placesettings. Why 7? Because the table on the porch seats 6 so when I entertain on the porch for dinner, I normally just have 6 folks for dinner. I like having one extra place setting as insurance for future breakage, but cost will factor into this, too.

A. Availability: When I purchase china from Marshalls, TJMax or HomeGoods, I know from past experience they always have a limited amount of any pattern and it goes quickly. Once it’s gone, they rarely ever get any more of it back in. So again, if it’s for the porch, I’m going to buy 7 place settings.

So, we’ve consider P, Purpose…it was for porch entertaining. We considered A, Availability…and I know that will be limited to pretty much right now…probably won’t find it again in the future. All that’s left to consider is:

C. Cost: All three of these stores have very affordable prices for china…usually $2.99 or $3.99 for salad plates and $4.99 for dinner plates, so I normally don’t hesitate to buy what I think I need.

My Advice:
So, here’s my best advice: Whether you are out shopping for china intentionally, or just happen to come across some while you’re out thrifting/antiquing or shopping, ask yourself, C.A.P.

P. Purpose: For what “purpose” will I be using it: bridal shower, everyday, holiday meal, casual dining? Will I use it in the dining room, breakfast room, or on the porch for the event I have in mind? That will be a starting point for deciding how many place settings you should buy.

A. Availability: How available is this china? Have I found it in a store that will be stocking it for a long time or is this a “get it now before it’s gone” situation?

C. Cost: Is it very expensive or reasonably priced? Can I afford to buy all I need now or will I need to buy some now and some later?

All these factors have to be considered together. What do I mean?

Some Real Examples:

If I find a pattern in HomeGoods that I adore and really want to use on the porch…I’ll buy 7 place settings and I’ll buy it then! I know availability is limited and their prices are always reasonable. But if I wait and have to buy it at or on ebay (if I can even find it in those places) it’s going to cost a lot more. If it’s a pattern I truly love and will be disappointed if I can’t collect all the pieces I need, I will drive that day or the next to several locations to collect all the pieces I need. I had to do that with the Ma Maison china I collected. I went to several HomeGoods in one day to collect 7 place settings of Ma Maison because I knew without a doubt, in another few days you wouldn’t be able to find it in a HomeGoods anywhere. That turned out to be right, unfortunately.

For some reason HomeGoods only gets maybe 12 or 18 place settings of any particular pattern in each store…maybe enough for 2-4 people to buy it. And when it’s gone, it’s gone.

Same thing when I collected the Alice in Wonderland set. I made it a mission to find the number of place settings I needed within the span of a few days because I knew it might be difficult to find later. I’ve only had to do that with 2 or 3 china patterns that I’ve collected, thank goodness.

Same situation applied to the “beach” china I found at Kohl’s. I knew they might not get it in again…although they surprised me by having it again the next summer (very unusual). I knew I would use it on the porch (7 place settings) and the cost was reasonable.

When I bought my Christmas china, Lenox, Winter Greetings, I bought 12 place settings. I wanted it for holiday gatherings which I knew could potentially be larger gatherings. It was a bit pricey, so I had to consider that factor. Since it’s still being made and available, I would have felt comfortable buying just 6 to start with, then 6 later.

But do keep in mind, companies can discontinue a pattern at any time. I don’t worry about buying a spare place setting when I’m buying 12 place settings since it’s not as big a factor as when I’m buying 6 for a table that seats 6. That would be more of an issue if I broke a piece since I could no longer seat 6 for dinner using the same china for each place setting. (Again, it’s fun to mix and match china, so the place setting don’t always have to match.)

Recently, I came across Valerie Parr Hill’s 12 Days of Christmas china in an antique shop.

There were 8, 4-pc place settings and a few serving pieces for only $45 for everything. Even though I didn’t really need more Christmas china, I absolutely loved the pattern and who can pass up 8 place settings of beautiful china for what it cost to fill up your gas tank one time?

Everyday China:
What about for your everyday china? I recommend buying at least 12 place settings for a family of 3 or 4 because you’re going to go through that pretty quickly each day and you will need a good number of place settings or you’ll be washing dishes all the time. If the number in your household is even larger, you may need to buy even more place settings.

Some china is so inexpensive, like the white, Gibson, Big Lots china (shown below) that so many of us snagged, (thanks Michael for telling us about it) you can buy several boxes at one time. When it was on sale, it was only $19.99 for six, 6-pc place settings, including napkin rings and serving dishes! 18 place settings would only have been $60!

Those of us who have been collecting china for a while pretty much know now how many place settings we will need just from experience. But if you have not been collecting china for very long or are just starting to buy a few sets for special occasions, it’s my hope this guide will help you decide for future purchases. How do you decide how many place settings to buy when you shop for china? Please share your recommendations.

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  1. Angie@Echoes of Laughter says

    Thanks for sharing those great tips and advice! Your tables are always so gorgeous and your pictues are such feasts for the eyes!! I hope one day that I can have a porch as lovely as yours! Happy New Year! Angie xo

  2. Farah Muzaffar says

    Hello Susan… such informative post, like your tips and suggestion and your experiences
    Hope you are feeling more better now, wish you a very quick recovery…
    Happy New Year

  3. jewelsinthegarden +: ) says

    Susan, since following your blog, I am hooked on tablescapes. The only dishes I had besides my everyday dishes were my Christmas dishes. Now I am constantly on the lookout for new ways to set the table. Thank you for all your great ideas! Julie

  4. So sorry you have been ill. May you get to feeling so much better soon!

    Head cold here since new years. Been rough.
    Thinking tomorrow will be better.

    Beautiful tables you have shared.
    Enjoy your blog!

    God bless,
    d from homehaven

  5. countrycottagegirl says

    Thanks for the great information! I like red and white so I try to stay in that color scheme so I can save money and mix up my table settings. I am on a tight budget and this seems to work fairly well. I also buy good white dishes at thrift stores so I have enough for a party! I love Homegoods and Marshalls dishes too. They have VERY reasonable prices! Hope you feel better soon! Hope you got to enjoy the snow. We have been snowed in up here in North Georgia for two days now! Blessings and prayers for you to get well!

  6. Days at Buttermilk Cottage says

    Very useful information. Thanks for giving your insight on buying china. Feel better soon.

  7. Designs By Pinky says

    I am sick too. I start to feel better, in fact yesterday thought it was GONE and woke up this morning all stuffed up again! Joe and I keep sending it back and forth. Thanks for your advice about dishes. Cost is a big factor alot of times for me. Take care, Susan. Hope you feel better soon! XO, Pinky

  8. martinealison says

    Chine ou pas le choix se fait généralement spontanément avec mes goûts et mes envies du moment ou de ce que je recherche exactement…
    Toutefois je suis française et j'aime la porcelaine de Limoge… J'ai été bercée avec…
    Toutefois c'est un tel émerveillement de nos jours de découvrir de nouveaux styles, de nouvelles formes…
    Et je m'émerveille en regardant l'ensemble des belles photos que vous publiez.
    Bisous à vous,

  9. Susan, thank you so much for all the great advice on china. I need advice on how to stop buying it for heavens sake. I always see something i can't seem to do with out.

    I wanted to share something I discovered tonight. It sorta creepsme out for some reason…don't know why!! But, I do alittle advertising on my blog for CSN Stores from time to time and tonight when I read your blog, Your CSN Store add was displaying the excate items I was shopping for on their site a couple of nights ago. I guess they really do have us all liinked up and are watching what we are talking about and pinging on certain words hits and such. There getting really seeking in marketing these days.
    I do like CSN and do trust them so I shouldn't be so concerned with them they have been really gererous to me. It was a reminder to use my gift card from them I guess. Hope your having a blessd winter and I figured out the other night where your new header inspiration came form….your doll house I bet!!! I completely forgot about that beautiufl cottage doll house you bought.
    By the way, did you see the tiny adorable cottage in the woods in the Mary janes Farm mag this month. You have to see it if you haven't. Its adorable.

  10. Momma Button says

    Susan, I totally feel for you. We've been fighting the same battle with illness at our house. Thank you so much for this post. It answered a lot of questions that I have been meaning to ask.

  11. classic • casual • home says

    I totally get what you say about the size of the table and availability…but for me 12 is the way to go. My dining room table only seats 10 max. but I have two round tables (one on the patio and a folding one) with cloths to the floor that seat 6. I loved seeing your table settings again. Such talent.
    Mary Ann

  12. The Quintessential Magpie says

    I agree with every word, Susan! Well said and oh so true.


    Sheila 🙂

  13. As always, great information! Thanks Susan!
    Hope you feel better…

  14. Great hints.

    In our Home Goods/Marshalls/Maxx they seem to get 4 or at most 6. And yes, if you see it, you need to buy it because it will be gone in a flash! NEVER to be seen again!!!

    And it is a great place to find great china at very reasonable prices.

  15. On Crooked Creek says

    The advice of a true friend is always the best advice around. . .I admire your C.A.P. Thank you for sharing this sensible way of approaching the purchase of place settings. It may help with the future purchases of this Plate Addict. . .or not! One thing is certain. . .it will give me something to ponder while making a decision.
    Working in retail at a home decor shop. . .our prices are a bit more than T.J. Maxx and Home Goods. A basic dinner plate $10.00, salad / dessert $7.50.
    In keeping with our economy and the hopes of it's returning health. . .you have given us all some "food for thought" to put on our plates! Thank you, dear friend!

  16. First of all your table scapes are gorgeous!!! Thanks for tips…. anyway when I buy not less then 8 place settings…because I rarely have less then 7-8 guests ….my best and precious Limoges porcelane plates are for 20 place setting, because my table could be for 18 , so when my father buoght it for me…we bought two more places…if in the years some plates could break!!!

    Have a nice day..and post always your beautiful tablescapes and precious tips, ciao Flavia

  17. Custom Comforts says

    Thanks for the wonderful post full of good advice. You're a wealth of knowledge and inspirtion.

  18. Sorry to hear you've been sick, Susan! You & Bill & my DH as well as Cuisine Kathleen & Shelia (Magpie). LOTS of illness this winter!

    I think your advice on dish purchases is spot on. I would only like to add don't be afraid to buy from the clearance table where there are only 3 of some dishes. Perfect for a table for two with a spare in case of breakage. Also, you never know when you'll find another 3 of the same or similar & then you'll have enough for 6!! I always check the discount tables FIRST.

    Hope you feel better fast & these beautiful tables, with all your links to others are just PERFECT for TT!! Take it easy this week, okay?

  19. Wonderful advice as usual, Susan.

    I began collecting my 12 place settings of Mikasa French Countryside, for everyday use, about 30 years ago. I continue to add to the collection. I don't believe white dinnerware will ever be "out of style". I love picking up different little extra plates, etc in various patterns to "play" with the white dishes. Since there are only two of us here at home now, buying four of each makes sense for me.

    Our special event dinnerware is in 12's because we have a fairly large family.

    I've thought about buying the caterer boxes, I've seen at World Market. They are in 12's and very reasonable. Again, other pieces can be used with them to spice up the dinner table.

  20. Kelly @ Much To Do With Nothing says

    OMGosh Susan, I love this post! I think it's one of thee-most-informative posts I've ever read.
    Really makes you think. Beautiful place settings are so irresistable.
    It's great to have these guidelines

  21. Thank you for your wonderful insight on how to manage purchasing china/dishes. I totally agree with your statement about checking to see if a pattern is on the "to be discontinued list" That happened to me when I became engaged.

    I am working on collecting my mother's china. She had 8 placesettings. Good thing for


  22. Mid-Atlantic Martha says

    What a great post! Sorry you're under the weather, hope you're feeling wonderful soon….this would make an excellent post for TT— lot's of great advice for tablescapers…new and old.

  23. Susan

    I totally agree with you regarding the typical number of place settings, 12 seems to be the ideal number. However there are certain events or times that I know I will be have 20 to 30 folks. When that happens I make sure I have china that can be mixed and matched. It makes for a lovely table and an interesting table conversation.

    One additional thought, I use Replacements Limited for pieces and parts of various china and crystal that I need to supplement my place settings.

    Feel better


  24. Being new to tablescapes I appreciate the information. Very informative post. Have a great day.

  25. Olive Cooper says

    Feel better and rest up. This was a fabulous and helpful post. ♥O

  26. Great post! I appreciate how you walked us through your thought processes.

  27. You hit the nail on the head with your comments! CAP is now my new sub-conscience when I see china I love! Great post!


    Hope you get well soon!!!! Thanks for the tips!

  29. Dear Susan,

    For me I mostly buy 12 of everything, if its china plates definately 12, under suplas 12, dinner glassware 12, cocktail glasses I usually 8 or 6, coffee sets 8 or 6, tea cake sets 12, and especially holiday sets 12.

    Love all your pots.

    Hello from Istanbul

  30. I love all of your tables! I too would like to collect more china and stemware but I too would like to know – Where do you store all of it?

  31. says

    CAP is much better advice than I have given my girls, which is "Always buy at least one more place setting (goblet, linen napkin and so on) than you need! It is so much easier to replaced that chipped, stained or otherwise damaged good by running to your cabinet than having to go to the store!
    SO sorry to hear you have been sick. Your posts are still fabulous!
    I JUST today added google friend connect to my site and it is looking a little lonely with only a couple of friends there! May I ask you to head on over and click to connect to my blog!


  32. Susan (Between Naps on the Porch) says

    Hi Angela…just click on my FAQ at the top right of the blog and you'll find the answer there. 🙂 Also, under the heading "Tutorials" at the top of the blog, you'll find a post showing how I converted a coat closet into a dish closet…I think that's under Renovations and Additions under the Tutorial heading.

  33. Susan (My Place to Yours) says

    Excellent suggestions, Susan. Don't forget auctions as a potentially great place to buy china and glassware. I often buy so inexpensively at auction that I can turn around and sell it in my Etsy shop for MUCH lower than replacement cost and still make a profit. The china you'll see in this week's tablescape was 57 pieces in the original boxes. Marked "wedding china" and apparently unused – for $95. (Conservative estimate of replacement value: $1500) Haven't decided yet if I'm going to sell or keep! 🙂 Hope you haven't pushed yourself too hard today…

  34. Kathy Eickholt Cat Lady Kate's Elegant and Depression Glass says

    What a great way to provide advise, simple, reasonable and just like you were talking to readers in person. Thank you.

  35. Alycia Nichols says

    Excellent advice! I found a couple of patterns that had only 2 or 3 of the dinner plate available, but I know I can use them for when I'm doing my monthly luncheon with a couple of girlfriends. I also have a set of 40 clear dinner plates and salad plates that I can use for large groups and that will go with just about anything. Other sets I have in 12, 16 or 20…just depends. From 2 – 40+…I like your CAP theory!

  36. Susan, I hope you are fling better!
    We just got our power back, and with 16 in of snow, I am grateful not to be wearing hat and gloves inside to remain warm! Not fun!

    I bought my set of Gibson at Linens and Things before blogging. I never had a set of white dishes…imagine that!

    I have the Lenox Eternal Christmas. I have service for 16 as we have a big family gathering for the holidays. 2 years after I started collecting it, it was discontinued. No warning! Noritake informs you if they are going to discontinue a pattern. To buy it at Replacements or ebay, outrageous. About 4 times more than I paid, so I am thankful I have enough. I am short 4 soup bowls, but I refuse to pay that price for one season of the year!
    My friend the Tablescaper buys 12 of everything. I used to, but find I don't entertain that many anymore.
    I sometimes only buy for 4. If it something I think I would use for dinner parties, I get 12, but that is rare. I use what I have 12 of, and work around it!
    After all, there is just so many places to store it, the glasses, linens and flatware!
    I don't want to be an episode of The Hoarders! 🙂

  37. Hppd advice, Susan. I kinda feel the same way you do…Christine

  38. Jacqueline says

    Oh, I wish our Home Goods got that many at one time! But I agree, if I find something I go and hit the other stores up quickly. I have every number of place settings from one up to 60. The ones were just for photographing a certain dish for my cookbook, the 60 for large crowds.

    I loved reading this and agree, and it really is fun the many places you can find things. I still have to hit up the Dollar Tree sometime – on my to do list.

  39. great thoughts.. one more thing I do is use the shopper ap on my smart phone. If say TJMAxx or HomeGoods has the manufacturer's bar code on the piece, I let the phone scan it and then I can not only see if I'm getting a good deal or who else might carry it should I want more pieces…

  40. Susan:
    So sorry to hear you have been ill, get better soon! I really agree with your theory on buying, but must say you are a much better bargain buyer than I am…and how in the world did you find the time to shop with your old work schedule? That being said, here are some of my thoughts. I always buy 6 or 8 place settings and then make sure they coordinate with some inexpensive plain color settings to extend number of place setting to 12 or 16, as in the Christmas table I showed you. By combining 6/8 patterned settings with 6/8 solid colors, I can mix/match to create 12 or 16 place settings. I do the same thing with my linens, flatware and glassware. I don't have much budget, so I stick with solid plate (Fiesta or Walmart) colors in black, cobalt, ivory and terracotta to use as "fill" colors…;Thanks so much for the post!

  41. Susan:
    A post script…the single BIGGEST mistake I have ever made in dishes was buying IVORY (because it was going to be available forever) instead of WHITE…you kids take from that what you will…it has limited me tremendously.

  42. Domestic Diva says

    Great advice! I would just add that if you are a thrift store purchaser purchase every piece you can find. I fell in love with Pflatzgraff white just over a year ago, since I only buy from thrift stores and it is a discontinued pattern I knew I may never get all the pieces! To date I have place settings for 8, all the serving pieces, several platters, the soup tureen and the full tea service set! The total cost $112. Susan thanks for C.A.P. Tutorial!

  43. This was an excellent topic Susan! I have read everyone's thoughts. I especially like Marlis' suggestion to use the shopper ap on a smart phone. Saves a lot of precious time for me! I have Oh, I wish our Home Goods got that many at one time! But I agree, if I find something I go and hit the other stores up quickly. I also have every number of place settings from two to 36. My husband I enjoy a themed table for two once in a while, so if our TJ Maxx has only two place settings, I will sometimes buy it just for us.

    I hope you are feeling better soon Susan.

  44. ~Tablescapes By Diane~ says

    Thanks for your advice sweet lady.
    My homme goods don't have many number of place settings,so I go to other stores and just do a lot of looking!!Most of the time I only buy for 4. I would like six if i can get them.I hope you are doing better and Happy Brithday !!!

  45. Wonderful tips. Just wonderful. I came over here from Paisley Passions Linky List. Your Link party just sounded so exciting to me. I would LOVe to have the variety that I see you have from this post. Exciting!!! Yes, dishes are exciting. Hopefully someday my husband will let me buy more.

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