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Blue and White China on Display Shelves
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Whether you crave creativity or you're a traditionalist, we all love to play with our china collections. Additions over the years may remind you of certain family members, cherished holiday meals, or a wedding registry from long ago. Still, there are some of us that aren't in love with the dishes in our cabinet, and that can make setting a holiday table feel more like a burden.

The good news is that you don't need a spending spree to freshen things up. "I always hesitate to tell people to just cash it in and start over. That's a hard pill to swallow," says Julie Robbins, product specialist for Replacements.com. Rather than buying a new complete set, opt for small additions to what you already have that can make a big difference. For example, if your problem is that your china isn't formal enough, Robbins recommends dressing up your tablescape in other places. Metallic accents, for example, can add a fancier touch. "Adding in colored glassware can do miracles to change a whole table," she says. 

For other dish complaints, new plates may be the solution. We've gathered some of the most common china afflictions and some suggestions on pieces that can remedy them. If you can relate, it might just be time to retire the old set and bring in something new. 

Sign #1: They're Too Busy

After many years of plating the same bold pattern, perhaps you're looking for a simpler reform. Consider investing in a simple pattern and layering in your existing statement pieces. "Keep that exciting pattern and just mix in some of it. It's great to dilute it with solid colors, whites, or creams," says Robbins, who recommends Maze by Royal Doulton.

Royal Doulton Maze
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Sign #2: They Bore You

Once upon a time, you wanted to play it safe, but now you're looking for something a little more exciting. If you're tired of your current dinnerware set, Robbins' best advice is incorporating bursts of color and pattern, in multiples if you're feeling bold enough. In fact, strategically mixing and matching patterns and colors using pieces like Fiesta by Homer Laughlin, may actually be the safer and smarter way to go.

"I love to mix patterns but some people are really uncomfortable with that," Robbins says. "By the same token, it's hard to commit to something that's super decorative and know you're going to have to live with it. That's a big reason to never have just one pattern. Have several with patterns or designs that work together, because then you can constantly change your table and keep it interesting without committing to multiple complete sets of china."

Homer Laughlin Fiesta
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Sign #3: They're Too Formal

When plates are more like art than something to be eaten on, perhaps they're not the most practical. Even your best china shouldn't be too precious that you find yourself only breaking it out once in a blue moon and still can't use it without sweating. The trick is to find something you love equally as much, but that doesn't feel so untouchable and that has a wider range for use.

A dinnerware set like Nantucket by Wedgwood, that can transition between both casual and special occasions, may do you more justice. "Get a beautiful, really simple, plain white with a trim. That's a great way to go from casual to formal depending on what you pair it with," says Robbins. "And the Nantucket, of course, is fabulous."

Wedgwood Nantucket
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Sign #4: Food Doesn't Look Good on Them

If you're happy with your china when you first set the table, but are displeased with the full effect once dinner is served, it may be the pattern. There's a reason chefs like to say that food looks best served on white plates. Your dinnerware and dinner are a matched set and should make one another look even better. White plates will help you out on that front. "I really love Sophie Conran by Portmeirion because it's got that sort of organic pottery-looking, almost wabi-sabi—kind of imperfect. I really love that," says Robbins. "If I want just a little more decorative, the Opal Innocence by Lennox is very pretty."

Portmeirion Sophie Conran
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Sign #5: They're Outdated

The pieces that were trendy when you put china on your wedding registry may not be your taste now. If that's the case, your new purchase should be classy and timeless. "I always think that simple platinum and white, or gold and white, are great. And you don't have to get the plain plate with just the edge," says Robbins. "Lenox has made a bunch (some of them are Kate Spade) with great designs, but because it's just gold and white or just platinum and white, you can mix them, adding more interest in a very simple way." Simple and timeless plates, like Opal Innocence Gold by Lenox, are the ones that will withstand the test of time.

Lenox Opal Innocence gold
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Sign #6: They Have Too Much Wear and Tear

Scuff marks on your dinner plates from years of forks and knives can be a dinnerware killer. If this is your concern, the solution is something durable, like bone china. Robbins explains that bone china, made with porcelain and bone ash, is harder and less fragile than most other china.

"Bone china has really great lasting power, especially for dinner plates which always take the brunt of the abuse because we use them the most," says Robbins. "Go with a dinner plate that doesn't have a design in the middle because the plain white or cream will show that wear and tear less than a design." She recommends Waverly Pond by Lenox. They'll match with your salad plates or other dishes from the original set that are still in good condition.

Kate Spade New York ‘Waverly Pond’
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Sign #7: They Don't Match Your Lifestyle

No matter how much your love your pattern, it'll never come out of the cabinet if it doesn't match your entertaining style. If you've had your pieces for a few decades, odds are, you're not entertaining the same way that you used to all those years ago. "I always ask people, 'How do you want to live? How do you want to entertain?'" Robbins says. Personalize your china to suit your life. The options are limitless.