Uncluttered doesn’t have to mean sterile

When my husband and I were registering for wedding gifts, we had an epiphany about our future: we will eventually break our dishes and glassware. We doubted that we would break each and every dish, but we knew that a few would become casualties amid our daily routine.

Acknowledging that dishes will break resulted in a few changes to our registry. First, we decided to register for plain, white dishes of which we had no emotional attachment but served high utility. We went with a pattern that had been produced by a major manufacturer for decades because we knew that it was likely to continue or at least be easily replaced off of Replacements, Ltd. Also, we went with plain white because we knew that we could dress it up or down, as well as put it in the dishwasher.

Second, we decided to register for glassware that we knew was being discontinued. This kept the cost low, and paved the way for our real hope with our glassware. The idea was that as each piece broke, we would replace it with something completely different from our original set. If any of our friends broke a glass and offered to replace it, we’d just tell them to buy an inexpensive glass of their choosing. Variations in glassware look creative and inspiring against our plain white plates when we set the table.

It may sound cluttered to have non-matching glassware in the kitchen, but it’s not. We don’t have more glasses than we need, all of our glasses are functional, and they are stored appropriately. Being uncluttered doesn’t mean looking exactly the same, it means using and honoring what you have and being organized with its storage system.

The idea of mismatched glassware against a plain background can be instituted in many areas of your home. Think about having every chair around your dining table being different pieces from the same period or knobs on your kitchen cupboards being the same style but in different colors. Remember that good design and an uncluttered life can be full of variety and creativity in unconventional ways. You don’t have to live in an uncomfortable, soul-less museum to be clutter free.

38 Comments for “Uncluttered doesn’t have to mean sterile”

  1. posted by Andamom on

    Or you can do like I did — buy all the dishes at IKEA… In 2000, I bought dishes, glassware, utensils, and a few other things (like large spoons/ladels) at IKEA figuring that the price was within my range and I wouldn’t be upset if anything broke. Ironically, even with 2 kids, the stuff has held up remarkably well. I’ve lost very few items and everything is dishwasher-safe. I’m not saying that IKEA is for everyone — but if you have kids or are hard on your things and expect loss — high cost dining ware doesn’t make a lot of sense. (And personally — I like color — so my plates are blue!)

  2. posted by Shannon on

    There is a reason why restaurants favor plain white dishes — they show off the food to best advantage. We got ours from Williams-Sonoma. They are very heavy restaurant-style dishes, not at all expensive, and probably will last for decades. I have supplemented them with other white pieces from Crate and Barrel and elsewhere, and you cannot tell they are not of a set.

    I like your idea about glasses. We recently had to replace some too-fragile glasses. We went with heavier ones from Crate and Barrel. Again, more sturdy so less breakable, and the cost was less than a dollar per glass.

  3. posted by twosandalz on

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about matching, mis-matching and the appearance of clutter.

    My living room looks perpetually cluttered, even when its tidy. This is partly due to a love seat and sofa with very, very different floral patterns. Where I’m stuck is, if dramatically different furnishings create a feeling of clutter, why doesn’t my bedroom feel cluttered? None of my bedroom furniture matches either.

    Erin’s design scheme of different things against plain ones has me thinking that the key to my decorating woes is a lack of simplicity. Perhaps my living room furniture could be mis-matched but still look tidy if each piece wasn’t so busy to begin with. Hmmm…

  4. posted by Natasha on

    OR, if you don’t need uber-classy dishes, you could just register for acrylic glasses (Target has some, and I’m sure others do) and melamine plates, which are rather resilient to breakage (and I’ve had mine for a year and they aren’t all scratched or cracked as plasticky ones sometimes tend to look).

  5. posted by jane on

    I like the idea behind this, but please, if one of your friends breaks a glass, don’t ask them to replace it. Replace it yourself.

  6. posted by Erin Doland on

    @jane — Actually, etiquette guides that if you break something in someone’s home that you offer to replace the exact item or something of similar value. Most of my friends who have broken glasses in my home (and this number is surprisingly high) offer to replace the glass, I tell them it’s unnecessary, and they still insist on doing so. I’ll even explain that I like shopping for random, interesting glasses. A few days later, however, a glass inevitably arrives. Obviously, I would never demand that a guest replace something they have broken in my home (hence, why I used the phrase “offered to replace it” in my post, not “demanded”), but I’m not going to return the gift that was courteously extended to me.

  7. posted by Debbie M on

    A friend of mine visited Mexico and was amazed to learn that she liked the look of mismatched dinnerware.

    Most people have mismatched mugs. I also have nonmatching glasses; they are all clear glass, but that’s it. I really like the mismatched dining room chair look, too. I would go for mismatched white plates, too, if I were starting again. These strategies make it easier to round out your stash at thrift stores and resale shops as well.

    I think when you have non-matching things, it works better when there is still something matching about them. They can be the same style (four different Victorian chairs around the table) or the same color or the same material (most of my furniture is wooden, though not all the same wood). Or you can have some other element that brings them all together, what Erin is calling the plain background. So all of her glasses will look good with white plates and whatever her table or tablecloth looks like.

    twosandalz, it may work to recover one of your flowery-print pieces of living room furniture with a solid-colored cover in one of the colors of the other print. (You could test this idea for free by throwing a solid-colored sheet or tablecloth over one of your pieces and seeing how it feels to you as you.) (You could get a white natural-fiber cover and dye it some color where several shades of that color would work, so that whichever shade you end up with is okay.) Or maybe you need a solid rug underneath with other decorations being in colors common to both the sofa and loveseat. Or maybe you could remove knick knacks or remove art from one of the walls (maybe painting the wall a rich solid color that is decorative on its own).

  8. posted by Ro on

    I’ve used corelle wear dishes for 36 years. They never break and look nice. After 20 years, I got tired of my pattern and gave the dishes away. And purchased a new pattern. They’re great and come in plain white too!

    Debbie M – how do you dye fabric without making a mess? I’m afraid to use my washing machine. I guess you can tell that I’ve never dyed anything.

  9. posted by Laure on

    Thanks, Erin, for you blog on white dishes and mismatched glasses. I like to have fun with different textures on white dishes, it adds to the richness without being fussy.

    I’ve found that white and fairly neutral dishes have always allowed me to have fun with color, and even though I’m still a white-plate girl, I’ve come to appreciate mismatched dishes at my sister’s house. They are always great conversation starters, and just fun to look at! With a simple backdrop and a little discernment in the mix-n-match deparment, dishes with lots of different colors can be another way to be simple without being boring. These days, it seems like the cost of dishes (at Target/Walmart, anyway!) and the cost of table fabrics are kind of similar, and I think that one can have an uncluttered home by enjoying colorful dishes and changing them out as desired/as they break. It allows people to work with favorite pottery pieces they have collected and even eliminates the need for introducing color in placemats and napkins to a large degree, along with the accompanying laundry jobs.

    Since I don’t love ironing, I now enjoy woven mats that can be shaken free of crumbs. If yukky, they can easily be rinsed clean in the sink, and set to air dry.

    I think that one of the main reasons people get seduced by different dishes is the change of seasons and wanting to set a unique table at holiday times.

    During Christmas/New Year Holidays, I break out the old white and ivory linens that I haven’t managed to declutter yet, and add inexpensive mirrors, the few silver/pewter colored things I have left, and sprinkle a little silver-colored confetti on the table to catch the glow of lots of tealights on a holiday holder. I also have enough generic tealight holders to spread the cheer around several rooms. I’ve gotten rid of nearly all my holiday decor stuff, and really treasure the extra time NOT decorating and NOT packing it all away again.

    While every Thansgiving I still covet those charming pumpkin tureens I see at Pottery Barn, I find that regular white plates on woven mats are just fine for that earthy autumn feel. The only other decor is usually the food and objets naturales that we drag inside from the yard and arrange as artfully as possible on the table…pinecones, berries, leaves, etc..it is a fun holiday tradition to do as a family.

  10. posted by Laure on

    A little more on mixing and matching…

    20-odd years ago as a newlywed, I found that I could unite extremely mismatched furniture with color and fabric, to the point that we actually got compliments on our decor. It cost me less than $150 and one afternoon to accomplish that using inexpensive fabric in no-sew window treatments and buying some seat cushions, placemats, napkins and napkin rings that complemented the the couch’s striped body and floral accent cushions, effectively dotting the color/pattern theme around the adjacent living/eating areas. I also got rid of things that felt distracting. Stripes and florals haven’t been my “thing” for many years, but the basic principle of creating harmony and serenity by repeating elements has always applied.

    Twosandalz, I’ll bet you’ll be able to tell why your bedroom feels uncluttered if you just take a few minutes to think about it. Could it be more space between objects, similar colors, non-competing patterns, a repeated element even if things don’t seem to match in every way? This could be a shape, color, texture, pattern, height, straight or curved lines, things like that.

    I feel for your couch dilemma. Somehow, I broke my rule of having a completely neutral backdrop when it came to a new couch and ottoman for our current home, and I regret it so much. I need to look into some nice tailored slipcovers vs. the cost of just getting a different couch, or figure out a way to keep the dog from dragging his bones and his bottom across the neutral area rug in that space. I’d rather have a patterened rug than a patterned couch just now! LOL!

  11. posted by jb on

    my favorite fork is the one that doesn’t look like the rest. also, my fiance and i have different shaped wine glasses. we didn’t plan it that way – the wine glasses were left from a previous roommate and the fork is from a previous tenant – but we like it.

    …and we don’t end up drinking each other’s wine.

  12. posted by Serene and Not Herd on

    I’d recommend having one of your two floral print furniture pieces reupholstered. Pick the one you want to keep, and take either a pillow, or a tiny swatch from the back to the upholsterer to pick a fabric for the other piece. Obviously, the smaller the furniture, the cheaper reupholstery will be. And having it reupholstered is usually actually cheaper than buying something new, you get to pick the fabric you want (and complements your floral print).

    If you are at all handy, and have the time and space, upholstering it yourself can be a HUGE savings. It depends on the style of the furniture piece. Some styles are quite easy to redo, others require making piping, buttons, and doing tufting. A library book on the matter will give you a good idea if it’s worth the attempt.

    Our living room furniture doesn’t match, none of it is from the same manufacture. But we have been careful to stick to two solid colors, blue and brown. We even slipcovered an ancient 60’s floral print sofa in brown because it’s comfortable but hideous. One day I’ll have it reupholstered to match.

  13. posted by Nat on

    I’ve always loved the mismatched glasses idea. It can be easily done with thrift store finds and eliminates the need for wine charms and other cluttery glass markers for parties.

  14. posted by Paula on

    I used Arcoroc glass dishes (in expensive, very durable and widely available) for this exact reason. I came up with this plan over 20 years ago, and it has worked exactly as I thought it would. I still love them.

    I also keep all the bedding off-white. When you add or change throws or extra pillows in colors, it really pops. Plus, off-white is genuinely restful.

    Shopping for pillowcases to match sheets to match towels–NOT.

  15. posted by Jasi on

    I’m with Andamom. I have 14 place settings of white Ikea dishes, cups, wine glasses, flatware and mugs. Mis-matched is fine, if that’s your style.

    I’m not a big fan of personifying items and adding more attachment to objects. If they’re soul-less, that’s okay. They’re just things. I have plenty of personality go make up for it. *wink*

  16. posted by allen on

    This is such a great idea! I really appreciate that you went beyond the glasses idea, to give other suggestions, to start the brains buzzing!

    I guess my only complaint is how expensive the dish set was. 😉 I, also, am a big fan of corelle wear, based on the fact that I’m using a set my grandmother bought years and years ago, and they are still going fine! The basic idea of buying basic dishes, from a long standing company, is a wonderful founding idea, of course.

  17. posted by anon on

    “If any of our friends broke a glass and offered to replace it, we’d just tell them to buy an inexpensive glass of their choosing.”

    I have to agree with the earlier poster and say this is probably a bad idea. Of course etiquette guides tell BREAKERS to offer to replace a broken item, but, as the “breakee,” actually pursuing getting a broken drinking glass from a friend in any manner could inadvertently look tacky and inhospitable in front of guests.

    If something like a dish or glass on your table gets broken or damaged at a dinner, you do your utmost to make your friend feel like it was no big deal, and you wave off any effort to replace it. But making “suggestions,” however well-meaning, will only further embarrass your friends and make them feel obligated to dig around for days for some perfectly bohemian-yet-functional glassware per your casually-dropped instructions. And you better believe they won’t forget the time they dropped a cup at your house and were invited to restock pursuant to the “family policy on when guests drop a cup.” You can defend the practice, but you can bet the breaker will feel insulted and tell friends about it.

    Glasses and dishes frequently break when you have dinner guests. It happens, and guests shouldn’t be made to feel responsible for replacing it, even if they beg the host for the opportunity to make it up to you. (This is in part why people shouldn’t register for china beyond their means to replace.) If the breaker brings the host something to make up for it, fine, but an “action plan” is a bad idea. People are better off with inexpensive dishes, and with maybe considering the occasional broken item part of the cost of entertaining.

  18. posted by Erin Doland on

    @anon — My assumption is that your dinner parties are much different than mine and that you have different social expectations with your friends. My friends are not embarrassed when they break glasses at a party, they’re probably more embarrassed when they don’t break them. Thus, I have never been embarrassed when I have broken a glass at someone else’s party, nor felt put out by the obligation to replace the glass. I’ve had to repaint entire parts of my home’s interior because of “artwork” created with red wine on my walls during parties. Let’s just assume that our lives and expectations are different and call it a day.

  19. posted by Debbie M on

    anon, I assumed the idea about having guests buy a cheap replacement of their own choosing is only for the type of guests who insist on replacing something, even though of course it is our fault for handing them breakable stuff to use!

    Ro, I actually have never dyed anything, although my sister has. She likes to use the washer. You could always save a load of similar-colored items to wash right after the dye job. My sister has also used a large pot of water on the stove, which she does not recommend, because then when you try to carry it over to the sink it is very, very heavy and hot and dangerous!

  20. posted by Sharon on

    “My friends are not embarrassed when they break glasses at a party, they’re probably more embarrassed when they don’t break them.”

    My gosh, what sort of parties do you have? (wink?)

  21. posted by Jeri Dansky on

    I’m one of those people who would want to replace a glass if I broke it – and would have fun finding one for Erin.

    I like the mismatched glasses idea. My current wine glasses are a beautiful set, bought for me piecemeal over the years by a dear friend – so I’m not about to make a change to mismatched right now.

    But the dinner plates I use most often are indeed mismatched – ones I’ve picked up on trips to Spain, Italy, and France. Good memories with every bite! (And they are all patterned – maybe not the best to show off the food, but I don’t care.)

  22. posted by PJK on

    @ anon – It sounds like you’re reading an awful lot into Erin’s comment. No where did she refer to her suggestion as a “family policy on when guests drop a cup”. As someone who would insist on replacing what I’d broken, I’d be happy to know that my host likes mismatched glasses and I don’t need to worry about finding a matching glass. I certainly wouldn’t feel “obligated to dig around for days for some perfectly bohemian-yet-functional glassware per your casually-dropped instructions.” I don’t know about the rest of the readers, but I gave Erin the benefit of the doubt and assumed that after the broken glass, first would come the normal “Oh, don’t worry about it, you don’t need to replace it” conversation. I would assume the suggestion to buy any inexpensive glass of their choosing would only come if the guest persisted. IMHO, at that point, suggesting any non-matching glass is a polite way to make sure the guest doesn’t go to great lengths to find a matching glass. In other words, “You really don’t have to buy another one, it’s no big deal. [insert guest’s persistent comments]…Okay, well if you insist, just buy any inexpensive glass you like. Don’t worry about trying to match the set. We like mismatched glasses.”

    Frankly, I think if Erin had known that her comment would be picked apart like this, she probably would have taken more care in how she worded that part of her post, but THAT WASN’T THE POINT OF HER POST. Most of us can infer what she meant, but she even spelled it out when she replied to Jane, “…I tell them it’s unnecessary, and they still insist on doing so. I’ll even explain that I like shopping for random, interesting glasses.” Is it really necessary to continue the nitpicking that has nothing to do with the post? Perhaps it’s not your intent, but it just comes across as awfully condescending. Even Miss Manners generally waits until she’s asked for her opinion on an issue of ettiquette before weighing in with her opinion.

  23. posted by Nancy on

    My ex-hubby and I bought a set of black dishes when we moved in together 18 years ago…basically because ‘everything goes with black’. I still have the dishes, but rarely use them. I mostly use my mishmash collection of plates, bowls, glasses, wine glasses, coffee mugs, etc. which I started back in college. Macy’s Herald Square used to have a big ‘China clearance’ room. I picked up really pretty china pieces for about $1-2/each.

    I also pick up small pieces during my travels, both domestic & international… Hilton Head, Scottsdale, China, Hong Kong, Morocco, Turkey, Hungary, Guatemala, etc. So, my dining experience is often a reminder of a wonderful trip across the world as well (& no, I don’t buy anything that has a destinations name printed on it). Ironically, I have a 1 gallon+ soup serving bowl w/ matching smaller soup bowls from Morocco, and 6 matching tea glasses from Turkey.

    Keeping a mishmash collectionalso allows me to pick up some great bargains at the antique flea market here in NYC, church bazaar, or at antique shops anywhere.

    As for my glassware, I have the mishmash in this area too, and hate it when someone gives me a set of matching glasses. I add them into my collection 1 at a time, as I break others (I could never ask a guest to replace a broken glass).

    Oh, but did I mention that for Christmas, I have matching holiday ‘everything’ from place settings, to flat ware, to plates, to serving plates, and so on (not all in the same pattern though). Why do I feel the need for symmetry at Christmas & no other time?

  24. posted by lahope on

    Why stop at mismatched glassware? When I was a youngster back in the day furnishing my first homes, my friends (groupies and young musicians who worked at the Ash Grove and the Troubadour and lived in bungalows in Hollywood and the canyons) and I were thrift shop afficionados. We prided ourselves on finding beautiful, high quality items for next to nothing. We were always on the lookout for beautiful dinner plates, cups, saucers and the like. it didn’t matter if they matched. We found some beautiful pieces. I did inherit some 1920s silver from my grandmother (which I have subsequently given to my niece), but other than that, to this day NOTHING in my cabinets matches, not even a place setting. The effect is quite wonderful. Even though I own my home now (still in a canyon though) and can well afford matching sets of anything, I love my beautiful mismatched china!

  25. posted by twosandalz on

    @Ro – I’ve done quite a lot of stove-top dying. It isn’t that messy if you’re careful, but I am not sure how washing machine dying differs. I found that mess wasn’t as big an issue as getting matching colors from each batch. The amount of dye per amount of and weight of fabric are very important.

  26. posted by twosandalz on

    @ DebbieM, Laure and Serene – Now I understand why my mis-matched bedroom looks good! The pieces have some a subtle theme that ties them together. My eat-in kitchen (also mismatched) looks nice because I’ve repeated a color through out. I feel like I’ve discovered the key to a treasure chest. 🙂 What a fantastic, inexpensive way to tie my hand-me-down hodge-podge of furnishings together!

    I’m also mulling over all the suggestions you gave me for my floral sofa dilemma to figure out which will best fit my budget and other constraints. I’m actually excited about it, instead of dreading it! Decorating used to be so discouraging. I only got good results when I could buy all new (which has happened only once), or by accident (like the kitchen). Thanks for your ideas!

  27. posted by Natasha on

    I love the look of my clean white plates set up for dinner. But I do like visually interesting plates as well. Whenever I find myself at a thrift shop, antique store or even a garage sale, I always look at the dishes that are available. I’m a big fan of small “dessert” plates in interesting patterns and materials. I have a beautiful pair of china plates with cherry blossoms and a totally 70’s looking blue flowered plate. I love serving dessert or snacks on these, and I’m always on the lookout for more.

  28. posted by talida on

    Loved the entry and all the comments! This topic is definitely fresh on both my and my fiance’s minds, and you’ve given me plenty of ideas for our registry 🙂

  29. posted by Steve on

    My wife & I recently downsized our house now that the boys have moved out and we looked at all the mixmatches we had in glass ware. For the past 35 years we have kept a dinner set & other glassware for “special occasions” & just used the odds for everyday use, but moving into a smaller house made us look closely at what we had. Also as my wife said to me “If we don’t use them what’s the point of having them”. So the boys got a lot of stuff and we decided to use everything else from now on & if it fails the bounce test then who cares. I agree with a lot of the comments, the different glasses on a table make it more interesting.

  30. posted by Raven on

    A few years ago, I was given a set of blue willow dishes, something I’ve always wanted. It wasn’t a particularly good quality set and I began to lose pieces to breakage. So, during my travels, I stop at antique shops and fleamarkets and buy inexpensive blue willow pieces to replace what was lost. I only buy what I’m missing so that I don’t wind up with an unmanageable collection. I no longer have perfectly matching place settings, but the common pattern unites the dishes, even with variances in colour and size, and I get to remember my travels with every meal!

  31. posted by Michele on

    For glasses, I use mason jars. I keep about a dozen of the Classico brand pasta sauce jars (just short of a quart) for myself and other grownups. For my daughter, I keep four or five mason jars that some other kind of food originally came in — probably salsa, but I don’t recall offhand. I also keep two really small jars that held Classico pesto sauce: for martinis and other drinks that do best in very small doses!

    The jars are dishwasher-safe and very durable. When any jar breaks, I can just grab another jar of Classico sauce when it’s on deep discount at the supermarket. Plus, I have absolutely no sentimental attachment to these “glasses” because they’re mere jars.

    I really, really enjoy home canning as a hobby, and also as a money-saver when summer produce is cheap and abundant. So using mason jars as everyday glasses reminds me of one of my favorite activities. A final plus: they all match.

  32. posted by Sanika Davenport on

    What a marvelous website!

  33. posted by Laurie on

    When I was starting out a friend move in and we went glassware shopping at Goodwill. We both choose close to 10 glasses – wine, champagne, water, all sorts of shapes – each (we entertained a bit!) and paid about $.19 to $.29 each glass. Nobody stressed when we broke or chipped something. Oddly enough, when I moved out we took turns choosing the glasses, and I’m pretty sure we each ended up with the ones we originally choose at Goodwill.

    I have also purchased sets of silverware from Value Village. I choose a theme – flowers – and tried to get a whole set when I could. That stuff held up to everthing. When I got married, it felt like such an indulgance to have matching silverware (though it’s two sets that I didn’t pay more than $30 total for).

    PS: Where do I get those friends that courteously demand to replace broken items and magically send them a few days later?

  34. posted by nicole on

    if i broke a glass at a friend’s house, i would offer to replace it, they would probably try their best to convince me not to and to not worry about it, so i would stop worrying, but i would still WANT to get them a new one…….IF i were to find out that the person was collecting DIFFERENT glasses!! FIRST, i would LOVE the idea, and THEN i would have so much fun picking something out!!! since i liked the friend enough to be at their party, i would probably want to take time to pick out a glass that i think they would really like….something unique, or maybe something that would remind them of me. OR something with a handle so that i wouldn’t drop it the next time;-)

    i have mismatched plates, bowls, mugs (fiestaware-ish)……..and all my friends end up choosing a favorite coffee mug for some reason??! They ASK where “their mug” is, if it’s in the dishwasher:-) it reminds me of a friend each time i have a cup of coffee!!

  35. posted by Candy on

    Hi, I hope someone out there can clarify something for me. I decluttered my bedroom, and cleaned off my bureau. I put a large size vase, with silk roses, a doll and 1 lamp with a silk lampshade with beads hanging from it, sort of tall, also perfume. My question that I have, is it alright to have only 1 lamp on one side of the bureau, and the vase on the other ?? This is a long bureau from the 70’s with a big mirror. I had bought the lamp which is pink, at the Salvation Army. I only bought one. Should I have bought the other to match on the other side ?? Is there some kind of rule about 1 or 2 lamps on a bureau ?? Thank you.

  36. posted by kris on

    @.Candy . . . You asked whether there’s some kind of rule about whether you should have one or two lamps on a bureau.

    I’m reminded of an article that I read in an interior design magazine years ago. The topic was how to decorate fireplace mantels.

    Some designers insisted that all mantels should be decorated symmetrically. (For example, a candle stick on either side and a vase in the middle.) They suggested that symmetry provides a calming, balanced look.

    Other designers insisted that all mantels should be decorated asymmetrically. (For example, two candle sticks on one side and a vase on the other side.) Those designers thought that mantels with objects arranged symmetrically are boring.

    So I think that you can make the case for either one or two lamps on your bureau.

    One lamp perhaps looks less cluttered and more interesting than two lamps would.

    On the other hand, two lamps can provide a more balanced look. If you have a mirror above your bureau, two lamps also will provide more even lighting for brushing your hair or applying makeup.

    For what it’s worth, in my guest room I have a simple antique cherry chest of drawers with three objects on top: a plain white ceramic pitcher made in France that’s filled with dried pussy willow branches, a white plate with blue edges, made in Italy, and a small while ceramic lamp that looks al though it came from Laura Ashley but that was purchased from Kmart many years ago. (I did upgrade the shade though.)

  37. posted by Mary Kay on

    I have mismatched plates, and they are all blue and white. When we go on vacation, I keep my eye out for blue and white sandwich plates because we use those the most, and they make inexpensive souvenirs. My favorite one is from a Thai restaurant in Manhattan. I loved the pattern and tried to buy one from them, but they gave it me instead.

    And if they break, they break, and someday I will find a new blue and white plate.

    Most of my stemware is from an annual holiday party planned by my girlfriends. Everyone spends $20 on stemware–could be one antique glass, or four matching from an import store–and we wrap them up. Guests draw numbers and have a choice of opening one of the wrapped gifts, or taking (“stealing”) the unwrapped gift from someone who had an earlier turn. A set of glasses can only be “stolen” twice. My collection is eclectic and reminds me of my friends. And, same deal, if one gets broken, I know I’ll get some more at the holidays. And we don’t get our wine glasses mixed up.

  38. posted by sm on

    I really like this idea. I think if I knew that my host’s glassware was made up of souvenirs from prior clumsy guests I would feel less awkward were I to break something. And as a host, I am always somewhat hesitant to use the glasses I love and can’t replace because I know I would be bothered if someone broke one and I wouldn’t want my guest to feel bad. I don’t ever want to create a scenario in which my guests would feel ill-at-ease or embarrassed by that kind of thing.

    But what surprises me is that no one else has asked to see a picture of Erin’s mismatched glasses! I am so curious what they look like on a table. Please post a pic if you have one, Erin!

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