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Shabby Chic Decorating With Mix-and-Match Vintage Dinnerware

A mix of blue and white dishes

A mix of blue and white dishes

Mix-and-Match Dishes Are Creative and Fun

When I was a young girl, I learned that new brides not only take on one man for the rest of their lives but commit to a single china pattern as well. This can be a great thing, as a bride can register her intended dishware pattern and then wedding guests will buy it for her.

Well, almost 40 years later, I still haven't settled on a specific china pattern. Sure, I've had a brief fling here and there with some classic dishware designs but have never made a real commitment. I love them all! Who can settle for just one pattern?

As a china pattern is a reflection of who you are, my mixed and matched collection of dishware reflects the way my mind works. And with the current decorating trend of shabby chic, I find that my taste is not really out of style.

I've learned that mixing and matching dishware can work. Of course, certain patterns and color combinations work better than others. Here are some tips on mixing and matching china patterns for an appealing shabby chic look.

Everything Goes With White

Many, if not most, china patterns include white. If you have a set of plain white dishes, you can intersperse them with other printed designs. White works to unify a group of mixed-design plates in several colors.

I like transferware, particularly reproductions of Victorian styles. I also have some old vintage dishware in ornate designs, often featuring a single a color printed on a white background. If every piece of transferware is different, set the table with one white plate, then a transferware plate, then a white plate, and so on.

You can also use a large white dinner plate or server with a transferware plate on top.

Blue and White China

There are lots of blue and white china patterns. From spongeware to Flow Blue to Blue Willow, a blue and white color combination is as pure and pretty as the sky on a sunny day.

Although I am inordinately fond of blue and white dishware, I never use my Flow Blue. It is too old and valuable to use even on a holiday. If one of my 130-year-old plates were broken at a party, I'd be crushed. Not wanting a dinner party to end in violence, I keep my Flow Blue for decorative purposes only.

But the other blue and white dishes get along famously, especially if mixed with white dishware. Blue and white works with a shabby-chic style as well as with traditional styles.

Blue and Brown Dishware

Over the years, I have accumulated a lot of brown dishes, including some plain brown as well as brown and white transferware.

I think that blue and brown look lovely together. I even enjoy looking at my blue and brown bowls piled up in the cupboard. Sometimes all brown can seem a bit dismal, and all blue can be a bit much, but the two work well together and balance one another out.

Shabby chic with blue and brown dishes

Shabby chic with blue and brown dishes

Other Ideas for Mix-and-Match Shabby Chic

Once you get started, there is no end to the variety of groupings when you mix and match vintage or vintage style dishes. Here are some of the combinations that I like. Of course, you can probably find other combinations of your own.

  • Pink and green go well together in spring and make an excellent color combination for an Easter dinner or lunch. On the first day of spring, I line my open hutch with pink and green dishes to celebrate the season. Pink and green seems to work well in summer too.
  • Green and brown are my dishware choices for fall, on the hutch or on the table: brown for the trunks of the trees and green for the last green of summer.
  • Green and cranberry look nice at Christmas, as green and red are a traditional Christmas combination. I like to use a white lace tablecloth because it reminds me of snow.
  • If all your green and cranberry transferware looks a bit much on one table, temper it with the addition of those plain white plates mentioned earlier. And let's face it, Christmas decorating is all a bit over the top, so why not go all the way and take it to the table!
  • Mix and match depression glass. I love Depression glass; it looks so pretty and delicate for a lunch or tea. Just like the rest of the collection, my Depression glass is a varied combination of colors, but mostly green and pink. I think that the pink and green Depression glass works well with other pink and green dishes.
Mixed Depression glass

Mixed Depression glass

Mixing and Matching Dishes Saves Money

Buying an entire set of dishes can be quite expensive. You can center on a particular theme, such as:

  • Blue and white
  • Cranberry and white
  • Brown and purple
  • Brown and green
  • Brown and blue
  • Green and brown

Or you can choose various patterns in one color combination. That way, you can pick up items that you like for bargain prices at thrift stores, antique shops, discount stores like Ross or T J Maxx, and flea markets.

For a little while, having all those mismatched dishes made me feel like less of a woman as if I never really grew up and could never make a decision. Well, okay, that's me. If I haven't grown up by now, it's not going to happen.

Mixing and Matching the Old and the New


Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on January 19, 2017:

Annie - sorry that I took 2 whole days to read your comment! Some days are busier than others! Thanks for checking back!

Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on January 19, 2017:

Anne - your right about the safety issue. Personally, I would not use old dishware to eat off of even if there was no question of lead. I use my older stuff for decorative purposes. I use my trasferware plates daily, but they are modern reproductions. Of course I use old pitchers and tea pots for flowers.

Annie on January 18, 2017:


Where is my comment that I left the other day?

Thank you.

Anne on January 17, 2017:


Love your idea to buy old china, or anything you like that strikes your eye.

But the problem is , we are finding out is, most of the old, and new has Lead, and cadmium in it!

You can buy a lead kit at your hardware store to check it, or go on line to find out what has lead in it.

If you use you micro, dishwasher , or the China has hair line cracks that can also be a problem.

I have my china when I got married, YEARS ago, (place setting for 14) and also from my Mother in-law's China. I figure if I just use it for the couple of holidays a year it will be ok. Also have 4 other patterns for 12 settings.

The little grandkids, and now great grandkids it's important they do not eat from lead China.

I have even bought new everyday dinnerware , No lead, No Cadmium.

Sorry to have to mention this.


Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on March 09, 2012:

Hi, Peggy - thank you very much! There is a local high end consignment shop that I love to visit. They have so many beautiful dishes - I find it so hard to turn away. But enough is enough. My son's beloved loves some of the old stuff. I sneak some off with her when she visits - the son wants to be minimalist. Phooey. (Whoops, there is the child again)

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 05, 2012:

Hi Dolores,

Loved your photos of your beautiful mix and match dishes. I have sets of china from my grandmother, my mother, my husband's grandmother plus a set I bought and that we still use. I have other partial sets handed down through the family, so obviously I have never had much need to purchase dishes. If I did not have all of this, I think that I would go your route on choosing dishes. Thrift shops have such pretty selections and mixing and matching would be so much fun.

I had to laugh about your statement of growing up. Aren't we all kids at heart? Haha! Up votes and will share.