If Dan would let me get away with tossing all the food out of our kitchen cabinets and using every available inch to store dishes, I would do it in a New York minute. As a certified dishoholic, I have never met a set of dishes I didn’t want to own. But, even the Queen of Carryout needs to keep a few groceries in the house. So, I have had to rein in my obsession. How? By choosing a few sets of dishes that allow me to mix and match to create lots of different looks.

If you like to keep your table fresh and fun, with different looks to reflect the season, the occasion or your mood, try my trick. Invest in three versatile dish sets, then mix them up to create dozens of unique looks.

White dishes

First, invest in a set of white dishes. If you love color and pattern, this may seem like a waste to you. But every great painting has to start with a plain canvas. That’s what white dishes give you — an ideal foundation upon which to let your table-setting creativity run wild.

Like that little black dress, white dishes go with everything and are perfect for just about any occasion. Take them formal or casual, traditional or contemporary, serene or spunky simply by switching around what they are paired with: table linens, chargers, serving pieces and accent plates. With each substitution, these chameleons completely transform to fit their new environment.

Green majolica plates

The second set of dishes that will help you maximize the looks you can create on your table? Green majolica plates shaped like leaves. I’ve long been a fan of majolica, especially for spring and summer tables. The leaf images just make me smile and add charm to any tablescape. Mix them with white dishes and all of a sudden, magic happens. Love how our team styled this table to give it garden charm, from the cabbage leaf to the rattan place mat.

With this fresh base, you can go wild with your table linens, centerpiece and serving pieces. Our design team used a simple woven coral colored place mat and floral fabric napkins to give one table irrepressible energy.

Anything blue

If you have room for three sets of dishes, I’d recommend anything blue. This is my favorite color, bar none. Blue truly looks amazing with everything.

I don’t think you can get too much of a good thing. So I like to mix all three of these wonderful dishes together on tables. Here, we tossed in a splash of orange with a faux leather charger and a fun spring napkin. A little green flower inserted into the napkin ring is the perfect finish for a lovely spring setting that showcases the power of three fabulous sets of dishes.

This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity’s blog at

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