What to do with old dinner plates

It's inevitable---we all get tired of looking at the same dinnerware day in and day out. If you're not ready to part with your china pattern, freshen up your table setting with mix and match vintage china, or turn your unused plates into personalised, thoughtful home decor

Mix and Match

If you've broken or lost pieces of your china pattern, don't despair---old dinner plates are perfect for a modern mix-and-match approach. As Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis tells delish.com, "I don't believe that you have to have all the same glasses and plates. It's OK to mix and match. ..." Instead of recycling or giving away your old dinnerware, create an entirely new tablescape with place setting pieces in complementary colours, patterns and textures.

Browse thrift shops, flea markets, consignment stores and mass-retail discounters like Marshalls, Ross or TJ Maxx to find inexpensive open stock dinnerware. If your old plates are print or floral, pair them with solid colours. If the old plates are solid, go for a bold graphic print to liven them up. Add drinkware and serveware in neutral porcelain or crystal to create a unified look. As long as colours are similar (all pastels, all neutrals, all reds, all blues, etc.), they'll look cohesive and contemporary without being matchy-matchy.

Decorate With Plates

Unused plates make amazing wall decorations when grouped by colour, size or theme. Hang them with inexpensive plate hangers, available at craft stores, framing stores and many chemists. Martha Stewart suggests using a V-shaped hanger for antique plates to avoid placing too much pressure on fragile edges; sturdy earthenware can be mounted with a spring hanger. Watch out for heavy plates like ornamented chargers---these may require a wall stud in terms of placement.

Plates in complementary colours can take the place of a wallpaper border. If you have a sequence of matched plates to display, try alternating them with contrasting plates to space out the arrangement and add visual interest. Hang them equidistant from each other, approximately 4 to 6 inches below the top of the wall, or any crown moulding. Bread-and-butter or salad plates work best for this arrangement because of their smaller size.

Old dinner plates can also cover a large wall. Gather an even number of plates for this arrangement, in as many colours and china patterns as you like. Lay the plates on the floor before you hang them to make sure you like the arrangement. If you have eight plates, for example, lay them out in two rows of four, either vertically or horizontally. Because the arrangement is symmetrical, it can handle the visually eclectic look of different colours, textures and patterns.

Mosaic Crafts

If your old dinner plates are cracked or broken, repurpose them in a beautiful mosaic. Choose any smooth, rigid surface---try a picture frame, lamp base or flat piece of wood. You want the dish shards to be about 2 inches in diameter; if you need to break your dishes into smaller pieces, use safety goggles, a hammer and a thick bath towel. Wind the towel around a single dish---it will keep your shards in one place. Wear your safety goggles, and place the towel-wrapped dish on the floor. With a hammer, strike the dish with enough force to break it; do this in several places. Carefully unwrap the broken dish and collect your shards.

Glue your shards to the surface using any silicone craft glue, arranging them so that no more than an inch of space exists between any two shards. This holds the shards in place while you grout the mosaic---any home improvement store will have coloured, sanded grout you can use. Spread the grout over your mosaic and make sure all space between the shards is filled. Wipe away any excess grout from the sides and top of your mosaic, and then let it dry. Once it's dry, wipe down with a soft cloth to buff and shine.

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