Building a Collection of Serveware
Story by Anne Campbell
Market Editing by Ashley Maddox
Styling by Hilary Walker
Finding the right pieces to round out your collection allows you to serve your family and friends in more ways than one.
Part of the fun in entertaining sometimes comes from working with what we have—when creativity and the pressure of knowing that guests are arriving any minute push us to repurpose pieces to fit the occasion at hand. Think of the fruit bowl that becomes part of a chip-and-dip station or extra drinking glasses that might turn into silverware caddies for the table. There’s certainly a place in our lives for that type of improvisation. But perhaps we can seek moments of intention, too, in building a collection of pieces fit for entertaining.
Knowing that we are equipped with the tools we need to welcome people into our home and around our table offers a certain confidence and ease. While the design of each piece can be an expression of our style, what’s more important is the intention they communicate. By thinking through small details, we extend an offering to guests: They have not only been invited, but also considered and planned for. There is no set list for what a serving collection must include. But starting with an idea of those tried-and-true pieces can help guide your thoughts through how you like to entertain, prompting your own version of the perfect collection.
An Evolving List of Essentials
Marble or stone cheese boards offer classic elegance for appetizers. For a more rustic look, a wooden cutting board can double as a service-style cheese board with a cheese slicer and petite knives to simplify serving.
Chip & Dip Set
Often there is a need for two chip-and-dip sets when entertaining a large group. Consider neutral hues that color-coordinate.
A dozen square or round appetizer plates are a strong start. These also have a parlayed use as salad or dessert plates.
Bowls about the size of your palm are handy when serving snacks such as nuts and olives. They also can be used for sauces, spreads, or dips on the side of your main course.
Oversized forks are helpful when serving cuts of meat, while large spoons (both slotted and not) work well for serving sides. A ladle that holds up to heat is ideal for soups and stews.
Salad Bowl with Tongs
Large wooden bowls with tongs are most often considered for the salad course but also can work for entrées like family-style pastas.
A necessity for entertaining, keep at least two versatile platters for serving main- course items. One oval and one square are visually interesting paired on the table.
Large Pasta Bowl
A beautiful porcelain bowl with an eye- catching pattern or a simplistic design can
easily be displayed on your countertop and used as everyday home decor. It also can serve as the centerpiece of a table for pasta dishes or as a bread basket.
Opt for one or two ceramic baking dishes that you use specifically for entertaining, not for weekly wear-and-tear use. To get the most use out of each baking dish, choose a style pretty enough to take from oven to table. Our favorite sizes are 8×8
Adding a bit of height and fanciful flair, cake stands beautifully present desserts of
all types. Keep in mind that a shorter cake stand can offer versatility and storage ease.
Instead of utilitarian metal and glass baking dishes for pies and tarts, invest in a
sturdy ceramic version that can go straight from oven to serving.
Cake Serving Set
You likely won’t use a cake knife and server set often, but having one for holiday
gatherings or celebrations make the dessert feel that much more special.
Even if the traditional English dessert isn’t part of your culinary plan, this pedestal glass bowl can be used as a candleholder or even an ice bucket.
This thoughtful addition adds a touch of elegance to your bar setup. Add a silver
scooper or set of tongs for ease with drink service.
Party punch, iced tea, or filtered water can be served from a fluted pitcher or water
carafe. When not used for entertaining, it doubles nicely as a flower vase.
Cream & Sugar Set
A timeless addition that is sure to evoke a sense of nostalgia in a coffee or tea service. Two sets keep all guests provided for: one for traditional cream and sugar, and the other for dairy and sugar alternatives.
Bar Tool Set
The ultimate bar setup should feature a cocktail shaker and coordinated set of standard tools suited for basic cocktail or mocktail prep.
A drink server and conversation piece in one. Antique and vintage flea-market finds add nostalgia, but any kind will elevate the occasion.
For the Table
A Note on Dishes & Utensils
When considering what you need for a full set of dishes (think dinner, salad, and dessert plates, plus soup bowls and flatware), knowing the typical size of gatherings you tend to host can help. If you like smaller groups, a setting of eight could be plenty. For larger gatherings, many hosts will keep on hand 12 or even 16 of each setting. Having nice napkins for entertaining is also a relatively easy way to make a place setting feel special.
While a covered butter dish can easily go from refrigerator to table, bringing it out 30 minutes before guests show up gives butter time to soften before you serve.
Salt & Pepper Shakers
Mixing and matching shakers brings personality to this table staple.
While mostly used at the holidays, a gravy boat can come in handy any time a sauce or au jus is served.
This story was adapted for digital from the spring issue of Magnolia Journal.
Image 1—page 38 in Magnolia Journal
Cotton Grey Striped Napkin and Engraved White Marble Cake Stand
Glenna Cereal Bowls—Anthropologie; anthropologie.com
Marble + Wood Footed Serving Bowl—Anthropologie; anthropologie.com
Modern Walnut Spoon and Slotted Spoon—Crate & Barrel; crateandbarrel.com
Finn Pie Dish in Ivory—Anthropologie; anthropologie.com
Glass Milk Server and Sugar Canister—Hearth & Hand with Magnolia; target.com
Speckled Stoneware Butter Dish in Ivory—Anthropologie; anthropologie.com
Miranda 7.75-Inch Trifle Bowl—Crate & Barrel; crateandbarrel.com
Hand Thrown Pitcher in Matte Olive—Black Oak; gatherwaco.com
Streamlined Cheese Knives (set of 3), Wooden Spreaders (set of 6), and Finn Baking Dish in Ivory—Anthropologie; anthropologie.com
Image 2—page 40 in Magnolia Journal
Scalloped Plates, Lyla Fluted Serving Bowl, Lyla Fluted Rectangular Baker, and
Ardel Carafe—Anthropologie; anthropologie.com
Finn Loaf Pan—Anthropologie; anthropologie.com
Shaillee Matte Baking Dishes (set of 2)—Crate & Barrel; crateandbarrel.com
Glenna Cake Stand—Anthropologie; anthropologie.com
Teak Serving Bowl (small) and Levi Bowls (set of 4) in Light Blue—Anthropologie; anthropologie.com