Should I Use China or Melamine?

Carey Karlan from Last Detail Interior Design shares the pros and cons of each when it comes to summer entertaining.



Melamine is the only sensible option for picnics, as it is light and unbreakable. It looks more sophisticated and is a pleasure to use compared to floppy paper plates. Then again, I use silver cutlery for picnics so how sensible am I?

The options are abundant. There are so many pretty patterns and colors at such reasonable prices, making it possible to have a big inventory of options to mix-and-match with different tablecloths.

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It is the perfect party piece! Not only for the hosts hors d’oeuvres and table setting, but also as a great serving piece to take when you are a guest and then give to the hostess as a gift.


To me, melamine is only appropriate to use for picnics or al fresco dining. Always use china when inside.

The plastic cups and glasses that are typically used with melamine are not as pleasing to use. The weight and the feel is somehow off, making the experience feel a tad less elegant. The glasses also tend to become cloudy after use.


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China can be used anytime, inside or al fresco, as it always makes a table setting refined. I am a china collector, so of course I love it! I picked up some great Ralph Lauren nautical themed plates this summer at Fairfield County Antiques. Each plate had a different color border and all with an adorable beach image in the center.

Go china hunting! Buy at tag sales, consignment shops, and antique centers to find more reasonable prices.

If you love a beautifully set table that will impress your guests, everyone will get great pleasure if you are able to mix-and-match from your collected patterns, making for a great table conversation later!


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China is delicate and easy to break, so it’s not ideal for poolside or beach dining. When broken, china can also sometimes be impossible or hard to replace since most is unique or bought in stores that are constantly change inventory.

Most china must be hand washed. Good crystal should be hand washed and dried with linen cloth. This means a lot of work and time after a big dinner party.

Where to Purchase:

Palmers, a local family run grocery store in Darien, has a great selection of Melamine. I also like William Sonoma, Anthropologie, as well as Juliska.

I buy all my china and crystal at thrift or consignment shops or antique centers. Some favorite antique centers are Antiques and Artisan Center and Fairfield County Antiques or Brimfield.

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