Formal Dinnerware Storage

There are many pros and cons of being an only child.  Going to an amusement park during family vacation: definite con.  Inheriting china from both lines of family: pro.  Especially for me.  Something about delicately hand painted porcelain brings with it a sense of nostalgia.  A more formal time when jeans weren’t worn to church, men held doors open for women, and children listened to figures of authority.  (Much of what still holds true to the South today.)

But for me, it’s not just the china.  The sterling flatware, silver serving pieces, table linens, napkins, napkin rings, name card holders – the works.  Something about all the formal elements coming together not only make for wonderful ambience, but those are the meals that make memories.  The meals that encourage people to eat a bit too much, and linger at the table in conversation long after plates have been removed.

With all my enjoyment out of these fabulous family heirlooms, I had yet to configure a means of storing them in an accessible and functional way – until now.  In our old house, we had a fantastic kitchen – especially considering it was our first home.  In this house, the kitchens storage far exceeds that of our previous home.  Which leads me to the conclusion – it is impossible to have enough storage in this room.  If it’s not storing food, plates, utensils, glasses, pots, pans, and whatever necessary whatnots – it’s the acquirement of all the ingenious kitchen gadgets and machines that I lived without but deem requirements now.  Kitchen storage is a black hole.  No matter how much space it appears to have, it mysteriously gets occupied by something you ‘can’t live without.’

One of the things I was delighted to have in our new home were coat closets in the foyer.  My parents didn’t have one, and so guests coats were always laid with care on the master bed.  Entertaining several guests with snow or rain did not leave their bed inviting to an exhausted hostess.  So, I always wanted a coat closet – and lucky me.  I not only got one, but two of them.  Not to be choosy, but it was truly one more than was actually needed.

Like a match made in heaven, the under utilized coat closet is located conveniently next to the dinning room.  Score!  It’s now officially my ‘China Closet.’  Which the very thought makes me so very happy.  And, for all you entertaining enthusiasts – you are well aware that entertaining is just like painting.  The hard part is all the preparation.  The actual event itself is enjoyable.  And, I am also a firm believer that china is a lot like a car.  There’s no point in having it if you’re not gonna use it.  I would love nothing more than to have the presence of china grace us on unexpected occasions. – like ‘just because.’

Easing efforts of entertaining, maximum utilization of space, and easy access were all key components necessary to achieve a high functioning space.  Here is my solution to storing all the fabulous items that come together to create a dinning experience:

1. Group patterns together to give a visual idea as to how much space each pattern will need.

2. Purchasing the appropriate number and size of containers for each pattern.

3. Photograph and inventory each type of piece in each collection (example: 6 dinner plates, 6 salad plates, etc.), as the pieces are placed into their storage bin.

4. With label maker, label each bin with pattern name and quantity of each type of piece stored within.

5. Place bins in closet as completed.

6. Photograph and inventory all sterling utensils, silver serving pieces, table linens, napkin rings, and name tag holders.

7. Place sterling utensils in their chest(s) and label with corresponding pattern.

8. For each silver serving piece, determine its optimal means of storage (stacked, on it’s side, etc).

9. Once you know which pieces will lay on their sides, measure the height of each piece and add half an inch.  These numbers will dictate rod placement defining ‘slots’ for each piece.   Use drill to create small circular indentions on shelf below and above rods to keep them in place.  You will want two rods about 4 inches away from each other separating all the pieces.  If you do not have two rods, it will not be as functional and easy to return each piece to its assigned ‘slot.’

10. For silver you plan to store on its side – if it has a lid or has multiple pieces, you will want to make an elastic band.  Purchase a fairly wide elastic (I believe I used 2″).  Wrap the elastic around the items you want to keep together to get an approximate length of elastic needed.  Cut elastic 1 inch shy of initial measurement.  Surge or sew ends of elastic together approximately another inch away from ends.  (Elastic is now two inches shorter than initial measurement.)  Place band around silver pieces to ensure snug fit, if loose continue to shorten elastic length until snug enough that it keeps pieces together without movement.

11. (Have silver storage bags you’re happy with? Skip to #12.)  For silver serving pieces, I personally am cursed with the traditional method of using ribbons to tie them up.  They either fray horribly (even with the spray), hang onto the bag by a thread, or rip off the bag entirely.  I believe it to be my ‘more is better’ attitude.  The tighter they’re tied, the less they’ll tarnish, right?  Right – if the ribbons can withstand the intentions.

To solve this problem, velcro lined the length of each side of the bag opening.  Being frugal, 1/4″ thick velcro was cut in half length wise, using only 1/8″ width of the velcro at the edge of the opening.  Each bag was tailored specifically per piece to maximise the silver fabric.

12. Print thumbnails of silver serving pieces, and cut each one out.  Label back, and laminate.  After cutting each tag from the laminate, attach to appropriate storage bag with safety-pin.  Make sure when putting your serving pieces away, this tag is on the corner away from the wall.  Now there is no need for second guessing which piece is in the bag.


13. For the linens I used closet rods and holders to line a small nook area within the closet.  One for each linen piece.


14. To prevent the linens from slipping off, I placed an office clip on the bottom.  Because I am overly cautious, I placed a very small amount of clear plastic between the clip and the fabric to prevent any rust that may occur on the clip from humidity from transferring onto the fabric.

15. With inventory list, create a spreadsheet to show the quantity of items per piece, per pattern collection.  This spreadsheet will allow you to verify the number of guests and number of pieces in a pattern collection are compatible.

16. I used Microsoft Word to insert pictures from a file onto the page so I could place labels underneath each photo.  When creating your pages, organize them into appropriate categories of similar items.


17.  My Home Ideas is a wonderful site to visit regarding entertaining and table settings.  They have wonderful table settings you are able to print off.  If you click on a setting below, it will take you directly to their page download so you can print it off.



18. Laminate each sheet.  Clip all the sheets together at top and bottom with binder clips.  Hold them up to the inside of the closet door, and make a small mark inside the metal clip loops at top and bottom.  Place a push-pin in each mark, and hang your sheets.  (The bottom push-pin isn’t necessary, but it will keep it from moving around when you open and close the door.

And, there you have it.  A closet filled with easy to access formal dinnerware complete with a master database to ease entertaining preparation.

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