Home & Design

Make Mine Melamine (Again)

IT’S MY FAVORITE time of year: Melamine Season!

Every year I go looking for new patterns of my favorite plastic. Not that I buy many—I get just as much pleasure out of sharing them here. Go figure.

You’ll see vast differences in the prices of this colorful stuff, terrific for entertaining outdoors (or indoors, for that matter, if your neighbors wouldn’t gossip about you). It’s not just full-price store versus discount place. There are variations in the material and manufacture that can make a difference.

Our retail friend Joanie Ballard, who runs the sophisticated R.H. Ballard Shop & Gallery in Washington, Virginia (“Little Washington”), recently pointed out her favorite: Q Squared, which she has been selling at her store for several years. “Q Squared is heftier, more resilient, and has a high gloss and feels like handmade ceramic,” she said in an email, adding, “Customers are always surprised to find out it’s melamine.”

Home Depot and Bed Bath and Beyond have caught on. The Q Squared “Portsmouth” dinnerware is sold through Home Depot’s home-decor catalogue. Joanie sells primarily the elegant, go-anywhere white Ruffle Collection. The white Ruffle platter can be found at Bed Bath.

(For all its sophistication, because it’s a tiny boutique, R.H. Ballard can’t afford to sell the Q Squared collection online—shipping costs are prohibitive. But the shop is a terrific detour if you get a chance to explore the little town [“First Washington,” the older residents like to call it because George Washington performed its official survey long, long before he became General Washington, President Washington and Father of His Country].)

Because it’s a summer natural, melamine dinnerware decoration tends to run to watery blue and white, with some breaks for vivid ikat designs and traditional Portuguese and Italian pottery motifs. You’ll find lots to choose from at Target, Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma—even, MLB reader Nancy Gold told us, the Christmas Tree Shops!

Here are the versions we fell for this Melamine Season. Most of them have additional coordinating pieces, and some are available as complete dinner sets, so what we’re showing here is just a sampling.

—Nancy McKeon

This 16-inch-diameter Lastra fish platter from Vietri is $74 at Neiman Marcus.


It’s Mackenzie-Childs, so of course it’s a wild ride. The “Florabundance” collection includes dinner plates (large image), 4 for $62 at Neiman Marcus, and many coordinating pieces.


“Maharaja Medallion” salad plates are 4 for $11.96 at Christmas Tree Shops.


Billionaire heiress/designer Aerin Lauder shares her sense of style with this large (17.5-by-12.5-inch) blue-and-white Aerin “Fairfield” outdoor platter. It’s $23.96 at Williams-Sonoma.


Left: Aerin Lauder’s “Fairfield” collection includes this large (5.75-inch diameter) dip bowl, one of a set of four in coordinating blue-and-white patterns, $25.56 for the set at Williams-Sonoma. Right: Juliska’s “Splatter and Spin” 11-inch-diameter dinner plates are $18 apiece at Neiman Marcus. Coordinating salad plates (a little blotchier) are $16 each.


Melamine dishes and sparkling acrylic “Tritan” tumblers, both by Q Squared, at the Little Washington, Virginia, shop of Joanie Ballard, RHBallard. The image at right is of her Fourth of July display. Unfortunately, the shop cannot sell these heavy items online. Some can be purchased at the Q Squared online shop. / Photo by Joanie Ballard.


From Q Squared’s Ruffle Collection, this handy (and elegant) 14-by-20-inch platter is $51.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond.


Target has tons of colorful, more traditional melamine dish sets. These offbeat newcomers are “Serape,” right, from Certified International (3-piece appetizer set, $44.99) and, left, “Minecraft” from Zak Designs (10-inch kid’s dinner plate, $3.49).


A modern take on melamine are these rounded-off Room Essentials’s “Indigo Polka Dot” plates: 8.5-inch salad plate, far left, $1.79 each at Target; 10.5-inch dinner plate, $1.99 each at Target. Also at Target, “Suzani Geometric” dinnerware, a set of 4 salad plates, $12.99.


Threshold makes these blue-and-white Japanese-style Shibori plates with their handmade-looking irregular round shape. The 7.75-inch salad plates are on sale for $1.86 each at Target. The 10.5-inch Shibori dinner plates are on sale for $2.24 each, also at Target. There are additional coordinating pieces as well.


Where would summer entertaining be without some nautical notes? Here, from Q Squared, the “Portsmouth” salad plates, left, 4 for $47.97, and “Portsmouth” dinner plates, right, 4 for $55.97. All through Home Depot’s home catalogue.


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6 thoughts on “Make Mine Melamine (Again)

  1. Molly Schnabel says:

    I received some plates from Target as a Mother’s Day gift for my deck dining. They are perfect and can safely go in the dish washer.

    1. Nancy McKeon says:

      It’s actually fun putting them in the dishwasher! No worries–after all, no gold rims, no crazing, just great plastic!

  2. Nancy says:

    The Target stuff looks great! And what a price point.

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      I know! Worth getting for boating.

  3. Ginny Hamill says:

    Didn’t know it came in tumblers. Merci!

  4. Deba Leach says:

    Nancy presents a marvelous array of “plastic with another name” dishware. Who knew? Thanks for all that research and legwork! First class!

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