Fine porcelain china is being replaced with a more modern take on dishware.

Share story

Of all the rooms in actress Mandy Moore’s California house, whose recent renovation has been meticulously documented on Instagram to her 2.5 million followers, the kitchen is the crown jewel.

It features cabinets painted a subtle shade of sage green with brass fixtures and — on full display in her open shelving — stacks of pink plates and bowls.

Emily Farnham, Moore’s architect, is the one who suggested the dinnerware, as well as matte gold flatware, from Year & Day, a new company in San Francisco. “Typically architects don’t get that involved in selecting dishes,” Farnham says. But the kitchen is meant for entertaining, and so the plates are practically part of the furniture. “This little pop of blush, and the gold that works so well with all the brass, it was an obvious choice,” she says.

As thousands of amateur Martha Stewarts document their home entertaining online, tableware is being … dishrupted, if you will. Once the domain of wedding registries, it is now more commonly bought after moving to a new home, or after a renovation. Fine porcelain china is being swapped for rough-hewed materials with unexpected places of origin.

Many shoppers are no longer buying one set for everyday use and another for special occasions, instead placing orders for a single look that is both casual and elevated. New brands encourage mixing and matching.

Year & Day arrived online in October, selling dishes, serving pieces, glasses and utensils. Its ceramics come in four colors inspired by the California coastline: Daybreak (pink), Midnight (deep navy), Fog (light gray) and Moon (off-white).

Made in Portugal, the pieces have a semi-matte glaze, intended as an antidote to shiny phone and laptop screens. It also photographs better — because, Instagram. Open shelves like Moore’s were top of mind, too; the plates have a slight curve at the edge so they look more attractive when stacked.

Another cause for the change in style: When people between the ages of 25 and 35 graduate from their bargain-priced box sets, they don’t feel beholden to the same etiquette standards as their parents, says Andrew Corrie, the founder of Canvas Home, a home-goods retailer. Today’s shoppers are getting their inspiration from Pinterest, not from Emily Post.

“No one really wants to have dinnerware in the cupboard that comes out on the High Holy Days only,” Corrie says. “The world has become a lot less formal.”

One more thing dishes must now do: tell a story. Diners who care about what farm grew their arugula or raised their free-range chicken now want to know more about where their dishes were made. “People want a slightly different, deeper connection with the rest of that dining experience,” says Carly Nance, a founder of The Citizenry, a home-goods website.

The Citizenry teams up with artisans in a dozen countries. Like menus at some farm-to-table restaurants, the site offers a “story” section for each of its products to describe where and how it was made. So while sipping free-trade coffee from a Dublin-made Halston ceramic mug, you can think about how it took several days to throw, fire and glaze that piece.

Hey, that’s one way to break the ice at a dinner party!