Photo: Peggy Kross

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Why it works: Although this grouping includes casual and formal china in random sizes from different eras, the blue-and-white color scheme holds it all together. Plates handpainted with birds, fruits or flowers are also good choices, as are selections of Fiesta ware or majolica.

Other options: Vintage evening bags, old hand mirrors

How to try it: You probably have all that you need right in your cupboard. You'll also find one-off dishes to mix and match at flea markets and on eBay; also keep an eye out for designer collaborations with stores such as Target (John Derian, Liberty of London and Missoni have done plates for the company).

One last thing: We like adhesive Plate Hangers by J&Y Crossman, which are labeled for plates of different weights or sizes (available at or at local china shops). While you'll often see plates arranged in parallel rows, hanging them in a circular or diamond pattern, or in uneven rows can be a little more visually snappy. You want to leave no more than 1 1/2 to 2 inches between the plates, so lay them out on the floor first. Groupings of threes and fives work best.