Your Next Decorating Secret Weapon Just Might Be Hiding in Your Kitchen Cabinets

published Jul 21, 2021
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Credit: Casey Zhang

If you’ve ever seen a tiny dish in a shop and wondered, “What would I ever do with that?” I have an answer for you. Those itty-bitty bowls and petite plates are actually among the most-used items in my china cabinet. In fact, the smallest dishes are the ones I keep finding new uses for! Sold as prep bowls, pinch bowls, ramekins, salt dishes, saucers, or butter pat plates, tiny dishes can be used for myriad uses. 

I first discovered the magic of tiny dishes working on magazine photoshoots. No matter what the shoot was, it seemed like the prop stylist always showed up with a stash of gorgeous miniature dishes. Shooting an office? The stylist would pile paperclips in a little dish meant for soy sauce. <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="Setting%20a%20table?%20Salt%20and%20pepper,%20red%20pepper%20flakes,%20even%20little%20pickled%20jalape%C3%B1os%20%E2%80%94%20all%20would%20get%20laid%20out%20in%20small%20bowls%20as%20accents%20on%20the%20table.%20Some%20pros%20even%20use%20little%20bowls%20or%20dishes%20on%20coffee%20tables%20in%20lieu%20of%20larger%20trays,%20as%20seen%20in%20the%20image%20above.%20Professional%20stylists%20are%20so%20enamored%20with%20itty-bitty%20serving%20pieces%20that%20my%20friend,%20<a%20href=" https:>prop stylist Carla Gonzalez Hart, even coined a dedicated hashtag for the discovery of these pieces: #teenydishfriday.

Credit: Laura Fenton

Back at my own home, I began to put my prep bowls to use in similar ways, starting with the dining table. I use these little guys to hold salt and pepper, soy sauce, za’atar, and freshly chopped herbs at meal time. Slightly larger tiny dishes are also great for votive candles or even to float a single blossom. Come dessert or coffee and tea time, and a little dish can hold candies or sugar cubes. When I want my son to have a modest portion of ice cream, I reach for a tiny bowl or ramekin.

Once I discovered the magic of tiny dishes, I started buying them for every room of the house. I have a few little cups in my desk drawers for office supplies, bowls in my bedside tables drawers for jewelry, and my friend, professional organizer Lindsay Downes, inspired me to use a tiny dish to store my retainers!

Credit: Kim Lucian

What I like best is that if I see a pretty little dish, it rarely costs more than $15, which means these are great for trying more expensive pottery brands like Hawkins New York or Campfire Pottery. Thrift stores sometimes carry random little bowls and plates for less than a buck, and antiquated butter pat dishes are super affordable on eBay. These seven tiny dishes have caught my eye, but once you start looking, you’ll probably find them everywhere — maybe even in your own kitchen cabinets already!

Credit: East Fork

Bitty Bowl

East Fork Pottery’s signature stoneware looks particularly appealing in this small-scale bowl. Bonus: They’re now a certified B-Corporation!

Buy: Bitty Bowl, $12.00 from East Fork

Credit: Food 52

Hawkins New York Pinch Bowls

With Hawkins New York, it’s all about the nuanced color. The muted pinks, grays, and off-white tones of these mini bowls are gorgeous, and right now, they’re on sale, too!

Buy: Hawkins New York Pinch Bowls, $40.00 $32.00 for a set of 4 from Food 52

Campfire Pottery Mini Shallow Dish

Made in Maine, this pretty scalloped dish by Campfire Pottery is part of a collaboration with Maine jewelry designer Jenny Bravo. While made specifically for holding rings, this shape is perfect for sauces, salts, and herbs, too.

Buy: Campfire Pottery Mini Shallow Dish, $20.00 from Campfire Pottery

Credit: Crate&Barrel

Crisscross Sauce Dish

I love this dainty, dotted dish. Use this budget pick to stash your jewelry on your bedside table or paperclips on your desktop.

Buy: Crisscross Sauce Dish, $4.95 from Crate & Barrel

Credit: West Elm

Small Foundation Bowl

This simple, hollowed-out marble bowl is the perfect thing to put on a hall table to corral keys or use as little catchall for matchsticks. You could also try one on a dresser for hair clips or hair ties.

Buy: Small Foundation Bowl, $30.00 from West Elm

Morgan Levine Ceramics Pinch Bowl

A long-time admirer of Levine’s handmade ceramics, this colorful marbleized pinch bowl deserves a place in a serious ceramics collector’s home. It’s a splurge but a piece you’ll have forever.

Buy: Morgan Levine Ceramics Pinch Bowl, $50.00 from Anthropologie

Assorted Sauce Dishes

I’ve had some sauce dishes like this set from Pearl River Mart since my earliest days in New York. The rich blue ceramics are like a great pair of jeans: They look good with everything!

Buy: Assorted Sauce Dishes, $21.50 for 4 from Pearl River Mart