Here is a pleasant conundrum for you to mull over on a cool Monday morning.
Suppose that you had to throw up everything, leave your current belongings behind, and move into an apartment or cottage with a very small kitchen. Suppose that to help the kitchen feel more open, the designer has provided you with shelves instead of upper cabinets. Probably some of you have this arrangement already so you’ll have things to say about it but–with open shelves in a kitchen, everything that isn’t used on a weekly basis will end up covered in greasy dust. So what dishes do you put on those shelves? Which is to say, what dishes do you own and how many? Keep in mind that
(1) Space is limited, so you should pick the very minimum you can feel happy with, and
(2) If it isn’t used at least once a week it’ll get dirty and annoy you, so you’re better off without it.
If the kitchen had a dishwasher I’d be tempted to sidestep the problem and buy just enough dishes to fill it up, then run it every night with everything inside whether it had been used or not. But that doesn’t avoid the very interesting question of what to have.
Sometimes I think that coupes instead of large plates and bowls would work for us, but then I remember that we like steak and you want a flat plate for cutting it into pieces. Coupes are also not good for soup, and I like to have big deep bowls for that, so I don’t have to worry about spilling. Small, deepish bowls are indispensable for us–those small rice bowls you see on the bottom shelf of my dish cabinet are the most-used kind of dish we own. My deep soup bowls are in the cabinet to the right, by the way.
I think I would go with six place settings consisting of medium-sized plates, large deep bowls, and small deep bowls. For drinking I’d have tall tumblers and oversized mugs (my husband would want wine glasses and a pair of espresso cups also, I think). For silverware, luncheon-sized forks and knives, dessert spoons, and tea spoons (being American I’m used to eating soup with what the English would call a dessert spoon). And steak knives, because when you need them you need them. For serving pieces? A platter, a set of nesting bowls, and a pitcher.