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Bowl Sets My Favorites and Where to Buy Them - From Vintage, Serving, Cafe Au Lait, and French, to True Blue Willow

Bowls and their uses

I am a lover of bowls. Bowl sets get me giddy. Especially when they match without matching. It all boils down to eye candy for me. Well, that and usefulness. There is no point in buying a bowl or a set of bowls or a bowl set that cannot do it's job correctly.

Here is an instance where one can say with confidence that size does matter. Your bowl set will do nothing for you if it is not useful and therefore cannot be enjoyed to its fullest extent.

Bowls have many uses. More than we think of off the tops of our heads. What do I use bowls for?

  • bowls for mixing--all kinds of things from eggs to large batches of homemade cookie dough.
  • bowls for holding chopped fruits or vegetables for use in a recipe.
  • lovely bowls with which to serve nuts, chocolates, candies, etc. to guests (or yes, of course, why not, myself).
  • bowls that hold or store leftovers in the fridge.
bowl made from recycled paper and row of lemons

bowl made from recycled paper and row of lemons

  • bowls in which to serve soups, mashed potatoes, salads, etc.
  • bowls to eat soup, mashed potatoes, salads, etc. from.
  • bowls to eat cereal from
  • bowls that are just the right size for serving or eating fruits out of--oranges, grapefruit, grapes, sliced fruits,
  • bowls that are perfectly fit for serving yogurt, relishes, or other condiments
  • bowls to re-warm things in the microwave

And I'm certain there are many other ways I use bowls on occasion, occasions, or on a daily basis that I'm not even thinking of. At any rate, you can see that a variety of types and sizes are good things to have about in your cabinets.

miam miam bowl set

miam miam bowl set

bone china bowl set Blue Ant Studio, July 2007

bone china bowl set Blue Ant Studio, July 2007

Finding and buying bowl sets

If you were to pop in for a visit to my kitchen and opened my cabinets, you would find one cabinet in particular dedicated to all sorts of bowls for all sorts of purposes. Some bowls came as a set. Some bowls were picked up simply because I could totally picture myself eating cereal out of them, or soup, or salad, or whatever.

I buy my bowls because they make me happy to think about eating or serving a particular something with them. And if you feel peaceful while you are eating, your body gives you a big thumbs up.

I like simplicity and a vintage look, a couple of facts about me that are totally noticeable just by looking in that one particular cabinet. Writing this, I'm fully realizing that my bowls are an extension of me, of my surroundings, of my décor. I like variety and my bowls show this.

LIM ceramics Cape Town, South Africa

LIM ceramics Cape Town, South Africa

Heath ceramic bowls

Heath ceramic bowls

stack of beautiful eggshell blue bowls

stack of beautiful eggshell blue bowls


So where do I find my bowls? A variety of places, just like the wonderful variety of bowls in my kitchen.

  • World Market
  • Target
  • Straubs (a local grocery)
  • Vintage or antique shops sometimes have what I'm looking for.
  • Thrift stores, definitely. One in particular, Value Village, has the best selection (they're great for all sorts of things, including Vintage Hooded Coats).
  • Williams-Sonoma
  • Crate and Barrel
  • Pottery Barn
  • Stonewall Kitchen
  • online - yes, I do a lot of shopping online, especially for things I'm quite familiar, like bowls.

I've included inks to some of these favorite places to buy bowls and bowl sets on this page, so feel free to browse around. I never make it to garage sales, but I have to say, that's a great way to find individual bowls to add to your useful collection.

The reason I love the places I've mentioned is because of the quality of bowls I know I'm getting. Even at the thrift store. If you know your brands and your favorites, and your trusted and trues, you'll know what you're buying. And even if you don't know, well, a bowl can also be a favorite trinket, as so many have been to me.

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Red Barn bowl found on the blog Beachy in the City

Red Barn bowl found on the blog Beachy in the City

Does price make a difference when searching for bowl sets?

Yes and no. It depends on what you're looking for and how long you're expecting it to last. It also depends on what you're wanting your bowl to be used for. Obviously certain brands are stronger, hold up better, are dishwasher or top rack safe, are less prone to chipping, etc; all this and are beautiful to boot. Not to mention some people have favorite brands and that's that. Others have special occasions and want their serving bowls and bowl sets to be of a certain quality which, quite frankly, means that the cheap bowl is probably out as a cheap bowl can't necessarily stand up to a pricier bowl, unless of course it was a lucky find.

To me, however, for the day to day ins and outs of life, if a bowl has "the" look, I feel like I can care for it properly, and that it can return the favor by providing the right kind of usefulness, I'm there.

gorgeous bowls from gleena ceramics

gorgeous bowls from gleena ceramics

vintage cafe au lait bowls

vintage cafe au lait bowls

How can I coordinate a bowl set of my own?

It's perfectly all right to mix bowls. In fact it's not only acceptable, it is also more and more expected to entertain with mismatched tableware. Just remember, however, that just like your outfits or décor, there needs to be a thread that links them when you're placing them at your table. This might come in one or more of the following ways:

  • bowls with colors that link to each other whether or not each bowl contains each of the colors
  • bowls of the same size
  • bowls of the same era
  • bowls of the same material
  • bowls of the same thickness

At the same time, if you love it, it's your style and if it's your style, chances are your bowls will match one another, even if they may not match randomly. (For example, if I may say so, this page looks lovely, doesn't it?)  When in doubt, here's a simple solution (and yes, a bit of fun):

You've got your bowls, now set them out on your table. Move them around. Let the sizes, shapes, patterns and or colors of your bowls place themselves. Often times the other things in your eat-in kitchen or in your dining room will help you get started; it's a useful idea to step back from the table and look at your room as a whole every once in a while.

Once you've done these things, step back one final time and admire. You're ready to serve.

Shop Bowls


Frieda Babbley (author) from Saint Louis, MO on January 02, 2011:

Oh thanks, Janie! I'm a major lover of blue and white. It just stirs up something in me. So glad you enjoyed.

Janie Walsh on December 09, 2010:

Nice collection. All of these sets are lovely and awesome. It's combination are very great. I love blue and white. I really enjoyed your blog. Thanks.

Frieda Babbley (author) from Saint Louis, MO on February 24, 2010:

Province Fleamarket, wow wow and wow again. How wonderfully beautiful a collection you have. Thank you so much for finding me! And thank you so very much for the link. I'm going to go drool and dream at your site. Many many thanks for sharing your collections.

Hi askjanbrass. I think the cafe au lait bowls are everyone's favorite. I noticed too that lately I've been seeing them around more and more; new ones. Mind you it could be that I've been looking out for them more as of late. I'm so glad to meed another lover of kitchen stuff. Thank you so much for the read and wonderful comment. =)

askjanbrass from St. Louis, MO on February 24, 2010:

I love cookware, dishes, and kitchen I was quite excited to come across this Hub! I really loved the vintage cafe au lait bowls, how pretty!

What a wonderful post, thanks for sharing.

Provencefleamarket on February 13, 2010:

Thank for your passion of French bowls cafe au lait , i share with you this passion and you can see a part of my collection here :

Au revoir Bernard

Frieda Babbley (author) from Saint Louis, MO on November 15, 2009:

Hey there journey. How goes this morning? Thanks much. In which case YOU have great taste as well. =D Thanks for the read.

Nyesha Pagnou MPH from USA on November 15, 2009:

Hi Frieda, you have great taste. These bowls are so nice!

- Journey *

Frieda Babbley (author) from Saint Louis, MO on November 15, 2009:

Hi Clara. Glad you enjoyed this hub and wonderful to meet another mixed bowl sets lover. Thanks so much for the read.

Clara Ghomes on November 10, 2009:

Me too love bowl sets.. Different designs looks attractive and I just cannot resist buying one set for my kitchen .. nice hub..

Frieda Babbley (author) from Saint Louis, MO on October 13, 2009:

Lgali, thank you so very much. =]

Lgali on October 13, 2009:

another good hub

Frieda Babbley (author) from Saint Louis, MO on October 11, 2009:

Thanks so mch mith_moral. I really appreciate that. Glad you love them too. Thanks for the read and taking your time to comment.

mith_moral on October 11, 2009:

These are all beautiful picks. You have wonderful taste in bowl sets. They are all simple yet they still have a touch of class and elegance. I love it! Great hub!

Frieda Babbley (author) from Saint Louis, MO on October 10, 2009:

tony, I'm finding this to me more and more true, Cape Town is a very awesome place. If it were closer I'm pretty sure I'd make a trip or two over there just to peak around! Those french bowls are beautiful aren't they? And you can't really tell from the photos, but they are small in size as well. Just beautiful. I bet they are wonderful for tea as well. So glad you enjoyed this hub. Wonderful to see you.

Hi aidy, thanks. I like to create places I can window shop, lol. Bowls are incredibly artistic pieces, this is true. They are such a pleasure. And they have been around as an artistic form for centuries upon centuries. Think of all the incredible bowls found at archeological digs from ancient times! Imagine being able to touch one of those! Not to mention all the paintings by great masters of art like Rembrandt. And of course there are the bowls used by budhist monks, for eating and music. The list goes on and on.

Am I dead, yet? on October 10, 2009:

Frieda--you most certainly create hubs on the most darling items! I never thought of bowls in such a fancy way. I am just used to my old plastic ramen bowl I use for my cereal =/ I guess it would not hurt to buy one decent bowl to enjoy my cereal in instead. Beautiful hub by the way!

you know Frieda? The bowls pictured here are like art, the way the bowls are shaped, painted and detailed. I think they are absolutely beautiful.

Tony McGregor from South Africa on October 10, 2009:

Cape Town rocks! Even the bowls that come from there are great!

I love the bowls they drink coffee out of in France.

Thanks for this interesting Hub.

Love and peace


Frieda Babbley (author) from Saint Louis, MO on October 09, 2009:

Hi Jess. How goes? There's nothing like a bowl... set of your very own, is there. And thanks for noticing that I am correct. I find that I am 99.9% of the time. How's the cold? Hope you're getting better.

Jess Killmenow from Nowheresville, Eastern United States on October 09, 2009:

Nothing like a nice set of ... bowls. Actually I like bowl sets, too. As you so correctly point out, they come in and almost endless variety. :)

Filipino girls on October 09, 2009:

thanks your hubs its very useful

Veryfortunate on October 09, 2009:

I bored always when find favorite bowl,Thank you.

Frieda Babbley (author) from Saint Louis, MO on October 08, 2009:

rofl, Janetta. Very funny. (giggle) I would have such a hard time choosing if they were all layed out in front of me. I'd have to succumb to mood. Yes, those Cape Town ones are marvelous, aren't they? Did you read the blog I got that from? I especially enjoyed that one a lot. The Red Calico one you can purchase at Burleigh. I have the link in there under "Related Blogs and Places". That's a new pattern. Just beautiful.

Janetta on October 08, 2009:

woohoo!! I know how to make Frieda giddy--buy her bowls!! :D lol

I like the ones in the second pic--the ones from Cape Town. And I love love love the red calico one at the end :)

Frieda Babbley (author) from Saint Louis, MO on October 08, 2009:

Shalini, "lift the spirits", yes, beautifully said. They most certainly do.

alekhouse, I hadn't really thought of it, I thought it was just another odd quirk of my, but low and behold there are so many of us. It's wonderful to hear. And yes, don't you just love those cafe au lait bowls. If I spot any at a rummage, they're mine! (I'll e-mail you a couple, though. Jeez don't you just wish you could do that? E-mail real gifts?)

Storytellersrus, wonderful to see you. I've started an e-zine, and since I'm going on the cheap I've had to design and do all the technical stuff myself. Now I can finally get back to writing again! It does seem like forever, doesn't it?

I've got to check out and see how the bikeathon? went. I loved the updates on that.

And hah, you are so right, the colors on these bowl photos are definitely stress free. I just had to go and check and by god, I've discovered I covet stress-free. You'd never know it, lol. Soooo glad you love them. Good for the soul so to speak.

I think that is an awesome idea to give away a beautiful bowl like that. You've got to hub that one for us! Really, it would spark so many ideas and put so much into perspective. (You have the tendency to do that, don't you, lol. I think it's awesome.)

Candie, hello hello! Yes, bowls are so very quiet, and dare I say, humble, comfortable, exquisite, breathtaking, serene, comforting.... a plethora of adjectives. On an odd day, I do like to put cereal on my sundae. One definitely needs the perfect bowl for that;)

Quill!!!! Wonderful to see you here! How great is this? Well, I'm going to tell you, those are two extremely important qualifications for a bowl - being able to hold cereal and being easy to wash; and I'm not being funny. :]

It's quite that time of year sneaking up on us again, isn't it? And yeah, every year we've got more and more to chose from, especially when you take into consideration all the styles from the past. I've really been excited by what's out there these last three or four years though. So much more of a variety in styles and uses than ever before, mass availability wise. Mind you I suppose the internet may be responsible for that.

kartika, I'm thrilled to hear you say this. Yay! Another bowl lover. And the best part is these made you happy. That is so awesome. Come back and look at them any time you like. I have been, I mean they're fantastic, aren't they?

kartika damon from Fairfield, Iowa on October 08, 2009:

Oh thank god! All theses pretty things made me happy - I love bowls too! Kartika

"Quill" on October 08, 2009:

Leave that to the wife...smiles...she has a collection hidden in most cupboards, as long as they hold ceral and wash easy that's what I look for.

About to get started on turning some on the lathe for Christmas gifts this year, there are many neat designs out there.


Candie V from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure! on October 08, 2009:

Ah.. the oft-overlooked-humble bowl. I love them. Gotta be deep and not too big for ice cream sundaes.. and cereal. Love bowls too! This hub is fun!!!!!

Barbara from Stepping past clutter on October 08, 2009:

Frieda, I have not seen your name in a very long time. Where have you been??? I love the colors of the bowls on top. They are stress-free colors and my eyes want to sink into them and take a rest, haha. I love bowls, too. Our Women's Crisis Center has a Bowl Benefit each year where each attendee receives a handmade soup bowl to fill for dinner and gets to take it home. It is a wonderful event! Thank so much for this great hub.

Nancy Hinchliff from Essex Junction, Vermont on October 08, 2009:

I love bowls too..never knew there were so many of us; bowl collectors I mean. I have several sets and buy them everywhere, including some of the places you mentioned.

Most of my bowls are blue and white, as that goes with the décor in my B&B. My parlor and dining room are done in blue and white, with french Impressionist prints on the walls, and blue and white Toile wallpaper in the dining room.

My favorite bowls are the authentic Chinese rice bowls, blue/wht, Chinese red/wht or green/wht. large, small, and very small to drink tea from. I like bowls that nest or bowls with matching lids.

I absolutely love the "Vintage Cafe au lait" bowls in the last photo....I would buy those in a NY minute! and I also love Blue Willow.

Great hub.

Shalini Kagal from India on October 08, 2009:

Lovely bowls and lovely pictures, FB!

I'm partial to blue willow china too - as well as Wedgewood and Old Chelsea - they somehow lift your spirits, don't they?

Frieda Babbley (author) from Saint Louis, MO on October 08, 2009:

Hi there robie2. Ah thanks. You know, sometimes the time spent searching is well worth it, for photos and bowls!

Blue Willow bowl sets are GORGEOUS! My mother used to have those. When I see them I just melt. Crazy isn't it, that a bowl can evoke such memories and attachment. But they do. Thanks, JJ. =]

Pachuca213 on October 08, 2009:

this was cool....I am partial Blue Willow bowl sets, as my Great Grandmother used to have a hutch full of Blue Willow china...this was a great and unique hub girl! =)

Roberta Kyle from Central New Jersey on October 08, 2009:

I love bowls too and love this hub with everything I ever wanted to know about them-- Like you I buy them everywhere and am a real fan of yard sales and ebay..... thanks again Frieda for another great hub-- great pix too

Frieda Babbley (author) from Saint Louis, MO on October 08, 2009:

lol. You're a fast one today Mr. Walrus! I say trusing your wife in these matters shows excellent judgment. =D By the way, your last post, fabulous.

ralwus on October 08, 2009:

Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment. I have learned to trust my wife's judgments on bowls and such. :D

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