In years past, there was little middle ground between everyday dinnerware and paper plates. But manufacturers and retailers of home goods are breaking into new territory with melamine dinnerware and platters.

We can’t think of anything more perfect for the Florida Keys.

One of the truths of Florida Keys living is that our homes have unforgiving floors and patios — tile, terrazzo, concrete pool decks. While the hard surfaces hold up well to hard use and keep houses cool in the middle of a blazing summer, they spell death to a dropped glass or plate.

Today’s melamine wear is modern and beautiful. Merritt is offering a matte finish that begs to be touched. The designs by Michel are wildly popular and suitable for the Keys — palm trees and underwater coral scenes in hues of blue. Certified International makes a line of dinnerware that, at first glance, is impossible to distinguish from hand-thrown pottery. Kate Spade rocks modern, geometric designs.

Expect to pay less than $10 for a salad plate, $10 or more for a dinner plate, and between $35 and $40 for serving dishes or platters. There are several stores in town that carry fantastic examples of this dinnerware: Marooned in Marathon, D’Asign Source, Sweet Savannah’s, Uniques and even Kmart. Local retailers say they are stocking new inventory almost continuously due to its popularity. 

One final note: most melamine is dishwasher safe, but not all melamine is microwave safe. Inspect the bottom of the plate for allowed uses. Then wow the family and guests by setting a beautiful, unbreakable table. 

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Sara Matthis thinks community journalism is important, but not serious; likes weird and wonderful children (she has two); and occasionally tortures herself with sprint-distance triathlons, but only if she has a good chance of beating her sister.