Deciding on the mood you want to create is the best way to begin to select tableware. Once you have that decided, you can decide on a color and an overall style that fits in with that mood or dining ambiance such as modern, traditional or romantic as well as either formal or casual. You'll then need to view all your options in the look you've chosen for dishware, glassware and flatware that will fit into your budget. In narrowing down your final tableware decisions, make sure to consider shape, size and maintenance.
Not all cutlery, glasses and dishes stand up well to fingerprints or are dishwasher safe, so consider these qualities when making your choices. In general, textured or patterned flatware and glassware tend to downplay fingerprints or smudges better than smooth or plain styles. In terms of versatility in coordinating dishes well with other tableware such as detailed glasses and cutlery, solid-colored plates as well as bowls can be an ideal choice.
Choosing solid-colored soup or cereal bowls, side plates and dinner plates doesn't mean you have to forgo high style if you want it. Keeping the dining mood you wish to create in mind, you may want to consider a more unusual shape such as square rather than round tableware. Round is usually the best choice though if your goal is to have a traditionally set table, yet you could select solid colored dishes with a subtle accent trim around the edges.
When choosing formal tableware, think of how the items will display if you have a china cabinet. If you will have the dishes displayed in your dining room decor, you'll want to take special care to pick a set that you enjoy looking at and that coordinates with the style and color scheme of your home. If your budget is limited, or you aren't going to display dishware or seldom entertain, then choosing an all-purpose set of dishes, cutlery and glasses for both daily use and special occasions is a good idea. You can always dress up the set when entertaining with candles or a centerpiece as well as elegant table linens.
For outdoor or ultra-casual tableware, colorful acrylic pieces can be fun and inexpensive. Again though, always consider the mood or you could end up with a mix of dishes that look cheap rather than party-like. Transparent colored acrylic can look elegantly casual and be a good choice for dining with children since it's non-breakable.