Design Moment: American Modern dinnerware, 1937

Without any design or decorative pattern printed on the earthenware pieces, they were instantly regarded as daring and modern

 

In their Guide to Easier Living, published in 1950, prolific US industrial designers Mary and Russel Wright set out to create a primer for how to live covering everything from interiors to entertaining – it’s the sort of lifestyle manual we are so used to these days but then it was as fresh and modern as their designs. No more heavy furniture – Mary is credited with first using the word “blond” to describe light coloured wood furniture – the end to small rooms which separated the dining room for the kitchen, and easy to clean uncluttered surfaces to reduced the drudgery of housekeeping. In the chapter “New Hospitality” they recommend guests should be able to serve themselves from the kitchen counter, and for ease, a host could cook a single pot dish served on everyday dinnerware – not a special service kept for “good use” in a cabinet. By then the US public would have immediately thought of American Modern tableware which Russel designed in 1939.

By the end of the 1950s, when its original manufacture Steubenville Pottery in Ohio ceased its production, it had sold more than 250 million pieces earning it the position of best-ever selling tableware. Made in glazed earthenware the soft curves and biomorphic shapes of the bowls and jugs set it apart as did the muted colours

In seafoam blue, coral, chartreuse, grey, white, and bean brown and the idea that each piece could be mixed and matched to create an informal look. They were to be used both for everyday and for special occasions. Without any design or decorative pattern printed on the earthenware pieces, they were instantly regarded as daring and modern.

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