STYLE: Vintage Kitchenware

I am addicted to mid-century modern design, especially housewares from the 1940s through the 1970s. I am also addicted to a good deal, and my training as an art curator and historian gives me not only a keen eye, but some extra knowledge of superior discount style when I see it at garage sales or the like. Our little ranch home on the Boise Bench is overflowing with mid-century kitsch, and our kitchen is no exception. There are two particular vintage brands that I am in love with and can't get enough of: Pyrex and Tupperware.

Pyrex was created by a savvy wife of a Corning Glass Works scientist in the early 1900s. Her husband was working on some really sturdy glass lanterns for the railroads and she got the brilliant idea that that same strong glass might make a perfect baking dish. She was right, and Corning expanded their durable glass into dishware that the housewives loved. They continue to be a very popular brand, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a household without some sort of Pyrex dish today. I, however, am in love with their vintage designs and colors and love to use them for leftovers instead of disposable plastic tubs and for mixing batches of cookies. They are much cuter, and fun to bring potluck dishes in. Pyrex can often be found at thrift stores in pristine condition for $3.99 or less. The really rare 1940s sets (like the red, yellow, and blue stackables above) can go up to around $40 at antique shops.

I think my affinity for vintage Tupperware stems from my childhood, as I recall my mom's Tupperware parties in our living room and carrying deviled eggs in her Tupperware travel container to neighborhood barbecues. It's another American success story, as in 1946 Earl Tupper molded the first legendary airtight seal on a strong, plastic, stackable container. Just two years later, Tupperware launched perhaps one of the most brilliant marketing campaigns in our history - the home shopping party held for, and by, homemakers. It not only provided fashionable and affordable kitchenware, it provided many women the ability to work part-time on their own time while still caring for their families at home. (PBS did a fabulous documentary called Tupperware! a few years back that I highly recommend.) Although today there are many Tupperware knock-offs, nothing compares to the original. Tupperware parties are still popular, as are their products, but, again, I am a sucker for the colors of the 1960s and 70s. They can be found at garage sales and thrift stores for well under $4, but haven't yet made their debut at any antique stores that I know of. Retro Pyrex and Tupperware are fun items to collect, make our kitchen more colorful, and make leftovers more exciting. What more can a housewife ask for?