Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Russel Wright

There was a fascinating article in my vintage Woman's Home Companion magazine written by Russel Wright himself called "…any man can keep house". Mr. Wright's wife, his design partner Mary Wright, had passed away leaving him as a single parent to little daughter Annie. 

He wrote: "I organized my menu files into a Menu Book containing 60 complete menus with a recipe for each dish and detailing the service and accessories for each meal."

Think of that! A man, not a chef, taking the time to make a Menu Book with 60 meals in it? Yes, he had a housekeeper, but once a week he drew up menus for the week ahead out of his book for the housekeeper to follow--with the dishes to be used at each meal. I am so impressed.

[Woman's Home Companion September 1956, photo by Jerry Cooke]

Mr. Wright wrote: "My spice shelves and other grocery shelves are arranged in an alphabetical filing system. Our kitchen cupboards have pictures on the doors to show the location of groceries, china, glass and serving accessories. Everything possible should be stored at the spot at which it is to be used."

The other pictures in this article were too small to be of good quality but even his refrigerator shelves had labels where everything was to go. I repeat, I am impressed. 

[Woman's Home Companion September 1956]

I am so intrigued by this man who designed such beautiful mid-century ceramics. When our first two children were young, we drove to Florida to visit my parents who had moved there. We stopped along the way at an antique store, much too pricey for us to buy anything, but there was one big box filled to the brim with dishes. They were all a lovely pale gray and I turned them over to read "Russel Wright." 

They looked like these...

They were all only about $25, a small amount today but a much bigger amount in the early 1970s. I begged for them but R.H. said he'd think about it, that we could always stop there on the way home. Of course we did not stop. Have you noticed that when you're headed home you just want to get home? 

That box of gray Russel Wright dishes has stayed in my memory for all these decades. I know we all have things we passed up buying in a little antique store or on eBay that we regret. My advice--if you really lose your heart to something, buy it.

I love the look of these Russel Wright dishes in the pretty pinks, blues, grays and yellows...

And these Wright glasses look as if they'd never been put in a dishwasher...

But it was this collection that I saw on Pinterest that has me in major envy mode--stunning!

And look at this piece of Wright's blonde furniture manufactured by Conant-Ball...

I would adore having this Wright designed serving cart...

The cart was part of the design philosophy that was typical of Mary and Russel Wright's plan for streamlining living and entertaining in a beautiful but easily managed manner. They wrote about it in their 1950 Guide to Easier Living. I haven't read it yet but ordered a copy of the paperback edition and can't wait to read it. 

Maybe there's still hope for me yet? 

I couldn't end this post without including an ad from the Woman's Home Companion issue that Russel Wright's article was in. A turquoise kitchen built of steel. I wonder if Mr. Wright would have approved? I can see those gray dishes in it with pink ones too. Darn, why didn't I pester R.H. just a little bit for them?

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