Pretty in pastels

By Terry Quillen


For the young married set of the 1950s, the outlook was bright: The war was over and the newest toy was the television set, the iPad of its day. The mood was, to be sure, “in the pink.”


Pastel color schemes in the kitchen reflected this optimism. The Expo Lounge blog says, “The post-war 1950s were a time of optimism and prosperity. While women got a taste of working outside the home during World War II, they went back to their kitchens in the 1950s. Homes were modern and new; it was the birth of suburbia.”


The color pink experienced its boom during this period for a specific sociological reason. According to the Expo Lounge blog, “Soft pinks ushered women back into the home, encouraging them to nurture their husbands and families.”


While pink stands out as the go-to shade of the 1950s, turquoise was another important tone. Turquoise in the 1950s kitchen was meant to encourage positive family relationships,” says the Expo Lounge blog.


Those who grew up in the 1950s will recall the days before central air-conditioning, when cool drinks were one of the best parts of summer. What a treat to find a pitcher of lemonade or a plastic water jug in Grandma's old refrigerator (which had a motor on top). At GasLamp, one can find an array of such beverage containers, pictured in the photo collage at right. The pink pastels versions are at Booth T-292 at Gaslamp Too; the pitcher with the turquoise swirls is in Booth B-115 at GasLamp; and the quirky number with the dancing Greek fellow is in Booth B-120 at Gaslamp.


For those more interested in design than nostalgia, the name of mid-century designer Russel Wright comes to mind. Whether it was a ladies luncheon or family supper, dinnerware signed by Russel Wright put artistry on the table.


Russel Wright’s philosophy put the table at the heart of the home. From there, he envisioned the layers of the home unfurling outward; this is how he went from designing tableware to the other elements, including furniture, architecture and landscaping. Every item reflected his belief in informal living. This philosophy resonated with the public. Wright’s wares became incredibly popular and, like Frank Lloyd Wright before him (no relation), he revolutionized the way Americans lived by creating a streamlined style of design.  


The photo collage, left, includes pictures of Wright’s most popular colorways, corals and pinks, as seen in the the iconic pitcher and creamer. Also pictured is a set of Iroquois Casual dinnerware in powder blue (all items at Booth T-264 at Gaslamp Too).


For pretty and practical wares, the brands Fire-King and Pyrex were a big hit in the ’50s. Fire-King, made by Anchor Hocking Co., first appeared in the 1940s as a giveaway with flour or the purchase of gasoline. It was also sold at grocery and hardware stores.


Pastel pieces of Fire-King and Pyrex (the originals made by Corning) are among the most collectible. Booth T-194 at Gaslamp Too has a great collection of turquoise Pyrex pieces, seen in the photo collage at right. The Pink Swirl Fire-King plates, also pictured, can be found in Booth T-395 at Gaslamp Too, where dinner plates and luncheon plates, 10 of each, are available.


Probably the most popular Fire-King pieces are jadeite, and they are priced accordingly (photo, below left).


Doesn’t all of this color make you want to jump in a two-tone ’57 Chevy and motor on over to Powell Avenue’s “decorator alley”? All you have to do is grab a few gallons of pink paint, a case of turquoise linoleum tile and a trunkful of retro treasures from Gaslamp and Gaslamp Too. Then you will be ready to retrofit your kitchen to look like the nifty Fifties.


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