Have you every noticed that items that were once the property of “the common folk” wind up being trendy and highly sought after a generation or two later? Consider the price of an old farmhouse desk in an antique store and you’ll see what I mean. Another example of this would be Milk Glass.
Named for it’s white, milky color, milk glass was produced from about 1835 through the 1980’s. It was “porcelain for the masses” and allowed lower- and middle-class homes to enjoy similar aesthetics for their dishware and figurines as the upper-classes did via more luxurious options.
Milk Glass: Porcelain for the Masses
Of course, over time, milk glass has become a collectible and has made quite a comeback in the interior design world. You can find modern milk glass light fixtures and reproduction pieces from several manufacturers. Antique milk glass can run from a few dollars at a garage sale or flea market to thousands of dollars for rare and collectible pieces. If you don’t know your stuff, it’s easy to get ripped off.
Keep your eye out for the name Westmoreland Glass Company, which was one of the major producers of milk glass throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. However, many pieces lack any official manufacturer’s stamp so it can be difficult to know if a piece is truly antique or not. At one point, lead was used to produce milk glass, making the pieces ring like a bell when tapped.
Creative Ways to Decorate With Milk Glass
Of course, if it’s the look you want and the antique factor is less of an issue, you’ll be able to find affordable reproduction milk glass at big box stores like Ikea. Once you’ve started your collection, it’s time to get creative in how you display it.
In Groups. One of the most fun things about milk glass is all of the different shapes, designs and motifs that were used in its design. There are several different ways to organize your groups. You can use things that are the same, as in a grouping of milk glass bowls of different sizes or milk glass vases, etc. The continuity of the objects paired with the difference in patterns, textures or shapes is attractive. Or, you can do groupings of different milk glass objects, like a bowl, a few coffee cups and sweet milk glass figurines.
In an all-white design. Their fun textures and shapes, combined with the shiny white exterior makes them an excellent accessory for an all-white design.
Use them functionally. One of the best things about anything produced for “the masses” is its durability, and most milk glass is certainly that. You can use milk glass pitchers as vases or take a row of milk glass bowls or cups and plant them with bulbs or succulents. Milk glass looks gorgeous at night with the soft light of a candle glowing from within. If you have a few tea cups or bowls in your collection, try placing a votive or tea light inside and lighting it up. The bright white looks great with color so I also recommend using milk glass bowls or cake stands to display colorful seasonal fruit on a table.
Light fixtures. One of my favorite modern uses for milk glass is as a light fixture. Several manufacturers use milk glass for lighting fixtures of all types. They look especially good as a kitchen pendant because their vintage look works with any design style.
Are you a milk glass collector? Post your favorite display ideas on our Kristina Wolf Design Facebook page.