Thursday, March 20, 2014

New Russel Wright Residential Melamine Review Melmac Dinnerware

Russel Wright Residential
Go to see this here at Dwell Store.

I ordered some of the new Bob's Your Uncle Russel Wright Dinnerware. I have to say I was curious to see if I could tell the difference and being a Russel Wright melmac collector I was forced to break down and get some.  This is my review. I wasn't paid for it nor did I get any free melmac, and of course this is just my opinion. Now, the line was remade in four colors what they call:


I spent about $100 and ordered the creamers and sugars in each line, large and small tumblers. Not bad really, for pristine melamine. The packing came and I was surprised. It was packed very well.  The label indicates the items shipped from Martin Yeeles, the owner of Bob's Your Uncle.

Russel Wright Melmac Packing Materials
 A+ on Packing

At first glance I was in shock because it's exactly if I was looking at brand new off the line Russel Wright Residential from 1950!  The black is a dead ringer for the original Black Velvet without the flecks in it. I actually have some of the original 50's Black Velvet that is missing the flecks, apparently the factory was getting lazy or not mixing in the "real aluminum dust" correctly.  So if you are comparing some old Black Velvet that barely has the flecks visible and new Black it's almost as if you are seeing double.  Your only noticeable difference would be the backstamp.

Russel Wright Black Backstamp
Backstamp on New Russel Wright Residential (URGH that does say Made in China)

The new Russel Wright says it's dishwasher safe. I would not put this in the dishwasher but I know plenty of people who do put new and old melamine in their dishwasher. he scuffs you see on the base came that way, probably from the factory polishing the base.  Most people would not pick up on the subtle differences but for sake of comparison I got out the fine tooth comb.  The noticeable differences are the thickness of some mold lines.  Overall a great job in molding!

My big pet peeve, is I hate the words "Made in China" under Russel's name. For me, to see a great American designer's name with the words "Made in China" underneath doesn't feel quite right. It's degrading, in my opinion.  The sugar bowl was $26, and I think if it's made in China it's worth about $2. Don't get me wrong, it's wonderful they are remaking the line, but I would pay more to see it made in the USA. The Prolon factory is still making melamine here in the USA, so there are places. Sure, the profit margin may be less for stores, but you could boast "made in USA" and charge $40 for the sugar bowl to cover higher production costs.

Base of Russel Wright Tumblers
This is the base of the Russel Wright Tall Tumblers
This is a comparison of the tall tumblers. New on left and old on right. The new's baseline is a bit more protruding and curvy. The thickness of the tumblers themselves and sizing is pretty dead on.

Russel Wright Residential Melmac Tumblers
Aside from the base mold lines, these tumblers are pretty similar.
Let's talk about the colors. As I mentioned the Black is very pleasing to the eye, but this White was a huge disappointment. It is truly a light shade of beige. Some of the photographs on the online stores you can buy from shows it as an off white, but most of the pictures I saw looked WHITE.  So I don't understand why the White is actually off white aka beige or cream. You can see the colorization issues here against the white paper.

White Residential Creamer is Actually Beige
The White is not White, it's beige or cream.

Now since I'm a lover of all things Russel Wright Melmac, I am not going to "dwell" on the fact this is not white, but it was upsetting as I'm not a big beige fan. So I worked it into the house somehow...and in some shots due to my camera's glare it does look more white. Only when you set it against a true white surface can you tell it's really cream. My walls are cream. It blends in nicely.

new Russel Wright made in China Melamine
White or Cream? You decide.

Russel Wright Residential Creamers from Bobs Your Uncle
Very nice modern design, but this thanks is owed to Russel Wright. 

Recap on Colorization New versus Old: 

The Black is solid black and pleasing to the eye. The original Black in the 50's was called Black Velvet and it had flecks in it.  I always heard stories of people in the West getting great noticeable flecks in their Black Velvet, but here on the East Coast a lot of my Black Velvet was missing the flecks. I started thinking I was getting seconds?

The White is not white and in my opinion should not have been called  Cream.  In the original 50's line there was Granite White which was mottled and short lived due to staining. It's been one of the hardest sets for me to acquire in full. Solid white was found in limited quantities in the Home Decorators line, I wondered if that was a special order or a fluke, but I do have some pieces. 

The Aqua seems to be very close to the 50's Home Decorator's Teal, though I am only looking at photographs and do not have examples in front of me. The original 50's Residential Turquoise would have been mottled and a shade off. 

The Yellow seems to be very closet to the Home Decorator's Yellow/Lemon, though again I'm only looking at photographs and do not have examples in front of me. The original 50's Residential Lemon Ice was mottled and muted. 

Residential Russel Wright Design

Here's my objective opinion and official review: 


For $100 the selection I obtained was not a bad deal. 

The items were shipped and packaged very well. 

The designs are reproduced as close to the original Russel Wright molds as they can be. 

It is a plus that the colors are not exact to the originals which gives them their own character. 

Being a new line with all pieces produced, it would be easy for someone to to assemble a set.

They are dishwasher safe.


I was upset the white was not at all white but beige/cream.

There are no stores near me who carry it so I had to mail order and pay shipping. 

The Made in China stamp makes me cringe.

Russel Wright Tumblers Melmac

Big and Small Russel Wright Tumblers
With that said, the pros outweigh the cons for people looking for a dinnerware set.  I can't really say that I personally be buying more of it, or acquiring examples of the other two colors for my collection. For me, I just can't get past the Made in China part. I try to buy American as much as possible unless it's a necessity and so, had this been made in USA then I'd probably be buying at least one piece of each for my collection regardless of pricing.    I would even be happier if it was made in neighboring Canada or Mexico. Therefore I think this will appeal more to the design-trenders. Those looking for cool design but not necessarily caring where it's manufactured. Finding that niche may be hard for this line to survive.  

I do think the small tumblers would look lovely holding fresh flowers and the large as well. I can't wait for this winter to be gone to find some fresh violets to put in the cream tumbler. As for the large, I've already tried it out: 

Flower Vase Russel Wright Melmac
Melmac Tumbler: Make a Vase Just Add Flowers

Speaking of flowers, special thanks to Vancouver Florist, who sponsored me writing this review. Did you know they deliver premium flowers,roses, gift baskets, fruit baskets, Belgian Chocolates, Birthday Cakes and Mylar Balloons across Canada and the USA? Call 604-558-0303 or visit 

Maybe we can get them delivering flowers in Melmac? 

Thanks for reading. You can go here to read all posts on Russel Wright melmac.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Boonton Melmac Factory Tour Stop One : This Was The Melamine Factory

Boonton Factory Time to Make the Melmac Dishes
This is the ariel tour of the Boonton factory as seen in some old memorabilia I have from Derek Schultz.
One of my resolutions for New Years was to finally move all the old Boonton New Jersey photos over from my old website from when I went several years ago in search of the Melmac Factory.  The first thing I want to explain is that when I originally thought of a big factory, I thought I'd find something like that old plant of the Solvay Factory in upstate New York. 

You would assume you'd see big industrial buildings, many stories and chimneys, towers, and industrial looking outsides. Not so, this far all the old sites for melmac factories I've been to have been long warehouses. I was lucky enough to have a paper guide, thanks to the late and great Derek Schultz, who left me a guide to the Boontonware plant, Derek spent many years in Jersey and was privy to many factory tours and behind the scenes time with the people in charge doing research on Boonton. Curiously peaked me to visit, and I did some ride by's of the existing building that compromise now 300 to 400 Myrtle Avenue. 

Boontonware Melmac Factory Google Maps
Here is an ariel view of the Boontonware address "326 Myrtle Avenue."

The original factory address says it was at 326 Myrtle Avenue.  I will explain in another post more about the inception of the factory, as George K. Scribner started up the factory in a tiny corner of another factory.  Boontonware dishes date back to 1946 based on my research! By 1955, Boontonware would be turning out 70,000 pieces of dinnerware an hour.  That's a lot of dishes.  Wow!

Sorry about the photos, that day it was raining and my camera went dead. I was forced to use a then cell-flip phone to take these crappy photos!

Boontonware Dauphin Factory
This would have been the site of the original Boontonware Melmac Factory. The building is so long, it had to be taken in several shots.

This huge conglomerate which comprises now addresses of 300 to 400 Myrtle Avenue is nearly a block long.  Above is a very large elongated building on end which had to be taken in a few shots, it was so long it would not fit in one.  This is  300-326 Myrtle Avenue, and at the time of my visit belonged to Dauphin (a furniture cmopany).  The left end (above) is considered 300..... and you must continue with your eye to follow the building....
Boontonwas Melmac Factory History
Former Boonton Melmac  site, underneath the red numbers the door is marked 326.

See how long it is! I could not get it all in one shot, it's huge!  The only clues leading me to the fact this was indeed home of all the lovely pastel Boonton dishes at one time was the teeny numbers above the door on the far right , right next to the garage door. I went to get a closer shot.  (This town is small, but this street is busy, which makes it hard to get good photos).

Boontonware Melmac Tour
Although hard to see, this door  on left with steps is marked 326 above it, and therefore, the exact address of Scribner's Boonton factory!

Boonton used both 300 Myrtle and 326 were depending on what ad or article you viewed circa 1946-1961.   The building to the right, only a few feet away from the door (probably the length of a car) . This building shrouded in bushes is way too close to be ignored. It's address is 400 Myrtle. 

Melamine Dinnerware Boonton Factory
Now 400 Myrtyle Avenue, Too close to be ignored?

The building now labeled 400 Myrtle was marked Carbone at the time of my visit could have easily been overflow offices for Boonton, but I'm unsure just what this was back then. I wanted to explore this further. 

boonton new jersey
   Mind you, this is technically marked 400 Myrtyle Avenue.  

What you see here above is the end cab of Carbide, and appears to be some sort of left employee and office entrance. Below if we follow the building around to the right, we'll find the fact the building wraps around

Old Boonton Factory perhaps?
Unsure if this was part of Boonton factory in the 50's
 I had to explore behind it to see that this seemed to be all connected to a series of warehouses and old storage buildings at one time.  I just had a hunch.  Here is what I found:

Melmac Melmac Melmac
Hello, was this part of the huge conglomerate they called the Boonton Factory?

Behind Carbone, you can see where the old glass windows of an old factory type building still stand. I am curious to know if at one time, this entire conglomerate was indeed Boonton Molding.  The way these buildings connect, it reminds you of someone continually adding on, and adding on, and adding on as they needed more room. Whether they are used now,or then, we can't know. I could easily envision those 70,000 pieces of melmac per hour having to be stored somewhere, can't you?

So my question to the locals is this, did Boonton inhabit any parts of the 400 Myrtle way 

COMING SOON:  Read How Boonton Melmac Dates Back to 1946! 

Take Part Two of this Factory Tour here.  
See the original blueprints made by Belle Kogan for Boonton's melmac here.