“Have nothing in your homes that you do not know is useful or that you think is beautiful,” said William Morris, the great-great-grandfather of contemporary houseware design. He was speaking in Victorian England to an audience whose way of life was very different from ours.
Over the past 140 years, his words have been quoted, misquoted, and reproduced numerous times on household items that are neither useful nor beautiful. But nonetheless, they still have meaning. “I keep coming back to this beautiful quote from William Morris,” says Helen James, designer of the Considered range for Dunnes Home. “I believe that the things you use every day should bring you joy.” Launched in 2015, Considered by Helen James has been updated on many occasions, most recently this fall. It now includes furniture – a wooden stool (€125), a rope stool (€100); a brass floor lamp Verna (€50); and a laurel rug (€90) – but the heart of the collection has always been food and food.
Recently, James has been searching for old notebooks ever since she first introduced the concept of a homewares collection to Dunnes. “My pitch was about preparing a meal for a friendly gathering. Not a formal dinner party – just a meal with family and friends. It started with a notebook to jot down the list of ingredients you wanted to buy, then there were cooking utensils and serving utensils, and it ended with sticky notes to write thank-you notes on. That was my first concept and it became my first collection.”
The latest iteration includes more of what people like best. The blue toned tableware series Evissa is made in Portugal and glazed by hand. The slight variations in the glaze give each piece a subtly different character. While this is no substitute for pottery thrown on the potter’s wheel, it does give them some of the quality of being handmade.
Similarly, there are some new wooden items in this re-launch of the collection: a range of chopping boards, a tray and a paddle (from €10). “They’re very versatile,” explains James. “You can use them for chopping, serving, or hanging on the wall. I keep one next to the stove and leave my oils and vinegars on it to protect the surface from drips. But you can also use it as a sausage board. I like multifunctional things. If I give him a place in my closet, he’ll have to earn a living.”
As with hand-glazed pottery, the natural variations in the wood ensure that no two are the same. “We also have a new ceramic range, it’s called Aran, and it took us a year and a half to find the right shape.” The Aran range is cream in color and a cereal bowl costs €8.
James goes back to her 2015 notebook. “When I presented the first collection, I wrote that I wanted it to be beautiful, natural, honest and accessible.” Then she laughs. “I wrote accessible three times!” The affordability priority is where it splits from its hero, William Morris. His designs were handmade from natural materials and extremely expensive. Fast forward to the 21st century, where items can be made from natural materials and made with some elements of manual labor in other countries.
This business model is not entirely unproblematic, but it leads to inexpensive household goods with handicraft elements. “If I did it myself, it would reach a much smaller audience and it would cost ten times as much,” explains James. “That’s the beauty of working with Dunnes. I can design things that are affordable.”
The concept of everyday housewares is fundamental to their design ethos. “It’s the opposite of ‘good room’ and the things you save for special occasions. I have three boys and so much vintage china has broken over the years that we are no longer happy about anything. I grew up with the idea of a good room where children were never allowed to go. And good china, used a few times a year. Now it’s kind of the other way around. The children rule the neighborhood and our houses are much more likely to be open-plan. Even when the ground floor of a home has separate rooms, there’s a sense of flow between them that wasn’t there a generation ago. There is one phrase I keep coming back to. live below. I think my collection is all about that.”
The sense of movement between the part of the house where we cook and the part where we eat is reflected in other collections. Available from April, Dutch brand HK Living and the bear always seem to push the way we delineate and define our living spaces. It’s rustic but also urban; Retro but also new; and quirky but practical (the last one is very Dutch).
The company’s mismatched pottery (from €7) combines a faux 1970s aesthetic with vessels of a size and shape that 21st-century people want. Like Dunnes’ Evissa range, these are made with a reactive glaze that gives them surface individuality and are designed for informal gatherings. Each colorful piece seems to say, “I’ve just reached this random item that I’ve been thinking about really carefully.” There’s a contradiction, but it makes interesting dishes.
Nine times out of ten, casual dining cuts the mustard. On the 10th, you need to look like you’ve put some effort into it. “We expand our collection each season so customers can add to their own tablecloth collection rather than buying a new table setting,” says Tara O’Connor of The Designed Table. Like Dunnes, it is an Irish company. The pieces are designed here but made abroad.
The basic idea is that you have a core vocabulary of versatile basics to use all year round and a few seasonal pieces for festive fun (the trick is to label the box and remember where you put it) . Then a tablecloth that you use all year round can be adorned with jute placemats (€10 each) and embellished with orange linen/cotton napkins (€48 for a set of 4) and mango wood napkin rings in the shape of pumpkins for Halloween carved (€24 for a set of 4). The seasonal refreshment of the range also includes a table runner embroidered with pumpkins and jute trimmings (€65). Happy Halloween!
See dunnessstores.com, aprilandthebear.com and thedesignedtable.com
https://www.independent.ie/life/home-garden/interiors/how-to-bring-beauty-to-your-home-with-select-tableware-42083409.html This is how you bring beauty into your home with selected crockery