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Treasure Hunting Report: Melmac, Who Knew?

Confession: I am sometimes a snob when it comes to materials.  I refuse to wear polyester.  I like the feel of vintage Irish linen tea towels.  If it means I can only afford to buy one sweater a year, I spring for soft wool or cashmere (and I literally bought only one sweater this winter).  I like things to feel good, plus I like to buy things that will last and I have more confidence in certain materials.  With this snobbery in mind, I have felt a bit “meh” about plastic dishes.  But when we stopped by Bentley’s Flea Market a few weeks ago and Gemma pointed out how cute the vintage Melmac dishes Annette was selling would be for a play kitchen, of course I took a second look.   I’m play kitchen obsessed right now!

For what will be the best-accessorized play kitchen ever, I picked up a few sugar bowls that look like mini casseroles and some plates that will act as platters, in colours that were made to match the adorable ice cream cone fabric we’ve been making tea towels and pot holders from.  The shape and colours of vintage Melmac dishes are so sweet, I’m sad for the lost years I snubbed it.

Melmac, for those who don’t know (I didn’t, so I researched), is a brand of melamine produced by the manufacturer American Cyanamid.  It was used by various companies/designers to make dinnerware that became popular in the 1940s, after melamine (a durable, thermoset plastic) became affordable.  Melmac was produced in later decades also and you can find pieces from the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s.  Even Russel Wright used the material to make stylish mid-century dinnerware! 

No play kitchen plans?  I think that these durable, stylish pieces would be perfect for storing bathroom goodies like Q-tips and makeup.  Or a set would be great for patio parties.  I love non-breakable items for spaces in which I run around barefoot.

The Retro Kitchen

Here are a few logos for your reference, and check out this website for more links and information for collecting and identifying pieces.

Some melamine tips:

  • Do not microwave.
  • Keep away from heat (like a stove top).
  • Avoid using sharp knives because it can become scuffed or scratched.
  • Avoid hunting for Melmac at Ottawa yard sales because I will find you and give you what Hubby calls my “sad-face”.  It is super sad and you will cry and feel guilty forever. 


  1. Lili
    March 30, 2012 / 2:04 pm

    So this is where Alf is from! Who knew! 🙂

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      March 30, 2012 / 4:20 pm

      Hahahaha!!! I never thought an Alf reference would pop up on the blog. Yep, Alf is from the planet Melmac, likely where this material was discovered, lol.

  2. Cassie @ Primitive & Proper
    March 30, 2012 / 5:18 pm

    i am totally having plastic dish envy over here. and that is hilarious about alf!

  3. Vintage Market Place
    March 30, 2012 / 5:31 pm

    Great colors.I used to collect it ages ago.It was so fun seeing the different stampings on the bottom.Amy

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      March 30, 2012 / 6:27 pm

      Yes, I am totally obsessed with how many designers/manufacturers actually made this stuff!

  4. gemma@thesweetestdigs
    March 30, 2012 / 7:29 pm

    SO glad you are doing this project!! I love, love, love your collection so far. The colours are perfection. Is there an age limit to who can come play in that kitchen? 🙂

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      March 31, 2012 / 1:36 am

      I scored a free set of cabinets from kijiji before I bought the ones I'm using, so let's make a mini kitchen just for us, lol!

  5. Dana@Mid2Mod
    March 30, 2012 / 7:41 pm

    We have a cool orange set on Etsy, but I am seriously thinking about keeping it for myself to use when the boys come over. I'll need shatterproof dishes for them for quite a few more years.Yours are perfect with the ice cream fabric.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      March 31, 2012 / 1:37 am

      Oooo, sounds pretty! They would be perfect for the boys and you love orange!!

  6. Lets just build a house!
    March 31, 2012 / 1:52 am

    VERY cool. I never liked plasticy dishes either (fiesta ware snob) but these are cuttttte

  7. Keira
    March 31, 2012 / 2:20 am

    Love the colours!

  8. Adding the finishing touch
    March 31, 2012 / 3:02 am

    I love the colours so much!!

  9. Shannon
    March 31, 2012 / 11:38 am

    So amazing for a play kitchen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Be my auntie!!!!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      March 31, 2012 / 6:25 pm


  10. Shannon
    June 7, 2012 / 5:18 pm

    Dude….I just bought 8 cups, 4 saucers, 11 bread plates for $10. 'genuine melmac' by rainboware…..totally thought of you!!!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      June 7, 2012 / 7:22 pm

      Oooo, I'm totally jealous!!!

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