The 1960s Cult-Classic Dinnerware Making a Comeback

The 1960s Cult-Classic Dinnerware Making a Comeback

If your kitchen cabinets are filled with stackable dinnerware and cups, you have Lella and Massimo Vignelli, along with plastics manufacturer, Alan Heller, to thank. In 1964, Vignelli designed a bright, colorful, and perfectly stackable melamine tableware set. As writer Alissa Walker says in a 2021 article in New York Magazine’s Curbed: “Vignelli’s pieces embodied both precision and playfulness, and they did indeed tolerate total abuse, but they also excelled at a task most housewares companies hadn’t nailed: stackability.” This same set would later be produced by Heller in the United States.

Photo by Massimo and Lella Vignelli papers, Vignelli Center for Design Studies, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY

Heller discovered the original designs in 1966—which were initially only available in white and yellow—when they were on loan from the Museum of Modern Art, where they sat as part of the permanent design collection. This original set was named “Max I” and had been manufactured by Aricoli Plastici Electrici (Arpe) in Milan in 1964 after the stackable tableware won the Compasso d’Oro Award for Good Design. When the Italian company went out of business soon after, Heller flew to Italy to rescue the original molds that sat abandoned in storage. He then reintroduced the Max series to the United States—with a new range of bright rainbow hues—and it soon became known as “Hellerware.”

As writer Becca Blasdel said in Vice in June: “While you can buy the pieces brand-new from Heller and the MoMA design store, there is a certain charm to owning a vintage set—imagining the many meals shared atop these iconic colorful plates. If you are the type of collector that enjoys especially rare finds, it’s the pastel hues from the 70s that fetch the highest price tag (and would look absolutely incredible mixed in with all your fave Memphis Milano collectibles).”

The vibrant dinner sets then went on to take over the kitchens and dining rooms of homes everywhere. Now, decades later, the illustrious Hellerware is making a comeback.

Photo by Ty Mecham

Photo by Ty Mecham

In our latest drop of new arrivals, our Shop introduced a handful of these iconic dinnerware pieces to our online shelves. Each plate, bowl, and mug comes in those signature rainbow hues, is (of course) stackable, and is made from durable, outdoor-entertaining-friendly melamine.

Each dish is available in individual six-piece sets, or as a full 16-piece set, and the mugs come as a six-piece set. Choose between Green, Blue, Orange, Yellow, and White for a monochromatic collection, or mix and match the six-piece sets to create a rainbow palette. However you choose to do it, you can’t go wrong.

Do you own any vintage Hellerware? Let us know below!

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