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Brand Spotlight: Toyo Sasaki Glassware

Here at Unison we truly value the brands we work with and strive to showcase products that combine equal parts expert design + function. Today we’re spotlighting Japan-based Toyo Sasaki Glassware, a brand we’ve had a lasting relationship with and whose products continue to be a customer favorite.

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The Toyo Tumber Collection is available in 3 sizes with a matching pitcher, and is incredibly versatile. Serve anything from wine to cocktails or refreshing juices in these customer favorites.

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The Toyo Tumblers pair great with the Cubes Drink Rocks from Areaware, cooling down your cocktail without diluting your expertly mixed concoction.

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The Fino Tumblers have a simple-meets-exciting silhouette and are made using a patented glass-strengthening technique called Hard Strong®. This technique is synonymous with safety + durability, making this delicately designed glassware shatterproof and perfect for the dishwasher.

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The Rout Etch Collection fuses a clean-lined modern look with a fluid texture at the base and is available in a double old-fashioned, high ball and ice bucket. It’s a great addition to your home bar cart.

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Cheers to one of our favorite brands! Shop our full line of glassware from Toyo Sasaki here.

 

 

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Dream Weavers: Introducing Makaua Woven Baskets

 

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Beautiful things happen in the hands of artisans. Now imagine what’s possible when more than 500 artisan families are empowered to use their talents for the betterment of their community.

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That’s the story behind Makaua Baskets, a new addition to our Spring collection. The aesthetic of the baskets was what first grabbed our attention; they’re made from rustic natural palm leaves but manage to look so perfectly modern. Then we discovered their story and knew we had to share them with you.

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Makaua Baskets are made by in-need families in Mexico, who use traditional hand-braiding technique passed down through generations. These artisans have been making the baskets since 2002 and have been able to improve their quality of life with their income. It’s true — more than 500 families have been involved and positively impacted.

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The palm used is a sustainable natural fiber that’s abundant in the south of Mexico. Its gorgeous neutral color goes well with any living space. Also, those leather handles – they add refinement and make the baskets easily tote-able.

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We hope you love them as much as we do. Shop Woven Natural Baskets here

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Unison In Process: What is Matelassé?

What is Matelassé?

When you envision your dream bedroom, what description comes to mind? We’ll take beautiful, cozy, and plush. And, if it’s possible to fuse whistle-clean high style with a dash of homey goodness, we might be nearing perfection.

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Enter matelassé.

Developed in France in the late 18th century, the matelassé weaving or stitching technique was originally designed to imitate quilting. In fact, in its original French, the word “matelassé” (pronounced mat-luh-SAY) means “quilted” or “cushioned,” and the material was created to mimic the style of hand-stitched quilts made in Marseille.

By virtue of its pattern and weave, the technique achieves a padded appearance without any padding within the fabric. A single-ply, typically woven material, matelassé is often used for coverlets and decorative shams today.

A matelassé is made with either 3 or 4 sets of yarns, with 2 sets serving as the regular warp and weft yarns and the other set(s) as crepe or coarse cotton yarns. When woven together, these yarns are crisscrossed. And when finished, the crepes or cottons shrink, producing that defining, puckered detail.

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Sleeping In Style

The best matelassé will retain the hand-quilted look that has defined this material since its inception. Since it is thicker than a sheet-grade fabric, matelassé is quite durable and delivers a refined, tailored look.

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With a texture similar to a fine quilt or bubbly brocade, matelassé is often patterned in elaborate florals or (our personal favorite) simple geometrics. It is at once luxurious and easy to care for, with its strong weave and typically cotton material.

These factors add up to something we all value: stylish beauty. But its versatility is the characteristic that renders matelassé material so timeless. With its rich texture, it delivers depth and communicates style. But its clean, often neutral palette also makes it easy to combine with the overall look of any bedroom – whether clean and simple or bright and bold.

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At Unison, we source our matelassé duvets, shams, and coverlets from Portugal, where the textile trade dates back to the late 1700s. With a tradition of high-quality product delivered at fair prices, Portugal’s network of fine textile manufacturers is today considered among the most distinguished in the world.

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Our particular vendor has been working in matelassé for over 18 years—a deep and rich history that is stitched into the very fabric of our Himmeli bedding, which is produced on a jacquard power loom. The gorgeous, starburst-like pattern is selected through a controller—a computer that communicates stitch-by-stitch weaving instructions to the loom. These looms ensure a plush, hand-quilted look, while high-quality cotton delivers an elegant hand.

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So as you’re drifting off into sweet, stylish slumber, you can enjoy pleasant dreams of the rich traditions, caring hands, and impeccable designs that have contributed to your perfect tuck in.

Himmeli Matelassé Bedding is now 20% Off thru 02/26 shop the White Sale here

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Unison x The Weaving Mill

Here at Unison, we seek out and collaborate with an array of independent artists and designers, offering distinctive accessories, hard goods, and art that infuse homes with the clean beauty and functional substance of modern American design.

This year we’re especially excited about our most recent collaboration on a limited edition throw blanket with artists and co-founders of The Weaving Mill, Matti Sloman and Emily Winter. We sat down with Matti and Emily to learn more about their creative process and all things weaving. Read on to learn more and watch our video of the weaving in action!

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Briefly introduce yourselves

Emily: I grew up in San Francisco and moved to Chicago for college. I got my B.A. in History from University of Chicago. I started weaving right after I finished college, interning with Natalie Boyett at the Chicago Weaving School. I spent the next couple years working with her, teaching at Envision Unlimited and doing various odd jobs. I moved to Providence in 2013 for a Master of Fine Arts in Textiles at the Rhode Island School of Design. Matti and I overlapped for one year in the MFA program and hit it off.

Matti: I grew up in Boston and got my BFA (Painting) and MFA (Textiles) from RISD. I have worked for a number of artists over the years as a studio assistant, which informed my desire for a collaborative studio practice. After grad school, and before moving to Chicago, I participated in the Land Arts of the American West residency which expanded my understanding of the studio as a practice vs. a place.

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What is the history of The Weaving Mill?

The Weaving Mill is an outgrowth of the Chicago Weaving Corporation, a textile company that started in the 1940s. The CWC began in Wicker Park, moved to the suburbs in the mid 80s and in 2005 partnered with social services agency Envision Unlimited to create a job training program for adults with developmental disabilities.

I (Emily) worked at Envision Unlimited as a teaching artist and knew Jim, who ran the mill. When I was in grad school, I learned that he was retiring and that there weren’t any concrete plans for the textile equipment. I started talking with people at Envision and at RISD about the possibility of restarting the weaving program at West Town Center. I asked Matti if she would be interested in coming to Chicago to work on this together and she said yes, she would. We both moved to Chicago in the summer of 2015 and started cleaning up the workshop, learning the equipment, and teaching sewing classes to Envision’s clients.

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What is it about the art of weaving that you’re drawn to?

Textiles are always in some in-between territory, between art and design, utility and aesthetics. This makes it a really meaty medium to work in, because it always pushes a little bit against some of those conventions. We like that the fabric we make always moves into the world in ways we don’t anticipate.

Can you talk a bit about your residency program?

Hosting an artist-in-residence was a fundamental program of The Weaving Mill since our initial brainstorming conversations. We always imagined The Weaving Mill as a multifaceted organization. Looking towards The Fabric Workshop as an inspiration, we believe the integration of working artists into our studio and the art program at West Town Center would elevate everyone’s practice. We received a Propellor Fund grant last fall that has funded our pilot program. This summer, three artists, staying for a month each, have brought their studio practices and energy to West Town Center. Each artists contributes 16 hours of workshops for Envision Unlimited clients. The remarkable response to the workshops has solidified the importance of continuing the residency next year.

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Do you find weaving to be a fairly accessible medium for your students?

West Town Education for Textiles (W.E.F.T.) is our textile education program at West Town. We work with two groups of Envision clients twice a week, building up sewing skills. We work on cutting, measuring, design, and sewing machine skills. Our hope with this program is that participants will become comfortable with these skills and be able to use them in their personal lives and in the future, for paid production work.

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How did you begin working with Unison?

When we discussed The Weaving Mill prior to moving to Chicago with our RISD faculty, they would nod and whisper “you need to talk to the people at Unison,” as if they were giving us top secret stock tips. We have admired the level of design coming from Unison from afar, but it took Liz Collins, mentor, artist and former classmate of Unison Co-Founder Robert Segal, to give us the moxie to make contact. Eventually we hosted the team here to The Weaving Mill to geek out and talk weaving. Several months later, when Unison Production Designer Erica Lubetsky proposed this collaboration, we were beyond excited.

Shop the Unison x The Weaving Mill Throw Blanket here

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Have you partnered with other brands before? If so, which one(s)?

We are working in 3 realms right now: we do our own projects (TWM Projects), which are single-run editions of textile objects. We have done 3 of these projects so far (100 Blankets, VA! Jackets, and A Very Big Blanket) and have more coming up. We also work with artists to do more experimental yardage—this involves a process of collaborative sampling and really thinking about how to push the possibilities of our looms. We are currently working with Portland artist Sarah Wertzberger on a project, as well as Providence artist Jungil Hong. We do collaborative design and production work with other businesses—we have done projects with print designer Rebecca Atwood, apparel designer Jamie Hayes and artist Nuria Montiel (for Jamie’s line Production Mode), and textile studio Herron.

What is next for The Weaving Mill?

We recently had an exhibition at Wheaton College and we are working on the next TWM project (Navajo churro wool blankets), and we have a couple of collaborations cooking. Sign up for The Weaving Mail!

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Our New (Locally-made) Wallpaper Is In!

You’ve been asking for it. The wait is over. Our new locally-printed wallpaper comes in a range of blacks, whites, grays and metallics. The patterns – from tiny flecks to full-on grids – go with any living space. Put it up in eight easy steps and pick your level of intensity. What will it be? All four walls or just one for an accent?

Built around simple black, white and metallic grid patterns, our new wallpaper collection, designed by Unison co-founders Robert & Alicia, aims to be as versatile as it is easy on the eye. Just one more part of our ongoing commitment to simple, modern style.

Working with the team at Artisan Handprints is amazing. Having been in the business of hand printed wallpaper for more than 40 years, we knew their level of expertise was going to shine. It doesn’t hurt that they carry the Midwestern spirit of working hard while maintaining a high level of craftsmanship right here in our hometown of Chicago.

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Our Lattice Gold Wallpaper uses the clear base and actual crushed metals to achieve the gold luster that shines on the matte black surface. Their solvent inks, also made in the USA, evaporate in the drying process, leaving only the color pigments behind.

The team at Artisan Handprints is incredible. For each design, the paper is set up and then the ink is poured by hand on the screen. Each 30 feet of wallpaper is printed within a matter of minutes while the paper is fed under the screen and then dried before rolling up. This company is a perfect example of using industry standard technology and equipment alongside old fashioned printing techniques that have stood the test of time. That is just one of the many reasons why we chose this collaboration.

Already purchased Unison wallpaper? Are you curious if you can really do this yourself? Watch our simple step-by-step video on how to hang it.

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We Got Down – And You Should, Too

An Insider’s Guide to Extra-Special Pillows From Down Inc.

We’ve been doing a lot of pillow talk lately. Can’t resist – we’ve been really excited about the down pillows made by our Michigan partner, Down Inc. These softies, made with down sourced from their parent company Maple Leaf Farms, sit at the corner of comfort, modern design and sustainability. And that’s a winning combo for us.

If you didn’t make our “Let’s Get Down” store event that we had with Down Inc. last month then it’s time to get caught up on what makes the company special. You’ll easily see why these pillows are must-haves.

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What do the pillows feel like?
Have you ever sunk into a fluffy cloud? You will during a night with these. Seriously plush, never stiff, they softly mold to fit your head and neck just so. The quality cotton casing protects the real treasure inside, down: the fine, soft undercoating found under the feathers of local Indiana ducks.

Where do the down feathers come from?
Most goose and duck feathers are a byproduct of the meat industry. That’s also the case with Down, Inc., which is part of parent company Maple Leaf Farms. The Indiana family only grows animals for food and has been creating down products for 50 years. Important to note is that there’s a great traceability factor with this particular down, because it travels only 116 miles between the farms and the pillow manufacturing facility, located in Michigan. Once the down is removed from the meat source, it’s washed once on the Indiana farm and then again in Michigan, where it’s then processed using a 50-year-old patented washing method that turns it into FDA-approved, hypo-allergenic down.

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What about those that are allergic to down?
Allergies aren’t typically provoked from the feathers but the skin or dander [unless you have a true feather allergy]. The washing method that Down Inc. uses removes the skin and dander from the feathers, leaving the pillows hypoallergenic.

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How do you take care of down?
Wash down pillows every six months (they usually have a life span of two years). It is recommended to take the pillow to a professional dry cleaner and have it laundered. If you are machine-washing it at home, do it in a large capacity machine with no center agitator. Also, cut your detergent in half, set your machine to a medium water temperature, and add an extra rinse cycle. Drying down is more of a process; a down insert usually takes at least 4-6 cycles to dry, and you’ll want to re-fluff between cycles. They key to telling if your down is dry is checking for odor – if there is a smell, our down isn’t dry.

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What about down duvets – don’t they tend to feel heavy?
Contrary to popular belief, no! Down duvets can actually help regulate your temperature while you sleep, keeping you dry and warm without overheating. Unison carries the medium density down duvets, which are encased in a 200-plus thread count cotton cover, with double-stitch edges to ensure durability.

Where are Down Inc. pillows and duvets available?
At the Unison store in Chicago and online at unisonhome.com – of course! We’ve been partnering with Down Inc. since 2006 and couldn’t be more thrilled to join up with such a responsible, resourceful company.

Here’s to countless great nights of sleep!

To shop our selection of Down Inc. pillows and duvets, click here.

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As Clear as Black and White

If you’re wondering what modern design is all about, we’re ready to talk your ear off. But since a picture is worth a thousand words, we’d likely bring a great example to the table.

Good thing we know just the vase for the job: the Omaggio vase. This piece is so great—and so quintessentially modern—that we’re dedicating a blog post to it.

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But why does this vase exemplify modern design? Because it embodies so many hallmarks of the aesthetic we love: it’s sleek, simple, functional, and marked with pure color.

And it’s got a nice backstory to boot.

Kähler: A Meeting Place for Great Design

For generations, the Danish ceramics company known as Kähler has created vases along with dishes, pots, kitchenware, and more—and made its mark forever on the modern design movement.

The story began when the potter Herman J. Kähler opened a small ceramics shop in 1839. When his sons Frederik and Herman took over the workshop in 1875, the venture started to gather speed.

The younger Herman traveled Europe before returning to the workshop full of inspired impressions. He built a new facility and began experimenting with a commitment to artistry that attracted many distinguished Danish artists and put Kähler ceramics on the world map.

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With Kählers at the helm for 4 generations, the enterprise dedicated itself to understanding and adjusting to the latest trends. Over time, many of Kähler’s signature pieces have become collectors’ items and icons of design. And to this day, Kähler serves as a meeting place for distinguished artists and designers.

Like the talented pair who designed the Omaggio vase.

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Stilleben and Omaggio

At the Stilleben design studio and retail store in Denmark, Ditte Reckweg and Jelena Schou Nordentoft sell housewares that reflect the simple, functional designs characteristic of the modern movement.

Long “fascinated by Kähler’s epoch-making ceramics, which have played an enormous part in putting Denmark on the map when it comes to art and design,” they were delighted to participate in the workshop.

And we all get to benefit.

With its fusion of modern expression and function, Stilleben’s Omaggio range has met with great success and become a true classic.

The vase is a piece that is very classical in shape, with stripes that feel a bit provincial and modern at the same time. Made in Portugal, where the stripes are hand painted in most offered colors, the finished vase takes full advantage of the functionality and artistry possible through ceramic design.

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When incorporating an Omaggio vase into your own home, give it a place where it can show itself off. And don’t be afraid to combine a small collection in varied colors or a single tone. The effect is simply striking yet easy to achieve.

Now that’s great modern design.

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4 Keys to a Beautiful Bed

We’ve collected some tips for making the right decisions when refreshing your bedroom. And incidentally, we’ve got a White Sale on through April 1st, to help you get your cozy on without breaking the bank.

Do a Duvet the Flexible Way

Your fluffy, warm comforter is the king of cozy. But with the amount of space it occupies, it’s also the king of your bed’s overall look. So choose a duvet cover that you 100% love, and use it as the foundation for the rest of your bed.

One fun approach is to select a versatile pattern, like our Tiles Lemon, that you can tweak for a fresh feel with the changing seasons. Pair it with matching shams and pillowcases for the sunshine-bright days of spring. Roll it at the foot of the bed and add a light, white blanket for warmer summer nights. Or throw in dramatic black pillows for a bold statement through the coldest months of the year.

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Ditch the Plain-Jane Sheets

You want slipping into the sheets to feel downright decadent, so look for 100% cotton, and opt for a thread count above the 200 mark.

Most of all, remember that the fun doesn’t need to stop with what’s on top of your bed. Patterned sheets, like our Float Pink Bedding, bring a sweet peek of statement style to your made bed – and a big burst of whimsy to your turn-down routine. You’ll find yourself smiling every time you climb in.

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Standards and Euros and Shams, Oh My!

Pillows are the sprinkles on the ice cream of your bedroom sundae. A little festive, a little flavorful, and absolutely essential.

When selecting sleeping pillows, go soft for stomach sleepers, medium for back sleepers, and firm for side sleepers.

Or, for the ultimate in versatility, consider the Eurosquare. This pillow provides good support for sleeping; works as a sit-up pillow for reading in bed; or makes a great accessory for beds, chairs, and couches.

But how to adorn it? If you want a cohesive look with depth, select bedding that offers pillowcasesshams, and/or throw pillows in the same pattern with multiple tones. Like our Stitch pattern in various combos of black, white, pewterpoppy, you name it. It’s mix, match, mod, as easy at 1, 2, 3.

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Bringing It All Together

So, you like pattern A. And pattern B. And pattern C. What to do? Learn how to combine pattern for truly high style.

The key to mixing patterns is to vary scale. If you combine 3 different small-scale patterns, your bed will look muddled. But pick 1 pattern each in a small, medium, and large scale, and you’ve got sure-fire style.

Our Alphablocks collection offers mix-and-match pattern options with built-in variety of scale, and a major wow factor to boot.

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Any other ideas for creating a stylish bed? We’d love to hear them!

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Himmeli: Art in Another Dimension

For anyone who has ever gazed at the night sky and outlined the forms of constellations in your mind’s eye, you’ve already begun to experience the quintessentially Finnish art form known as a himmeli.

Originally crafted as Christmas decorations, the first himmeli—a Finnish adapted name derived from the Swedish words for sky or heaven—were created centuries ago by Finnish peasants. At the time, women in small villages expertly threaded lengths of straw to form decorative geometric shapes reminiscent of the constellations, or of what some believed to be signs from heaven.

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Once complete, the himmelis were hung above the festive meal table at Christmastime, decorating the inside of the villagers’ tupas or log homes.

“By their ordered nature, these balanced constructions invoke the image of cosmic constellations that suspended and slowly moving in regulated courses, make rhythmic patterns in the sky, impelled to do so by an unseen will. The celestial connection is not fortuitous: it is believed that himmelis were inspired by the story of the appearance of the glittering star that announced the birth of Christ.” *

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In the 1950s, artist Saara Hopea-Untracht began crafting numerous himmelis, “as these constructions well suited her propensity for geometric design forms.” *

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And her standout pieces influenced Unison’s own Alicia Rosauer in creating our himmeli pattern.

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Set on versatile gray, our table and kitchen linens are as festive for the holidays as they are ready for spring, summer, or fall. And stain-resistant cotton sateen keeps messes at bay, leaving the himmeli pattern at center stage.

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Over the years, different artisans have put their own spin on the making of himmelis. Some have mixed the time-honored form with modern-day materials, such as the Prisma pieces in our current collection, which could hang above any table or stand alone as a piece of art.

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Whether you believe in the himmelis’ mystical powers, as did the Finnish villagers of old, or are simply captivated by the rich history and striking, airy geometry of these many-faceted shapes, a splash of himmeli design is sure to add a new dimension to your home.

* Source: Saara Hopea-Untracht: Life and Work. Written by Oppi Untracht 1988 ISBN 951-0-14377-4

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Can’t Live Without: Corelle Dinnerware

We love dinnerware that suits any mood and every whim. Fancy dinner party? Spontaneous Sunday brunch with friends? Crashing on the couch with leftovers? For all of these moments, we turn to Corelle.

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Sophisticated but unfussy, timeless yet modern looking, Corelle was created in the 1970s by Pyrex. It’s made in the Midwest in Rosemont, Illinois, and is known for its supreme durability. Chalk it up to the revolutionary material from which its made — a special three-layer glass laminate called Vitrelle glass, which was originally fabricated for first-generation TV screens in the 1940s. No surprise, this glass is virtually break and chip resistant.

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Corelle is a true workhorse in the kitchen, being stackable and ideal for buffet-style setups. So its thinness and lightness often comes as a surprise.

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Style and designs are ever-changing — there have been more than 2,000 patterns since the 1970s — and all of them are great everyday basics. At Unison, we carry small and large plates, curved just so, as well as bowls that are great for salads or pastas. You can’t beat the price point — these pieces are just $5 or $6 each. Stock up and we know Corelle will become your mealtime go-to as quickly as it became ours.

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Shop all of our Corelle dinnerware here.