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Apartment D: 1949

Apartment D: 1949

May 13, 1949. "Russel Wright, residence and business at 221 E. 48th Street, New York. Apartment D, view towards bookshelves." Abode of the ceramic design guru. Large-format acetate negative by Gottscho-Schleisner. View full size.


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That Western Electric telephone.

Up to date except

That could easily be a 21st century hipster pad, but for the Western Electric 302 desk phone. Which is hip in its own way (and there are kits available to translate pulse into tone, and make it into a VOIP phone), but not usually seen as fitting in with minimalist décor.

Oh yeah, and the champagne bottle lamps. Seriously passé. Perhaps irretrievably so. (Though that vintage might today alter the equation.)

Apartment D

That has all the warmth and homey feeling of a prison cell.

Russel Wright dinnerware

My mother served our daily meals on Wright dinnerware. Half the set was gray, the other half coffee brown lightened with a bit of cream. Why two colors I never thought to ask her. Maybe she and my dad compromised.

A few years ago I saw re-issued Wright dinnerware in the same colors at a design store. Of course, the new dinnerware was scaled up for modern appetites. What had been our dinner plate in 1955 was a mere sandwich plate 50 years later. Bigger is not always better.

Apartment D

D is for Depressing.

A Man Called White

A very good read, and available on Amazon:


Looks like he got his furniture at a dollar store.

Breaking Bad - The Book inspiration

Finally we see the the early written inspiration for the popular HBO series - penned by Walter White himself!

Fuzzy Chair?

The chair upholstery looks to be Nylon Frieze (friz-zay). God-awful ugly, but it never ever wore out. My friend's aunt had a turquoise sectional that was at least 60 years old but still looked like new!


Those shelves don't look like they can stand many more books. The center shelf is already showing some sag. Wonder why a center support wasn't installed. Maybe Wright only liked to do light reading.

Not a workmanship or engineering guru

Look at the bookshelf! It's bent all over the place, and looks like it might fall down if you filled it up. It needs more support and/or much thicker shelves. They appear to be unfinished 3/4" pine. The uprights and supports would be embarrassing in a dorm room.

Those chairs over on the left don't look very comfortable, either. A nicely lit and photographed scene of a crude and uncomfortable room

That Russel Wright?

This is the apartment of one of the most influential designers of the mid twentieth century?

The lamps and shelves would be more at home in a double wide.

Easier Living

Here's an article about Wright and his townhouse, complete with more photos. Quite a spread, to say the least.

Yet Wright wouldn't be in this townhouse much longer. Just a few years after this picture was taken his wife Mary died unexpectedly at a young age. She had collaborated with him on the marketing of his designs, for example the innovative touch of putting his signature on the bottom of his works was Mary's idea. For whatever reason he didn't want to stay in the townhouse any longer, so he moved with his young daughter to his country estate Manitoga, located about 50 miles to the north. Today Manitoga is open for public tours.

221 East 48th today contains eight apartments. I can't find any available for rent, though a one-bedroom in the surrounding neighborhood (Turtle Bay) averages about $3,700 per month.

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