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Home > Publications > Historic New England Magazine > Summer 2000 > Spotlight on a Changing Lifestyle

Spotlight on a Changing Lifestyle

Dinette set. Four chairs made by the National Chair Company, Roxbury, Massachusetts, c. 1938, with a contemporary table used with them. above Chair detail.

The dinette set is a twentieth-century form that evolved in the 1920s from the breakfast nook with built-in seating favored at the turn of the century by architects working in the Prairie Style. A trend towards domestic simplicity in an increasing number of servantless households during the Depression created a need for small-scale, informal dining furnishings. In contrast to the large mahogany table with multiple extensions typical of formal dining rooms in the Victorian era, this forty-two-inch-wide table could be expanded with a leaf conveniently stored beneath the top. Here, the choice of light-colored, unfigured maple was appropriate for a less pretentious setting. The table's angled corners and curved legs and the chairs' shaped backs reflect Art Deco taste; in contrast, eagle-and-shields decals evoke patriotism and the colonial past.

The set, a significant addition to SPNEA's twentieth-century holdings, provokes questions about parallel changes in table settings-linens, flatware, glass, and ceramics-which we will continue to explore through acquisition and research as we enter the twenty-first century.

-Jennifer M. Swope
Associate Curator

Spotlight on a Changing Lifestyle