Have you signed up for MR Thoughtline yet? It’s Man Repeller’s new text-based service that lights up phone screens with good bits from around the internet, opportunities to chat with cool people, and digital recesses to help your mind take a break from the news in favor of a recipe, physical activity or, trust us, very useful WFH outfit ideas. Subscribe here.
If this story had a doormat, it would say, “THE REST IS SEARCH HISTORY,” and you might ask where I bought it. Welcome. Take a seat. Would you like something to drink? And would you like to hear the whole story of how I tracked down the Murano glass in which your drink is served? If so, you have come to the right place.
The Rest Is Search History stems from my inherent nosiness: I want to hear about other peoples’ hyper-specific search terms, guarded like sapphires at the Smithsonian, their laborious and surprising journeys down various shopping rabbit holes, and the elaborate shopping strategies they’ve honed over time. Today’s guest is my dear friend Harling Ross, ravenous to know the answer to one question: “Who the hell makes Dakota Johnson’s china???”
Harling Ross, brand director at Man Repeller
Your shopping rabbit hole: Dakota Johnson’s china
Can you walk me through what going down this rabbit hole entails? Thank you so much for asking! Kindly gird your loins. In the beginning of March, I—like many others who consume the internet for breakfast every morning—watched Dakota Johnson’s home tour video on Architectural Digest. The video is memorable for many reasons, including the rather charmingly unkempt landscaping, and a seating card with Patti Smith’s phone number on it, but there is one thing in particular that made a permanent impression on my brain goo: Dakota’s china. It’s hot pink and navy, which sounds terrible but in this case is excellent—likewise for the dishes’ texture, which can best be described as “mottled.” The overarching aesthetic is something akin to tie-dye, or paint randomly splotched on a canvas. At the five minute mark of the video, Dakota admits that she never thought she would be a “dish person” until this particular set of china came into her life: “I mean, can you stand it?,” she asks, holding up a navy and pink-splattered mug. “They’re the coolest.”
No, I couldn’t stand it!!!! I couldn’t stand how cool these plates and saucers and mugs were. So I immediately launched a quest to discover their origins, in hopes that I might procure a similar set for myself. I started by Googling the obvious: ”Dakota Johnson dishes.” “Dakota Johnson Architectural Digest dishes.” “Dakota Johnson L.A. home tour dishes.” I didn’t find any information about the china, but I did find what is seemingly the only 100% nice thread on Reddit to ever exist, populated by a group of commenters who all agree that Dakota is “adorable” and her home is “serene” (I highly recommend reading through them—it’s healing).
I then resorted to less-than-ideal search terms like “tie-dye plates” and “paint splotch plates.” Again, no dice, though they did lead me to discover Este Ceramiche’s delightful splatter motif, not to mention an excuse to scroll through endless pages of china patterns on Mary Mahoney.
What ultimately satiates the quest? I ended up posting a photo of Dakota’s plates in Instagram Stories and asking for help. Almost immediately, my friend Susan Alexandra texted me a link to these very fun floral enamel bowls, which were so close in spirit to what I was looking for that I felt a spark of optimism. Shortly thereafter, Madeline O’Malley, market editor at Architectural Digest, responded that she would check the fact sheets to see if any info was listed for them, which caused my optimism to double in size. Prematurely, unfortunately, since no information was listed. However, she did supply me with a clue in the form of a hunch: “I bet they’re vintage Majolica.”
I looked through all 40 pages of the search results from the keywords “majolica set” on Etsy, and though I didn’t find Dakota Johnson’s plates, I did find some incredible gems. Like these turquoise plates, and these deep green teacups, and this coordinated set of tray and jars, and this pitcher. I even found myself hankering after a set of Majolica oyster plates, despite the fact that I don’t even like oysters. Every single one of these links went into my “bookmarks” folder, which I suppose would indicate that the quest continues–more satiated than when it began, but still hankering for a taste of something slightly closer to The One. The bad news is that I haven’t found it yet. The good news is that I’ve got the benefit of time: Since my wedding has officially been postponed to next summer, I have a whole extra year to tinker with my registry.
Graphics by Lorenza Centi.