9 reasons to love and collect milk glass

milk glass shapes
milk glass in various shapes and sizes
Assorted vintage milk glass, clockwise from top left: Westmoreland English Hobnail footed bowl, Fenton hobnail cornucopia, two Anchor Hocking bud vases, Fenton hobnail fan vase, Westmoreland Old Country cream and sugar, Indiana Glass wild rose bowl.

Luminous white milk glass is easy to love. Lots of us own some, some of us own lots. There are many things in your DIY decorating life that you may regret, like when you painted the walls and ceiling in the basement stairway with citron green high gloss enamel. But having a stash of milk glass will never be something you lament.

Here’s why:

Milk glass was made in great volume by many makers

Most decorative glass makers from the Victorian era on made at least some pieces in milk glass as well as other colors. To keep up with demand, between the 1940s and 1970s a lot of milk glass was produced. Quantity combined with inherent durability means there is a lot of vintage milk glass to choose from. Flea markets finds range from the everyday workhorse Anchor Hocking to elegant Fenton. The good supply also means it’s priced right. The biggest challenge with collecting milk glass is to remind yourself not to fall in love with every piece you see.

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Milk glass comes in a variety of styles

If you’re persistent, you can find milk glass that makes your inner aesthete happy. Classic urns or bumpy little hobnail cornucopias, tall swung glass vases or pressed pattern compotes. Buy the pieces that speak to you.

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milk glass colors
Milk glass can vary slightly in hue from slightly pink on the left, pure white in the center and slightly yellow on the right.

Milk glass from different makers and different eras work together

You can pretty much buy milk glass pieces you like and be 95% confident they will play nicely with what you already have. The white color is a great unifier. There is some color variation between brands and eras, but it definitely doesn’t restrict your ability to use them together.

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Milk glass comes in all shapes and sizes

From stately punch bowls to tiny toothpick holders…if you’re creating tablescapes or a seasonal display, milk glass is your best friend. Group tall bud vases, pair up urns, mix and match candleholders or combine an entire world of shapes and heights to fit your creative vision.

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milk glass vase
Milk glass does the work while ornament sparkle, display from Balancing Beauty and Bedlam.

Milk glass is seasonless

There is no holiday, no season, no occasion where milk glass won’t willingly be your go-to workhorse. That’s because milk glass is like vanilla ice cream–no matter what you add to it, it’s still going to be fabulous.

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victorian milk glass
Victorian Sowerby milk glass is more expensive than what you would find at a flea market.

Milk glass fits every budget

You can buy high end, highly prized, highly decorative milk glass at fine antique shops, or you can get ubiquitous pieces like the milk glass bud vase at yard sales and your local thrift. When it comes to decorating, both are satisfying in different but equally valid ways.

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Milk glass makes celebration decor easy

If you’re looking for an easy celebration favor or centerpiece, start with milk glass. A grouping of milk glass vases and candlesticks in the center of a table or along the back of a buffet can make your display dazzle, and then disappear home with your guests as a party favor. They’ll feel like they are taking a piece of the party home, and they’ll remember being there every time they use it in the future.

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decorating with milk glass
Put your milk glass to use on your vanity (from Craft-o-maniac) or substitute pencils and paperclips for the flowers (from Country Living).

Milk glass can be used fearlessly

You can’t use heirloom crystal in the middle of a table at cocktail party without worrying a little bit about it’s safety. So relax, use your milk glass. It will look fabulous and since it’s a nice thick glass, it can survive a little bump from an errant beer bottle.

That same sturdiness makes milk glass fun to use it in unexpected ways. Organize your jewelry on your vanity. Plant herbs in vases on the kitchen window sill. Group top hats to hold condiments at a backyard barbecue. Use glasses in a carrier to hold your paint brushes or drawing supplies.

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collecting milk glass
Milk glass at an all-night flea market as captured by Katie Licht.

Milk glass is easy to collect…and easy to let go of

Why collect milk glass? Why not. It’s an reliably attractive decorating tool. It blends with all colors and decors. It’s easy to find. It can be relatively inexpensive. And when it no longer suits your decorating needs, it’s easy to let it go of, send it to a charity shop to run wild and free and until it finds a place in someone else’s milk glass collection. 

Shop vintage milk glass


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1 comment

  1. “some of us own lots” – the word hoarder comes to mind and that would be me! I adore old milk glass. Thanks for the article!

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