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Utilitario Mexicano: A Shop Devoted to Useful Wares and “Objects in Danger of Extinction”

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Utilitario Mexicano: A Shop Devoted to Useful Wares and “Objects in Danger of Extinction”

May 24, 2021

Utilitario Mexicano uses two words to describe its approach: util sólamente, useful only. What began as an unexpected opportunity—to settle a debt for design work, creative couple Enrique Arellano and Libia Moreno were offered a pop-up space—has turned into a passion project.

Enrique, a graphic designer, and Libia, a textile designer, had moved to Mexico City from Colombia, and fallen in love with the everyday objects at local markets. And so, for their overnight emporium, they decided to become “street curators” and showcase their favorites: things like enamelware mugs, aluminum funnels, stove sandwich toasters, and rose-colored lightbulbs, all made in Mexico.

That was five years ago. Utilitario Mexicano is now a collection of 1,000-plus items, and both a Mexico City and online hit. It’s where we currently can’t stop browsing—with thanks to designer Cheryl Katz for introducing us. And has earned a spot on our shortlist of favorite shops for everyday essentials (scroll to the end for some of UM’s compadres).

Photography by Khaled Aboumrad unless noted, courtesy of Utilitario Mexicano (@utilitariomexicano).

enrique arellano and libia moreno keep shop in mexico city&#8\2\17;s coloni 9
Above: Enrique Arellano and Libia Moreno keep shop in Mexico City’s Colonia Juárez in a much bigger location than their original outpost. They’re on the ground floor of an Art Deco apartment building with a canopy of plants overhead.
the space had been half demolished and &#8\2\20;dark in all senses,&#8\ 10
Above: The space had been half demolished and “dark in all senses,” says Libia. Exhumed metal castoffs are now used for display: “recycling became an organic part of the project.” Striped cotton Kitchen Towels are $9.54,  Cotton Aprons are $44.20, and Guerrero Hats are $12.
mexicano utilitario is an archive of simple, useful wares many of which enrique 11
Above: Mexicano Utilitario is an archive of simple, useful wares many of which Enrique and Libia classify as “objects in danger of extinction.” They continue to buy from local markets—La Merced and Jamaica are their Mexico City favorites—and they’ve also begun working with local factories directly.

On the top shelf against the wall, note the Arullo Chair 2012, $236, and 1950, $226. They’re beloved designs by Mexican architect Oscar Hagerman—the first is his improved version of “the basic, old town village chair,” says Enrique. “For sixty years, he kept the chair in mind and in 2012, he presented the update.” The chairs are made by Canto Artesanos, “a group of carpentry workshops that received personal training from Oscar.”

enamelware mugs, \$4, bowls, \$7.79, and plates, \$8.\29, are made by a mexico  12
Above: Enamelware mugs, $4, bowls, $7.79, and plates, $8.29, are made by a Mexico City factory in custom colors.
heavy duty aprons, \$85.39, and tote bags, \$8\2.88, are both made of denim and 13
Above: Heavy-Duty Aprons, $85.39, and Tote Bags, $82.88, are both made of denim and leather. The shop sells its own line of Pitchers , $27.63, and other anodized aluminum wares.
libia and enrique describe the objects they sell as &#8\2\20;somewhere betw 14
Above: Libia and Enrique describe the objects they sell as “somewhere between the industrial and the artisanal. All made in Mexico, they’re “a portrayal of our country, its homes, and its history.”
the cast iron and copper departments. shown in the upper left: naturally dyed w 15
Above: The Cast-Iron and Copper departments. Shown in the upper left: naturally dyed Wool Rugs, $266.23, woven by Maria Romero in Oaxaca. Enamelware Coffee Spoons are $5 and two-toned Serving Spoons are $17.08.
enrique puts together a letter sign. the fairy lights on the wall are \$4.77 pe 16
Above: Enrique puts together a letter sign. The Fairy Lights on the wall are $4.77 per meter.
goods are packaged in paper and string. a6 color notebooks, \$3, are a bestsell 17
Above: Goods are packaged in paper and string. A6 Color Notebooks, $3, are a bestseller. goods are packaged in paper and string. a6 color notebooks, \$3, are a bestsell 18

Above: The shop’s signature stamped boxes. Utilitario Mexicano is at Calle Marsella 3a in Mexico City’s Colonia Juárez.

Here are eight more of our favorite shops specializing in the useful and humble:

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