A classic view of Dansk’s Kobenstyle line, launched in 1955.
Photograph: Courtesy of Dansk
Within the period we now name “mid-century trendy,” Dansk Designs was among the many most profitable early importers of Scandinavian design. It populated numerous American houses with smooth tableware and different furnishings, a lot of them the work of the good Danish designer Jens Quistgaard. (The corporate itself was extra distributor and facilitator than conventional design studio; it was based and headquartered not in Copenhagen however in Mount Kisco, New York.) It was neither Ikea-cheap nor Alessi-expensive; its merchandise lived in a middling value area of interest that was upscale however not elite, pitched to connoisseurship somewhat than extravagance. You’d see Dansk flatware (bearing its minuscule stamp of Quistgaard’s monogram, IHQ) on the unadorned slab tables of college professors in New Haven or advert copywriters in Greenwich Village.
Because the early Nineties, Dansk has been a subsidiary of the large tableware firm Lenox. This week, the web site Food52, which has been a Dansk retailer for some years, announced that it had bought the brand and intends to increase it with reissues and new designs. Final evening, I spoke to Amanda Hesser, Food52’s founder and CEO, about her plans. (After I referred to as her, I had simply completed consuming dinner off a Dansk plate, having served myself with a pair of Sixties Dansk Variation V utensils.)
You should be listening to from older clients: At one time, anyone who was design-inclined on this nation had a relationship with Dansk stuff.
So many individuals have a reference to Dansk. And I’ve to say that right this moment I’ve been actually shocked by the quantity of people that have commented — you already know, previous pals, individuals who I by no means would have anticipated knew this model who felt a connection to it, grew up with it.
Had been you a kind of individuals who grew up with it?
I didn’t. It was one thing that I found after I went to varsity, and so for me, it symbolized maturity and a extra form of subtle life-style. After I met my husband and we went to his dad and mom’ home, immediately you can spot the Dansk items across the kitchen. For me, it was an aspirational model, so extremely cool and trendy, and I actually, actually fell in love with it. I spent one in all my first paychecks as an grownup on Dansk.
What did you purchase?
The Jens Quistgaard Odin salad servers — they kind of look like two very elegant paws — and the little candlesticks and very thin candles that basically solely Dansk bought. And I treasured the candles a lot that I by no means burned them — I nonetheless have the candles, 25 years later. Like “I don’t wish to not have the ability to replenish them.” They have been so particular, I simply used them for taking a look at.
In order that brings up a query, which is that this model has such an extended historical past that it might be straightforward to simply deal with it as a nostalgia play. However within the announcement, you stated that you just’re going to fee new stuff. You’re going to take it ahead.
Yeah. There are three parts to the merchandise that we’d wish to launch. One is, you already know, their current assortment: There are items in there that we really feel like have nice potential — we might increase the colours, possibly change the supplies in some circumstances, add a number of completely different sizes. There’s alternative simply to make the prevailing assortment much more helpful and extra complete. Then there’s this wonderful archive of two,000-plus designs — many wonderful designs that simply fell out of the form of public consciousness for one purpose or one other that we’re going to wish to deliver again. And truly a method we’re hoping will information us is, we ask individuals on our social channels to take photos of their favourite Dansk items and tag us in order that we are able to check out them.
Photograph: Courtesy of Dansk
The third piece is what you have been alluding to: We really feel like the fantastic thing about Dansk is that this timelessness and the truth that it was a model that actually stood for nice design and for celebrating nice designers — and never at all times designers who have been apparent. Like, one of many designers that they labored with was this lady named Vivianna Torun Bülow-Hübe, a well known silversmith and a jeweler. However they commissioned her and he or she did a variety of completely different items — a fantastic tea set, issues that have been form of out of her consolation zone.
Once you take an important designer and also you ask them to form of handle the family, we really feel like there’s only a nice alternative for lovely issues to return out of that. And clearly Dansk was very targeted on Danish designers, however there are wonderful designers world wide, and I believe that there’s a path to celebrating them by Dansk.
You talked about archival designs — Is there an precise bodily archive? In Denmark or someplace?
It’s in Pennsylvania, which is the place Lenox is. I went there final summer season. It’s not digitized—it’s these large units of technical drawings of merchandise which might be in architect’s drawers. After which they’ve a room that has previous catalogs and some older items. It’s form of wonderful. A little bit of a time capsule.
Have they got a room with each piece ever made? Like a museum?
They don’t truly — I want they did. We would need to assemble one ourselves. I imply, that will take a really giant room, as a result of there have been a lot of Dansk merchandise over time. They even did furnishings, which lots of people don’t know.
Actually? What was the furnishings like?
Quite simple, as you would possibly suspect [laughs] — I’ve solely seen photos of a few items. However they did textiles; they did a variety of various things. They actually discover the house with a variety of breadth in a manner that few manufacturers have. That’s one other form of thrilling piece of this — we might take one thing like furnishings and run with it.
One factor that at all times struck me about Dansk is that they actually ran the gamut by way of supplies—not simply apparent issues like chrome steel, but additionally teak, black forged iron, all types of stuff.
Yeah. They did a variety of tropical woods, bamboo—actually, it’s not like no different manufacturers have been doing it then, however undoubtedly they have been early in making it a extra industrial pursuit.
That’s one other factor about Dansk: They have been industrial, by which I imply that the stuff was just a little upscale however it wasn’t terribly costly.
That’s proper. In fact, they’d some items that have been, I suppose, what you’d name a capsule assortment right this moment. However yeah, it was actually made to be nice design made accessible. And that was one other factor that speaks to us. It feels very a lot consistent with how we see the world.
It’s super-contemporary. An entire lot of individuals see the world that manner now.
Do you are feeling as if Lenox was — I don’t wish to say letting the model languish, however that they maybe weren’t doing all the things with it that they may?
You realize, they’ve a variety of different manufacturers beneath their umbrella. And so I believe they have been doing what they may, given that there have been different manufacturers that have been simply frankly greater and would naturally get a much bigger focus. We have to do a basic evaluation of what’s there and actually perceive the gross sales numbers, perceive any manufacturing challenges or alternatives.
I wished to ask you about one specific product, one thing I’d by no means heard of until comparatively just lately. Within the ’70s, Dansk made a line of copper pots with brass handles and a chafing-dish burner for the desk, with a separate teak deal with that clipped on for serving. It was a Jens Quistgaard design — it was referred to as Quistgaard Copper — and it’s simply wild wanting.
Oh my gosh. There are a selection of collector’s markets — there’s a web site that’s devoted simply to his pepper mills! I realized about that right this moment. [pauses to Google] Oh, I’m seeing the copper that you just’re speaking about — oh my gosh. It’s tremendous. So attention-grabbing. It’s a fantastic deal with, huh? Actually, actually cool. This isn’t one thing I’ve come throughout. Do you might have a set?
I did, however I don’t anymore. I bought them to a collector.
Dang. I used to be simply going to attempt to rope you in to sending me photos. [Laughs]
What are the largest sellers today from the Dansk line? I imply, we see quite a bit in regards to the Kobenstyle pots — what else remains to be shifting?
We’ve this line of on a regular basis plates, Kisco — they’re out of inventory proper now — which might be extremely moderately priced, they usually fly off the cabinets each time they arrive again in inventory. They’re these lovely pure form of earth-tone colours, easy shapes. I don’t assume it’s an previous design — it’s one in all their extra trendy designs — and clearly geared toward on a regular basis use. Cheap: You get like a full set for lower than $200.
Something you’ve noticed within the archive that you just’re super-excited about?
There’s a teak bowl in the shape of a big canoe that I discovered on a very nice vintage-home-goods web site. It’s so beautiful and exquisite, however I’d by no means seen it earlier than. That looks as if one thing that we might do quite a bit with. There are some pan shapes that I believe are actually cool which have actually attention-grabbing handles — simply actually form of elegant. I don’t know what supplies they have been product of, however it might be actually nice to do. After which a cast-iron model of one in all their Dutch ovens from the archive, or one thing like Kobenstyle.
With that cross-shaped deal with on high? That’d work.
Yeah. However now I’ve abruptly grow to be obsessive about the copper, because of you.
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