When Function is part of the Beautiful Design and Beautiful Design is part of the Function.
Dansk Designs has been purchased by Food 52 and I'm going to have to create a new line item in my budget.
I’m just so excited about the acquisition of a design company that I treasure, by the one company that I know could do it justice…Food 52. The link can be found here.
In 1962 when my parents first opened their landmark gifts and decorative accessories store in Pepper Pike, Ohio, gorgeous Scandinavian tableware design wasn’t even a blip on the radar of that very conservatice , high end Waterford/Wedgwood loving customer. My mother had grown up in a very traditional family, with a very traditional lifestyle, but she was definitely a maverick. She was a diehard liberal in a family of Lincoln Republicans. She snuck out to go to Jazz clubs on Rush Street in Chicago with her Uncle Gene when she was 15. She was a Civil Rights activist at a time when proper young ladies didn’t involve themselves in political matters. She had gorgeous strands of proper pearls and plenty of diamonds, but it was her Native American jewelry that she was the most passionate about.
When she married my father who was a scientist, painter and philosopher, I think that was her signal to her family that she was really ready for something new. Shortly after they were married and the war ended, they came home to Cleveland to rebuild their lives and my father opened a new branch of his families business. My mom was determined to open a carriage trade store with a bridal registry business that would rival what she’d grown up with in Chicago. She was also determined that it was going to be filled with giftware pieces never seen before in Cleveland and she knew that she was just the woman to brand it.
She succeeded and she succeeded in a big way.
Schreibman Jewelers became known as the finest bridal registry and giftware business in Northeast Ohio. Watching her was always inspiring. Her level of taste was simply exceptional. I was fortunate to grow up learning from her and working with her for over 30 years.
My mother was a fabulous cook and she could throw a cocktail party with ease and approximately one hours notice. However, hauling out her mothers Haviland porcelain, Baccarat Crystal and Tiffany & Co. sterling silver was definitely not her idea of free and easy, unless it was for a formal family holiday and then of course she did it, because that was how it was to be done.
Very early on she longed for the effortless design freedom to entertain with ease, and she knew exactly what she wanted - cookware and serving pieces that were simple, elegant and multi functional, but also easy to care for. My mother threw very large parties for many different occasions during the year, so easy clean up was very important to her.
Enter Dansk Designs, a relatively unknown Scandinavian company that she discovered and fell head over heels for on a buying trip in New York in the early 60’s.
I still remember when the first shipment was being unpacked in our store. My mother was so excited when she unpacked the very first pieces of the beautifully enameled oven to tableware. Until then, the choices in cookware were really very limited, but Dansk Kobenstyle with its solid simple design and bright color palette was groundbreaking.
You could cook AND serve in the Kobenstyle. The teak wood cheese boards, salad bowls and carving boards were beautiful and virtually indestructible, just getting better and better with age and the proper care. They seemed to make every piece she could have dreamed of, including fondue pots…and when she discovered those, that summer she threw the grooviest “Protest Parties” where everyone made their own signs, wore bandanas and arm bands and shared fondue in the beautiful multi hued pots.
She threw two of those parties, about 100 people at each. After all, at that time we were barreling headfirst into the tie dyed and hash fueled Summer of Love. It was the 60’s and there was a little war going on called Vietnam and that was her way of flamboyantly letting everyone know where she stood on that issue. I still remember pouring iced tea into the beautiful red , turquoise and rattan pitchers and arranging cheese and fruit on her enormous teak platters, all of them Dansk. She had brightly colored wheelbarrows filled with different salads, and of course the wheelbarrows matched the Kobenstyle. She was so much fun and way ahead of her time, which is why these designs appealed to her so much.
My mother has been gone for many years now, but her collection of Dansk lives on. The beauty of her enormous collection is in its longevity. It was beautifully crafted and with so much care which is why I still own many of her pieces as does my daughter in law, niece and sister. The majority of it hasn’t chipped, warped or cracked, even after so many decades of use .
And use it we do! Every Thanksgiving we still put as many marshmallows as we can on the spiced sweet potatoes we’ve layered in the chocolate colored paella pan and then we stick it under the broiler so that they get roasted and caramelized. I still make her beef , mushroom and barley soup recipe in her pumpkin hued Dutch oven. There’s no better cheese board for one great piece of cheddar than my small teak cheese board with the knife that also functions as the handle, that came out every night with the martinis.
Moms large teak carving boards, ice buckets and gorgeous salad bowls are still used every time I throw a party and I’m always astonished by how well the designs have carried into this century.
I will never forget when Dansk was purchased by Lenox in 1991. Mom and I looked at each other sadly as we shared the same thought. We knew that the product we loved was going to be recreated and reintroduced to a massive discount market and quickly we were proven right. It ended up in every discount store in this country. Beautiful pieces were removed from the line and what became important was quick turnover and higher profit. The quality of the line was sacrificed and we began returning more and more pieces of Kobenstyle, pottery and wood because they would arrive in our warehouse chipped, warped or shattered. Eventually, we just stopped carrying it.
Recently though, I began noticing advertisments for Dansk on Food 52 and I asked my friend Gabriella who works there if she knew anything about their plans for the brand. That was when I found out that the company had been purchased by Food 52 with plans to restore it to it’s former stature. I am completely thrilled. Food 52 is the only company that I know of with the artistic scope and vision to bring them back to their former quality without sacrificing any style.
It is my understanding that they are going to reintroduce many of the pieces that Lenox removed from the line, like the beautiful pitchers of my childhood shown above and I’ll definitely be wanting one in every color! When mom wasn’t using them for iced tea, she had them filled with daisies and other flowers from her gardens. Three different sizes and colors filled with summer flowers make a gloriously happy arrangement for a buffet table.
I can’t wait to recreate those memories…
This video that Gabriella sent me last night is what inspired this article. I am just so thrilled by the news of this acquisition. These beautiful vintage designs are wonderful and I am ecstatic that a whole new generation is going to get to experience them!
This video made me a little bit teary with wonderful memories. I hope that you enjoy it! If you, like me, are still using your Dansk, this will make you very happy. If you’re lucky enough to have a young bride to be in your life, they will soon be able to experience the timeless quality of this brilliant, beautiful and functional Scandinavian design.
I began to write down my mothers recipe for Beef , Mushroom and Barley soup and realized that I could probably find it somewhere. This recipe, from the New York Times is identical to hers. All you need in addition to these ingredients is a cheery red or blue Kobenstyle Dutch oven, but in the event that one isn’t available a stock pot will do.
The link to the recipe is under the picture!
Do you have any wonderful Dansk memories? Favorite recipes? Any favorite pieces that you can’t wait to see in production again? I’d love to know about them. Drop me a note in the comments or DM me on LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook.