“It’s about buying something you’ll cherish for many years”: Meet the vintage kitchenware curators advocating for quality and function

“It’s about buying something you’ll cherish for many years”: Meet the vintage kitchenware curators advocating for quality and function

Friends Fenella Petrie and Laura Watts run Kookn, an e-commerce store focused on cooking

When it comes to cookware, serving ware and tableware, Fenella Petrie and Laura Watts are of the opinion that the older—and more Scandi—the better. In fact, they love vintage dishes so much, they decided to build a business around it.

“For years, Fenella and I have been traveling around together going to vintage places, and we’ve often found that we are reaching for the same things,” Watts says. “We have a very similar aesthetic, and we have very similar ideas about design, especially how used items still deserve to go on for a lot longer and [the importance of only buying] things that we truly love.”

The initial idea for a shop focused on Scandinavian and Finnish mid-century design came up almost two years ago during a backyard hangout where the friends were debriefing a recent haul. But the duo, who both come from design backgrounds—Watts is a graphic designer, while Petrie is a product designer—didn’t feel prepared to take the plunge until Covid-19 freed up some time. By the end of 2020, they had ramped up their collecting, searching out vintage ceramic, wood and enameled steel items by designers including Jens Quistgaard, Tapio Wirkkala, Timo Saroenenva, Kaj Franck, Herbert Krenchel, Vivianna Torun, Ulla Procopé, Raija Uosikkinen, Esteri Tomula, Unni Margrethe Johnsen, Helena Tynell and Grete Prytz Kittelsen. And in April, Kookn officially opened its (online) doors, and sustainability is at the core of their approach.

“Everything we do has to do with the ceremony of cooking and eating,” Petrie says. But what’s more important is that “a lot of these pieces also have a lot of love and life left in them. So, we’re like, ‘Great, let’s pass them on, let’s find them new homes so that they can create new stories with new families.’”

Watts and Petrie find their stock from a range of sources, from estate sales to individuals who are downsizing and reach out with one-off items. Aside from style, they all have one common factor: quality. It’s surprisingly easy for the friends to find beautiful, undamaged examples of Scandi design. “It’s because things were built so well back then,” Petrie says. “They were built to last forever; they weren’t built to be replaced in four years’ time because of obsolescence. And that thinking is more important now than ever because of the state of the environment. We all need to be more mindful about what we buy, how we buy it, and what our intention is. We’re not just buying something to replaced in a few years, but buying something that you really love and can cherish for many, many years.”

Now, the duo is slowly adding newly-made items to their shop—and even these will have sustainability at the forefront. They currently sell Kookn-branded mini taper candles, which they source from a candlemaker in Denmark that uses the same formula and technique that Dansk used in the ‘60s, and a wood conditioning balm made from either beeswax or carnauba wax and coconut oil. Next, they’ll be turning vintage fabrics into a new interpretation of a potholder and a carry-everything market bag.

“We’re trying to focus on bringing people together and making a good product—and bringing the joy,” Watts says.

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