The post-World War II era in America was a period when a casual style of living was evolving. The change in people’s attitudes and tastes after the war was prompting the architects and manufacturers in America to adapt, and experiment with a diverse assortment of materials, technologies, and designs. The old way of reducing the kitchen to a workshop, shut away from the dining area and the rest of the house was being dispensed with. Americans wanted to gather for barbecues, fondue parties, and smorgasbords – in short, for fun, and not for formal parties with engraved invitations, exquisite linen and silver dinnerware. The boundary line between cooking and dining was being erased. Interactions became more casual and social. Ted and Martha Nierenberg discerned these changing attitudes and concluded that Scandinavian design was perfect for the new, easy-going and casual American style of living.
The Nierenbergs went on a trip to Europe in 1953, to look for something that would address the growing desire for a different style of living in America. Scandinavian design impressed them with its simple elegance. They discovered through the early work of Danish designer Jens Quistgaard that Scandinavian design had a quiet beauty and intelligence that was practical and at the same time, venerable. The Nierenbergs realized that the designs were made of practical and useful materials that could be easily supplied to the American market at reasonable prices.
Dansk has created distinctive design for the casual American lifestyle, and for museums over the past half century. Its design lives on and stands out in American homes and museums like the Louvre in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
Dansk continues to explore new ways of creating useful, soulful and expressive tools for entertaining and dining. It constantly tries to offer different perspectives and raise the standards that form a part of people’s lives. Dansk, uses Scandinavian design values and applies clean, uncomplicated and sound solutions to great natural materials. Every Dansk design fits in with and goes with every Dansk design. And every Dansk design fits in with the way people live today.
Martha and Ted Nierenberg were on a trip to Europe in 1954 to look for a product that they could manufacture for the American public. A unique set of cutlery on display in the Museum of Arts and Crafts—Kunsthandwaerkmuseet, known as the Danish Museum of Art & Design – Kunstindustrimuseet today in Copenhagen, caught their attention. The set blended stainless steel and teak and was created by artist-designer Jens Quistgaard. The Nierenbergs had to put in a lot of effort to convince Quistgaard to manufacture the cutlery. Quistgaard was, at first, resistant to the idea of the pieces being mass produced and insisted that each piece had to be separately forged by hand. The Nierenbergs succeeded, however, in winning his acquiescence and this led to the first of Dansk products, the Fjord flatware, which has been one of Dansk’s all-time bestsellers.
Dansk was first set up in the garage of the Nierenbergs’ Great Neck, New York home that year. Quistgaard was its founding designer. The business boomed by the end of 1954, when Ted Nierenberg was successful in getting orders for a few hundred units from stores all around the States. Nierenberg and Quistgaard expanded Dansk’s product line by 1958, by manufacturing teak magazine racks and stools, stoneware casseroles, salt and pepper grinders, and flatware with split cane handles. The New York Times was all praise for Dansk and commended Dansk for “creating a stir” by manufacturing “some of the most popular accessories found in American homes." By 1982, more than 2,000 designs of dinnerware, glassware and other items had been created by Quistgaard for Dansk.
In the 1960s, Dansk moved its headquarters to Mount Kisco, New York. In a deal in which Goldman Sachs took the lead, the Dansk Acquisition Corp. purchased Dansk in June 1985. The Brown-Forman Corporation acquired Dansk in 1991, and incorporated it with its Lenox subsidiary. A group of investors led by Clarion Capital Partners purchased the assets of Lenox, including Dansk, on March 16, 2009. The company is now called the Lenox Corporation.