I’ve been a major fan of Kaufmann Mercantile, an online store specializing in simple, high quality, great-looking housewares, since it launched six years ago. Founded by Sebastian Kaufmann, a young German-born entrepreneur with a discerning eye for good, unpretentious design, the Brooklyn-based site offers more than 2,000 carefully described products chosen for their sound construction, plainspoken aesthetics, and straightforward usefulness from around 300 manufacturers worldwide. This fall Kaufmann has taken the next step and launched a private-label collection of ceramic tableware, bags, scented candles, and what particularly interests me: solid American hardwood furniture of its own design, handmade to order by American artisans. Here are some pieces I’d like to add to my home.
Kaufmann offers two traditional ladderback-style dining chairs: a two-rung model and a slightly taller three-rung version. As the company puts it, “The simple form, developed exclusively by us, was inspired by the clean lines of Scandinavian design, the pared-down aesthetic of Danish mid-century modern, and the restraint of Japanese minimalism.” Shaker furniture, with its unique blend of unadorned beauty, refined craftsmanship, and unfailing utility, is also a strong influence. The chair, which is available in either black walnut or white oak, doesn’t eschew ornament entirely: each rung curves out at its center to create a diamond form, a subtle detail that distinguishes it from the classic ladderback design.
The Kaufmann furniture collection includes a handsome, practical kitchen island. Made of solid black walnut, the sturdy yet elegant two-drawer piece features dovetail joinery for strength and durability and minimalist bronze hardware for a timelessly modern look. The black walnut, finished with mineral oil and natural beeswax, will age beautifully with time and use. Kaufmann advises that the island’s surfaces should be wiped clean with a lightly dampened cloth. Small scratches, scuffs and rings can be lightly buffed out with extra fine steel wool, then more mineral oil should be applied to the area with a soft cloth.
Perhaps my favorite piece in the Kaufmann collection is the two-person gathering bench, which is available in black walnut or white oak. As its name suggests, the austerely beautiful seat would look right at home in a Shaker meeting house. The company has lots of suggestions for its use: “Place the bench in your entryway as a spot to sit while lacing up your boots and preparing to go outside. Rest decorative baskets along one end and line up shoes or store small sporting goods underneath. Slim in size, the bench also fits nicely in a hallway or bedroom. At the dinner table, it provides two comfortable seats for welcoming extra guests.” It certainly would have been welcome at my family’s crowded table this Thanksgiving.
19 Ingraham Street, Suite 206 & 208
Brooklyn, NY 11237