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Danish Design: Cool, Cutting Edge and Confusing

July 29, 2014

I’d call myself a design maven; I spend hours at furniture fairs that have bizarre acronyms, and my friends abandon me at art museums because I dawdle over Bauhaus chairs. I also happen to appreciate a good riddle or brainteaser. Sudoku — there’s no better way to kill an hour on the train. However, my seemingly unrelated hobbies collided smashingly inside the famous design superstore, Illums Bolighus, in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Related: Your Fairy-Tale Denmark Vacation

Who knew that in the design world the line between avant-garde and head-scratching is extremely blurry? In my case, this fuzzy delineation caused some PDE: Public Displays of Embarrassment.  

What began as a relaxing browsing expedition quickly morphed into an hourlong riddle. The first item to catch my eye: a narrow red silicone cylinder with a long curvy groove along the side and a screw in the center. I tried to turn, twist, and slide it open, but it wouldn’t budge. I was stumped. As my fingers worked to pry it apart, images of childhood Rubik’s Cube failures flashed through my mind. After three grueling minutes, I slid it open to discover a crisp, glorious crimson X: a fashion-forward trivet. Success! Add that to my holiday gift list.

Of course this is a trivet. (Photo: Menu)

Related: A Tale of Two Shopping Cities: Copenhagen and Denmark

Next up, a sleek matte-black plastic container shaped like a cocktail shaker. The metal top is emblazoned with the letter “S” and black circles of increasing size, and there is a horizontal seam in the vessel. Between the shape, the victorious-looking “S,” and its ability to open, it must, must, be a seltzer and soda maker, right? Or Superman’s thermos? After I clumsily twisted it open, nearly breaking it (and hoping that the Scandinavians weren’t aggressive with the “you break it, you buy it” rule), a lovely salesperson named Rikke informed me that it was a salt grinder. Obviously. I also learned that the Danish word for salt is salt.

Black and Metal Donut. (Photo: Eva Solo)

And now, the ultimate enigma. This wasn’t a brain teaser, it was a brain crusher: a doughnut composed of black silicone with a metal bottom. Tiny tongs rest upright in the doughnut hole’s groove. The mystery deepened as I lifted the cap and peered inside. The top’s inside resembles a serving bowl — for dolls. I surrendered to Rikke, who informed me, with a giggle, that this was an ice tray. The silicone ice cube tray sits upside down, full of water, in your freezer; its flexible material lets you pop those cubes right out. Once you set it out at a party, the metal bowl becomes the serving dish, while the black ice cube tray doubles as a lid to keep it cold. The tongs have a natural resting spot, and all will drink merrily. This is fantastic for a get-together but was terrible for my self-esteem. I ordered one.

It’s a stool. That should be simple enough. Not in Denmark. (Photo: Menu)

Finally, nothing says “welcome home” like a sleek walnut and black stool that comes apart when you least expect it. Its clean lines are compatible with a variety of styles, and its uncanny ability to break into four parts in 10 seconds makes it a great party trick.

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