The Shop

The Iconic Cookware We Just Can't Stop Collecting

Why Dansk Købenstyle has been stealing our hearts for decades.

May 31, 2023
Photo by Julia Gartland

If there’s one object in my kitchen that gets more oohs and aahs than anything else in the room, it’s my Dansk Købenstyle butter warmer. A small-scale saucepan in a warm shade of plum, it never leaves my stove except to get washed. Lest you think it serves aesthetic purposes alone, let me underline the fact that I use it every single day—no, multiple times a day. It is quite simply the prettiest little workhorse I’ve owned.

Dansk has been a familiar brand to me for a while; before I bought my first piece I'd seen pepper mills and trays in the homes of friends, and fawned over casseroles and silverware in vintage stores. The name Købenstyle, however, was less familiar to me. If you, like me, first heard the word and thought of København, you wouldn’t be remiss—these distinctive pots and pans were designed by Copenhagen-born sculptor and designer Jens Quistgaard.

Back in 1954, Quistgaard’s artistic prowess was discovered by an American couple, Ted and Martha Nierenberg, who were visiting Copenhagen. The couple convinced him to design a line of cookware together, and Dansk was founded that same year. Two years later, Købenstyle became the name that Quistgaard chose for his first cookware series made from enameled steel—bright, beautiful, and practical.

A trained sculptor, Quistgaard chose to carry his unique form language into the world of industrial design. “For my father, designed objects had to be conceived of in three dimensions, just like sculptures. His work was marked by a distinct personal touch—in other words, the design, while produced industrially, was not defined by a machine but bore the mark of the human hand,” wrote Quistgaard’s daughter Henriette in an email interview earlier this month.

Dansk archivist Christine Muhlke says that it is an elegant simplicity that has ensured the designs’ timelessness. Muhlke has spent the last many months digging through the brand's archives in the process of selecting designs to be reissued by Food52. “The clean, quietly sculptural lines and the use of lightweight enameled steel in shades like teal and yellow…Købenstyle is unlike any cookware made today—or, for that matter, since 1956," she adds.

Take for instance the teakwood handle on my butter warmer, which clearly bears the mark of a sculptor but is also extremely functional—both ergonomic to grasp as well as heat-resistant to the touch. Henriette points out that wood was her father’s favorite material: “As in many of his other designs, the idea of the handle played on the aesthetic gains from combining and contrasting materials, in this case wood and steel.” Interestingly, it was this affinity for the two materials that first got Quistgaard noticed by the Nierenbergs, who had come across his designs on Fjord, the first cutlery set to combine steel with teak handles.

An original Jens Quistgaard design for the butter warmer Photo by Mark Weinberg

Another example of his brilliance at merging design with functional qualities is demonstrated by his use of intricate, sculptural handles—case in point: the Købenstyle casseroles. Henriette points to how the handles are fastened in three places by means of what was a truly innovative type of point welding (pinpoint welding) that would make them heat-resistant as well as bypass the need for pot holders.

The special signature of Købenstyle, of course, is its use of crisp colors. Originally there were only four—turquoise, yellow, orange-red, and dark blue—which Henriette says her father personally picked for their resistance to passing trends. Over the years and across several relaunches, more colors have been added.

The real coup here however was Quistgaard’s use of enameled steel—a material that wasn’t considered particularly elegant at the time. Using it for cookware meant the heralding of a new era of inexpensively produced but contemporarily designed cookware made for cooking, serving, and, yes, displaying. One of the best things about owning a Købenstyle piece is that it can be taken from kitchen to dining table—the lids doing double duty as trivets.

An original Jens Quistgaard design for the pitcher. Photo by Mark Weinberg

For a special vintage Dansk x Food52 drop, Muhlke scoured an array of vintage marketplaces to pick the rarest of finds, from buffet servers to pitchers, butter knives, pepper mills, and skillets, all in mouthwatering hues. She points to a personal favorite—a straight-sided pitcher in kumquat, a rare color—and a real treat for the person who snags it (apologies to latecomers; better luck next time).

I had to ask Henriette if she had a favorite design from among the original designs by her father. “The casseroles, frying pans, roasting pans, and saucepans all serve their own purposes, but in terms of design I do find that the paella pan stands apart because of its beautiful form," she wrote. "One item I have personally been missing from the collection, though, is the pitcher, which for decades was available in three sizes. It is functional, beautiful, and not too heavy.”

While Købenstyle has endured as one of his great legacies, during his time at Dansk Designs (a period that lasted until the 1980s), Quistgaard designed thousands of products from his studio in Copenhagen, spanning cookware, serveware, and home furnishings made from a range of materials. Muhlke speaks enthusiastically about designs like the Nielstone coffee set (that Quistgaard collaborated with Danish ceramicist Niels Refsgaard—who is an integral part of the Dansk story even today—on), the Odin knives, and the trays he made in the 1960s from pau rosa, mutenye, and wenge that are part of the Rare Woods Collection. She adds: “After closely examining almost 100 items, what struck me was how beautifully everything has weathered over the decades. Seeing how well made these pieces are really gives weight to the term ‘heritage brand.’ They truly are heirlooms!”

More Dansk beauties

Do you collect Dansk Købenstyle—and what's your favorite piece? Tell us in the comments!

This article was updated in May 2023 because we love Købenstyle more than ever.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Arati Menon

Written by: Arati Menon

Arati grew up hanging off the petticoat-tails of three generations of Indian matriarchs who used food to speak their language of love—and she finds herself instinctually following suit. Life has taken her all across the world, but she carries with her a menagerie of inherited home and kitchen objects that serve as her anchor. Formerly at GQ and Architectural Digest, she's now based in Brooklyn.


aderose June 4, 2023
I have been collecting Kobenstyle for decades! All in Red. I have the Roasting Pan in 3 sizes and the Paella Pan in two sizes. I have the casserole/pots in 3 qt and 2 qt, and the straight sided pitcher. Oh, and the butter warmer. Everything gets used! I love how functional yet decorative this stuff is! I was also lucky enough to have found a few of the stainless steel pieces at Replacements a few years ago. 2, 4, and 6 qt casseroles and an 8 and 12 inch frying pans.
Jen T. May 29, 2023
I started collecting Kobenstyle before Food52 did the reissue- my first piece was a turquoise paella pan.
When I got married (over 40 years ago) I chose Dansk blue and white ware for my daily dishes - I loved the clean lines of it all!
So happy to see that you are resurrecting these amazing classic designs 🙏🏻💙👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻
I have a Dansk pitcher that I have had, and used, for at least 40 maybe 50 years. It’s still good as new and I put it in the dishwasher. 😲
Gammy April 1, 2022
Back in the early 70s, a co-worker introduced me to Dansk and although I never bought the enamel pots, I am extremely proud and very fond of my 2 teak pepper mills. They are used on a daily basis, and travel from kitchen to dining table. One I have seen on eBay for a small fortune, the other I have never come across. In the early 80s, there were 2 Dansk outlets in nearby towns and I was fortunate to pick up table linens, napkins and towels that I still use almost 40 years later.
Arati M. April 2, 2022
Ah, their vintage pepper mills are *chef's kiss*—glad you snagged them!! I must admit, I'm less familiar with Dansk towels and napkins. Guess what I'll be doing all morning!! Thanks for writing in, Gammy.
DanskingQueen March 31, 2022
My Dansk collection includes a vintage Kobenstyle fondue set! Among other pieces. I’m so excited that Food52 will continue to bring this beautifully designed ware to all its fans!!
Arati M. March 31, 2022
A fondue pot! Sounds marvelous! Did you manage to snag anything in the vintage sale today? ;) I had my eye on the kumquat pitcher...alas...
DanskingQueen March 31, 2022
No :( Didn’t notice the sale in time. I do follow several “thrifters” on Instagram, and they have found some amazing Kobenstyle pieces which they re-sell! I also have new pieces from Food 52.
denise M. October 9, 2019
I just read the article on Dansk...I am proud to say..I am 62 years old , when I was a very young girl in the 60's my grandmother started a collection of Dansk cookware for myself and my two sisters. Each of us got a different color , mine is red. Still to this day we all have our Dansk collections , the soup pot , the meat loaf pan , casserole pan and the adorable gravy pots. I love the new colors they have come out with , but I don't dare buy any as I already have way too much cookware. But I do love the Dansk. It is timeless.