Why settle for a restaurant’s coffee table book when you can have its coffee table?
— Ally Spier
If the thought of experiencing Noma’s Danish farmhouse aesthetic is just as exciting as eating the food, or would have been if you didn’t make it to the original location before it closed at the end of last year, your next best option could be to add a piece of the restaurant to your home.
With help from Wright auction house in Chicago, much of the original Noma’s furniture and fixtures will be up for grabs — for the right price — this week. About 500 lots of midcentury and contemporary furniture and design objects will be available through a live, and livestreamed, auction on November 2, including pieces by Scandinavian designers like Nina Nørgaard, Aage and Kasper Würtz, Space Copenhagen, Hans Wegner, JL Møller, and Københavns Møbelsnedkeri. Prices for these items, all of which called Noma their home at some point from its 2003 opening onward, will range from $100 to $30,000, depending on whether you’re looking at, say, an apron, a stuffed bird, a dining table, or a sculptural installation. (View and download the full catalogue here.)
High-end designer pieces in timeless, famous Danish style are, of course, appealing to plenty of design aficionados. Some pieces are highly valued, and with proper care, will continue to be over time. Or maybe it’s more than that.
Maybe, like Michael Jefferson, Senior Vice President of Wright, you understand the impact that thoughtful design can have on one’s experience in a restaurant: “In a space where our senses are heightened and satisfied, from gustatory to olfactory, the sense of touch and a sense of place pair perfectly,” he told Skift Table. And for those who want to remind themselves of this connection after the fact by claiming a piece of what once was, the “memories of shared experience, intimacy, and pleasure” imbued in these objects “can be carried on to be experienced anew.”
A new-to-you Wegner table can serve as a means of reliving a memorable experience every time you sit down to eat, or it can substitute the one you never had. They’ll also both cost you; dinner for two at Noma could easily reach $1,000, and a new Wegner table is about five times that.
Items in the auction are expected to sell for $100 (a custom-made bread basket) to upwards of $30,000 (the restaurant’s custom-made private dining table).
When meals are sensory experiences, there’s no doubt that the look and feel of a restaurant’s physical space has the ability to influence diners’ experiences within it. The James Beard Foundation Design Awards were established more than 20 years ago, and with good reason; thoughtful restaurant design is worthy of recognition for the significant value it possesses. Just ask Brad Cloepfil, the principal architect behind the recent redesign of Eleven Madison Park.
As Cloepfil recently said in an interview with the New York Times, “In a restaurant, there’s no hierarchy. It’s all equally important — the lights, the rug, the food, the people. There’s nothing that’s not important.” For what was only his second restaurant, he focused on the ceremony of dining, taking the approach of a set designer, an industrial designer, and a tailor all-in-one, through custom-made, well, everything.
The 2,900-sqare-foot space was overhauled over the course of four months to yield a fully integrated project where artists, architect, chef, and staff all worked together, resulting in highly customized pieces. The comprehensive redesign accomplished by Cloepfil and his team at Allied Works included elements both large and small, right down to the tableware, which is currently available for purchase as a limited edition set directly through Allied Works.
Recognizing a need to say goodbye to the old to welcome in the new, EMP made its old brass railings, chandeliers, bar furniture, plates, and cookware available for purchase on its online shop this summer, along with the following statement: “The idea of throwing these things away, or putting them in storage, breaks our hearts — we desperately want them to find new homes.” Everything that was listed, sold.
Not everything was listed, though; Chef Daniel Humm commissioned artist Daniel Turner to create a piece that would, quite literally, bring the old space into the new. EMP’s original stove was melted down along with other pieces from the old kitchen, like cutlery and sinks, then recast to create a new sculpture that greets diner-to-be as they enter the space. EMP Step, as its called, is an approximately 16 foot long tribute to EMP’s history, literally requiring guests to walk over pieces of the past to embrace the present.
And while that’s a beautiful metaphor for those experiencing the new space, the ability to own a part of the restaurant’s past could help comfort those who possibly weren’t yet ready to let go of it. Perhaps that’s what some were doing when they purchased a piece of the old space: resisting change and holding onto the past, lest it be forgotten otherwise. Maybe those same people will be ready to bid on Turner’s work when EMP’s current lease expires in 20 years.
Skift Table contributor Ally Spier is a Brooklyn-based writer and designer who studied ergonomics at Cornell, and architecture at Pratt. Her background in design informs her love of food and travel… and vice versa.