COPENHAGEN — Danish industrial designers have set standards for devotees of the thoroughly contemporary life style, and few of the world's commercial centers can rival Copenhagen for convenience, and for courtesy toward shoppers.
The Danish capital serves as headquarters for some of the world's most distinguished product labels: Bang & Olufsen, Georg Jensen, Bing & Grondahl, Royal Copenhagen, Holme Gaard and a host of others that are thoroughly integrated into the Danish life style, and have a strong appeal for people who enjoy the finest of the finer things of life.
Many of the top Danish product labels are sold in the United States, but you can buy them in Copenhagen for about half the price they would cost at home. Bang & Olufsen, Georg Jensen and the others have marvelous shops and boutiques of their own, but an excellent overview of their products is under one roof at Illum (Ostergade 52), Copenhagen's leading department store. The layout and ambiance are superb, the selection of goods spectacular.
The kitchen department is one of the store's best sections. It offers a one-stop opportunity to buy cooking utensils, tableware, serving sets, silver and glassware, and other things that make Danish kitchens among the most modern and convenient in the world.
The department sells several patterns of Georg Jensen stainless steel tableware, including Henning Koppel's famous New York pattern (knife $20, fork $9, spoon $9) and Arne Jacobsen's very modern pattern (knife $14, fork $7, spoon $7), as well as a beautiful set of Georg Jensen copper pots (about $50 each).
Stelton stainless steel serving accessories are excellent companions to the Jensen stainless cutlery. Designed by Erik Magnussen, a stunning heat-retaining coffeepot costs about $50, and matching cream and sugar containers are about $17 and $15, respectively.
For cooking, Eva-Trio stainless steel and copper pots and pans are popular. The design is handsome, with specially constructed stay-cool handles, and these items are known to last. There are also delightful blue-and-white opaque glass spice jars in various sizes, labeled in Danish. Fortunately, the names of spices and condiments are similar in Danish and English, so you won't have to consult a dictionary every time you reach for the \o7 peber.\f7
For the table top, Illum stocks linens by Sodahl. Cotton tablecloths come in cheerful patterns, many of them delicate florals on a background of bright red, blue or other vibrant colors. Cloths cost about $35, matching napkins are about $4 each and tea cozies are about $14.
Sodahl also makes place mats, dish towels and other accessories. Illum also has good supplies of Bing & Grondahl and Royal Copenhagen fine porcelain, in both traditional and modern designs as well as an excellent variety of Holme Gaard glassware, with its handsome modern lines.
For casual dining, Sodahl has a line of heavyweight paper plates, color coordinated with its lovely table linens. Paper table accessories cost about $5 to $10 a pack.
Danish goose-down comforters are leading sellers in the bedding department. These are offered in a variety of weights and sizes, with assorted covers in solid colors or floral patterns. A queen-size comforter costs about $270 and covers about $60. Matching pillow cases cost about $9 each.
For bedroom or dining room, lace curtains are popular and typically Danish. The crisp, white fabrics with lace trim hang in many residential windows in Copenhagen. These curtains are easy to pack and, sold at about $7 to $10 a yard, are an inexpensive and practical souvenir.
Illum's men's boutique offers a complete Oscar Jacobsen wardrobe of fine tailored suits in quality fabrics (about $275 and up), fabulous sweaters and attractive leather jackets (about $250). The women's boutique features In Wear at reasonable prices, plus lovely Danish fur coats and jackets. Leather clothing for women is also reasonably priced, with a quilted leather coat selling for about $400.
Copenhagen is home base for Lego products, and Illum has a Lego gallery that could keep engineers of all ages busy for years constructing model spaceships, buildings and bridges. Many of the items sold here have not yet arrived in the United States, and the colorful little blocks are packaged in all sorts of combinations.
Illum also houses a branch of Denmark's Irma supermarket chain. There you'll find the biggest selection of herring you've ever seen; the Danes have an astonishing assortment of sauces for their favorite fish. There are also cheeses galore, and tins of biscuits and butter cookies for shipping.