Kneen & Co Dazzles the Gold Coast with New Luxury Showroom
The new Chicago showroom is an impressive collecton of rare home furnishings from around the world
Text by Zlata Kozul Naumovski · Posted January 23, 2019
Asking Mary Jeanne Kneen of Kneen & Co, purveyor of luxury tabletop, dinnerware, bedding, and lighting, to pick a favorite product category is like asking a parent to pick a favorite child. “I love it all,” she says, unapologetically.
Step inside her Magnificent Mile showroom in Chicago, open since December, and it’s easy to see why she’d be so torn. In a highly curated feast of home decor’s finest, eyes dart from cashmere blankets by Loro Piana to dinnerware in saturated graphics by Richard Ginori to jewel-toned Venini chandeliers. “You can find anything for your home here except appliances and large furniture,” she says.
Kneen, a tastemaker who got her start by representing Nymphenburg porcelain after moving from Germany, outgrew her longtime Lincoln Park location and decided on a refresh in the Gold Coast, where she’s close to both clients and design professionals. “We are a luxury global brand and this is the luxury shopping area,” she says. Her showroom on Michigan Avenue—styled like a chic apartment outfitted with opulent accoutrements for the home—is mere blocks from Barneys, Hermès, Harry Winston, and Christian Dior.
Shoppers come from around the world to browse her wares in a glass-walled dining room. They are treated to an ensemble of egg-darted candlesticks in burnished brass or satin silver by Ted Muehling for E.R. Butler & Co. and all manner of glassware. For those who don’t know a ballerina wineglass from a footed coupe, Kneen will happily explain the variables and help you choose a coordinating dinner plate. In fact, she’ll pour visitors a Scotch or pass hors d’oeuvres while musing about products. “Guys love it,” Kneen said of the intimate setting. “They can sit on the sofa and read the paper or enjoy a drink.” And if they’re so inclined, they could even buy a bar trunk from Robbe & Berking with service for six straight off the floor for $23,000. Saunter into the bedroom setting and run your fingers over 1,400-thread-count linens by Mirabel Slabbinck.
That level of exclusivity is what distinguishes Kneen & Co from other retailers. While there’s no shortage of luxury brand heavyweights in stock, Kneen is the exclusive Chicago provider for Lobmeyr and the only one in the U.S. for Giberto Venezia. She also works with small vendors who don’t have a large distribution. “We work with them as partners and represent their entire line,” she says. “Most are from Europe, where there’s a history of producing these things that were born there.”
Her staff, she says, is very knowledgeable about a vendor’s entire portfolio, and works with shoppers as consultants. They can also assist engaged couples on creating a wedding registry that weighs the pros and cons of sateen versus percale cotton. Kneen is a big fan of mixing brands as well as price points. On the high end, she offers custom Venini chandeliers, which can cost upwards of $40,000. The store also offers more moderately priced items like bespoke stationery and place cards for $15.
Kneen’s trick is to be always on the lookout. Having just returned from Paris for the Maison & Objet show, her watchful eye is ever searching for new brands. Dreams of adding to the shop’s wares a luxury candlemaker or placing an order of hand-embroidered linens from French brand VIS-A-VIS are always on her mind. “Everything can be 100 percent customized,” she says of her newest vendor. “They make linens in organza and organdy silk that are super luxurious.”
With a store and design expert this sought-after, Kneen always encourages making an appointment before dropping by.
“I love this segment of home decor and really enjoy it,” she says. “I love the brands I rep and it’s fun to work with customers. We have a great offering that is like nowhere else in the U.S.”