“I believe that the beautiful things in life should always be in use,” confesses Mary Jeanne Kneen, owner of Lincoln Park’s Kneen & Co., an upscale tabletop and home décor boutique specializing in European and American wares. “That’s why every morning I stir my espresso with a real silver spoon, drink from beautiful crystal and eat off of fine china.” Launched after Kneen lived abroad in Germany, the company was first established as a purveyor of European antique fireplaces (formally called Au Coin du Feu) and as the hub for Nymphenburg, a German brand of collectible porcelain.
Today, it’s a by-appointment-only menagerie of all things fine: gilded place settings from Hering Berlin, sterling silverware by James Robinson and decorative accessories by Hermès, to name a few. With an affinity for handmade craftsmanship, Kneen also proudly sources exclusive pieces with an heirloom quality. “These are classic, artisanal objects made with care,” she says. “They possess an element that’s both precious and sentimental, yet will withstand the test of time.”
LX: Whose table would you like to dress?
MJK: I think it would be fun to dress Lady Gaga’s table because she’s just so crazy and I feel like we could do something really over-the-top and creative. I could see an Alice in Wonderland-type tablescape with a combination of fun things.
LX: Dream collaboration:
MJK: I would love to work on a project with Tom Ford; his designs are classic with a touch of modernism.
LX: Keep an eye on:
MJK: Alice Goldsmith. She makes an incredible collection of porcelain dinnerware and accessories in the most beautiful glazes. They’re very earthy and primitive yet contemporary at the same time.
LX: How did you become interested in art and design?
MJK: I became interested in art and design when I first visited Europe as a young girl. My older sister was living in London, and when went to visit her we toured museums, estates and antique stores. London’s traditional style, mixed with their energy and excitement has always stuck with me. I was also greatly influenced by the time I spent living in Europe during most of the 1990s.
LX: How did you get started?
MJK: My family and I relocated from Munich to Winnetka and I renovated a large, old house. I seemed to have a knack for it, so with the encouragement of my designer at the time, I started my own business.
LX: Go-to host gift:
MJK: A set of Julia B. cocktail napkins, a Côté Bastide scented candle and potpourri, or a box of note and gift enclosure cards from The Printery.
LX: Design icons:
MJK: The work of Wolfgang von Wersin, who designed the Lotos, Orion and Adonis patterns for Nymphenburg. Also Josef Hoffmann, who designed the Patrician motif for Lobmeyr. I love the classic, timeless beauty of these designs.
LX: My decorating tip:
MJK: Always buy what you love. You’ll use it, cherish it, and it’ll bring joy to your life. Also, don’t be afraid to edit and refresh your home. Your style will evolve and grow over the years so it’s okay to replace the things you’re not in love with anymore.