There’s a satisfying circularity in the story of how design professional Nick Nemechek ended up in Copenhagen, and it involves Danish designer Ib Kofod-Larsen’s Penguin chair.
Nemechek, who works in merchandising and e-commerce for Danish design studio Menu, was rifling through vintage furniture in upstate New York some years ago when he had the opportunity to buy one of Larsen’s designs. Nemechek calls these excursions to flea markets and estate sales his education in design, and it led Nemechek and Tariq Dixon to found TRNK, a furniture design studio and online store, in 2013.
“I had the opportunity to buy a Penguin chair that was in really horrible shape for 50 bucks,” he says. Dixon discouraged him, noting that Nemechek would spend much more money repairing and, potentially, reselling it. He let go of the idea, even though he knew he was onto something. “It’s the one that got away,” says Nemechek.
Larsen’s chairs are an interesting case of midcentury Danish furniture: While designed in Denmark in the 1950s, they were made exclusively for the American market through Selig, a manufacturing company. Since 2012, they’ve been made by Brdr. Petersen, a Danish furniture maker established in 1973.
Nemechek didn’t pass on the next Penguin that came into his life: When he happened upon a vintage one in nice condition on eBay, he made sure to snap it up.
“It was one of these pieces that always stuck with me from the very beginning of getting into design. Bringing it back to Denmark is a fun journey for it,” he says.
After deciding to leave TRNK in 2017, Nemechek found himself on the receiving end of an inquiry from Menu: Did he know anyone who might be able to work with them to manage e-commerce in the U.S.? One thing led to another, and in the fall of the same year, he moved to Denmark to fill that very role.
Next up was an apartment hunt. “Copenhagen is a very small city, so I was indiscriminate,” Nemechek says of deciding on a neighborhood. Using DBA, Denmark’s Craigslist equivalent, he looked at several spaces, lamenting that “in the same way as New York City or elsewhere, there’s always something wrong with them.” However, he continued to peruse the site after putting down an offer on one place, and he happened upon something more promising: a large flat, affordable for its size, located in an 18th-century building in the center of the city.
“It was only a floorplan, but I saw the street it was on, which was a very central street, and it was five rooms and just window, window, window, all along the street side,” says Nemechek. He quickly set up a time to see it, and upon arrival realized it was in the middle of renovations. The owner, who had lived in the apartment for decades, was reallocating the square footage to create a larger rental and a smaller home for himself. They were moving walls, and opening several pairs of double doors that had been sealed—as well as closing some. Even before the renovations, Nemechek could see the potential: original molding, floors that were being refinished, a fresh coat of paint.
“They were bringing it back to life,” he says. “I waited an extra six weeks, but I figured it was worth it because it was special.”
After moving in, Nemechek infused the space with furniture from all over the world, shipping several of his pieces from the U.S. and taking advantage of his new proximity to coveted Scandinavian classics.
“Since moving to Denmark, it’s been great because [DBA] is crazy here,” he says, laughing. “It’s been damaging to my bank account, because you realize the premium in America that we pay for these items that, in Denmark, are literally in Grandma’s house. It’s been fun to add new pieces to my collection.”
Instead of committing to a style, Nemechek most appreciates contrast and playing pieces off one another. “I think that’s when interiors become more interesting,” he says. “I prefer spaces that have a little bit more character, playfulness, something ugly in them even, because it allows for a little bit more fun.” Recognizable designs by Carlo Santi, Jean Prouvé, Hans Wegner, Achille Castiglioni, and more mingle with contemporary brands like Frama, Menu, Lambert & Fils, and Rich Brilliant Willing.
Nemechek says that before starting TRNK, he and Dixon saw many friends—in the same age range, with the same careers—furnishing their homes with generic or big-box brands. Part of starting the company was to champion a more deliberate approach, where every piece has a real story. Throughout his time at TRNK, and now at Menu, he’s been committed to this notion.
“I think I’ve always maintained that [ideal], and I think it reflects itself in my home now,” he says. “Every piece that I’ve brought in is because I love it and I feel comfortable with it, and it is comfortable.”