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This uncommon design shop is the anti-Amazon

After a three-year hiatus, the husband-wife duo behind Kiosk, the revered concept store, return with a new collection–just in time for the holidays.

In the age of online shopping and globalized commerce, it can be hard to find unique but useful gifts–and even harder to find a unique souvenir when traveling. Kiosk, the roving art and retail concept project started in 2005 by husband-wife duo Alisa Grifo and Marco ter Haar Romeny, has a strikingly keen ability to uncover unusual, everyday objects and housewares from around the world.

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None of the items are brand-name or likely to be found in the high-design stores found in New York’s SoHo, where Kiosk first opened up shop–and that’s precisely the point. With a nearly anthropological acuity, the store’s indie wares have included everything from Romanian bottle stoppers to Grecian delivery trays, a mix of anonymously designed everyday goods and regional specialties that only locals would recognize. Over the years, Grifo and Romeny, set and graphic designers by trade, have amassed over 1,300 gems in all.

Candlesticks, designed by Italian Futurist ceramicists, produced today at the Mazzotti factory. [Photo: courtesy Kiosk]

Now, after a three-year break spent closing up shop in New York, relocating to London, and mounting impressive museum installations of their store archive at MoMA PS1 and ICA London, the shop is back in business with its first post-hiatus installment.

Culled from a recent sojourn spent in Italy, it includes a handful of things you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere online, let alone on your own travels through Europe: totemic, futuristic candlestick holders from the legendary Mazzotti ceramic factory. A small paring knife, made especially for cutting open chestnuts. A little cylindrical sulphur stick, used by locals in Liguria as a homeopathic remedy to aches and pains. A steel, teapot-like cruet, made expressly for generous pours of olive oil.

A $6 sulfur stick also makes Kiosk’s cut: “A totally, non-scientifically proven, antiquated homeopathic/home remedy brought back by some Genoese sailor in the 1800s from a mysterious place overseas but hey, it works for me!” [Photo: courtesy Kiosk]

Accessibly priced from $6, all come with Grifo and Romeny’s signature product descriptions, which read as part travelogue, part stream-of-consciousness memo. Much has changed in the 13 years they’ve been running the project. “The concept of borders is an antiquated one, the global economy has made it that way, and where people are economically connected they need to be politically connected,” Grifo says–and future iterations of the store are due to change as a result. For the moment, the couple is hard at work on their first book, and have just announced they’ll be represented by the New York gallery Gordon Robichaux.

Kiosk reminds us that design is personal–even, or especially, when it’s a dear and uncommonly common object meant for everyday use. “I hope people see what we do as a very open and honest take on art and commerce,” says Grifo.

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About the author

Aileen Kwun is a writer based in New York City. She is the author of Twenty Over Eighty: Conversations On a Lifetime in Architecture and Design (Princeton Architectural Press), and was previously a senior editor at Dwell and Surface.

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