Cult Shop: utility revitalised at Objects of Use
We’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest Shopping and gifts news every morning.
“‘Earth and Industry’ was one. ‘Land and Bread’ was another. I liked ‘Standard Standard’. Oh, and ‘Making Good’. That’s a good one, isn’t it?” Hazel Rattigan is running through the list of names she considered before settling on Objects of Use as the moniker of the Oxford hardware shop she opened with her former partner, Alexis Dexter, 12 years ago. Since then, the shop – located next to the 18th-century Covered Market in the centre of the city as well as online – has built a reputation for sourcing the best household goods from around the world.
The perfect frying pan? Rattigan points to a steel design made in France’s Val d’Ajol by De Buyer, a brand dating back to 1830. “Seasoned” by heating oil, the pans form a natural non-stick coat that self-repairs if scratched and won’t peel if overheated – “they will last more than a lifetime”. The ultimate soap dish? It’s made in Japan from hinoki, a slow-growing cypress naturally lemon-scented and moisture-resistant.
“We’re really into the idea of evolved and vernacular products – things that don’t have one single designer but have developed through generations to become the best version of themselves,” says Rattigan. “These are proven designs that are completely rooted in the place they’re from.” Resinous pine-tar soap, for instance, is made in Vaasa on the west coast of Finland; a cashmere clothes brush is crafted from pearwood by German family firm Redecker; and classic cream-handled steel cutlery comes, of course, from Sheffield.
The shop is sought out by design aficionados for its aesthetic take on utility, shaped by the pair’s backgrounds in graphic design and fine art. Dexter’s experience in prototyping and production development for Rachel Whiteread and Zaha Hadid, for instance, translates into choices such as the faceted Myojo pendant lamp. A collaboration between designer Oji Masanori and the historic brass foundry of Takaoka City, Japan, the shade is made using the i-hada technique, where molten brass is cast in sand so that the form retains a grainy texture.
The history of each object and maker is detailed online and on a paper label attached to the product – “even if it’s just a vegetable peeler”, says Rattigan. “We actually sell a peeler from Switzerland that was featured on a Swiss postage stamp because they’re so proud of it. It’s a really basic thing, but it’s also brilliant. It just makes the job so much easier. It’s subtly life-changing.” And if there’s joy to be found in peeling carrots – or cleaning book spines, scrubbing sinks and brushing soil from mushrooms, for that matter – now is certainly the time to find it.
Objects of Use, 6 Lincoln House, Market Street, Oxford OX1 3EQ. objectsofuse.com