AMEICO: Modern Care
Beginning at a young age, Peter Kahane made regular visits to the Museum of Modern Art in New York with his parents. He enjoyed taking in Henri Rousseau’s The Sleeping Gypsy and spending time in the design and architecture galleries, “which back then were quite substantial,” he points out. His father was also a fine art dealer, specializing in works from India and Southeast Asia, and although “this background certainly cultivated in me a love for art in general and for Asian art in particular, it took quite a few years until I found myself in the design field and realized this was my calling.”
Despite the modernism that would continue to hold a strong allure for him, it was indeed a circuitous route back to design for Kahane, who began his career at a commodity trading company in Switzerland.
Later, he managed Larsen Carpet for a Swiss supplier of high-end, natural fiber floor covering, but it was during a blessing-in-disguise phase of unemployment, when he and his wife Stephanie took an extended savings-funded trip to Asia, that Kahane decided to launch his own design distribution business.
AMEICO was established in New York—and initially operated scrappily out of Peter and Stephanie’s West Village apartment—in 1995. Now based in New Milford, Connecticut, and housed in a revamped historic Southern New England Telephone switching station dating from 1917, AMEICO focuses on contemporary yet enduring design objects, spanning tabletop and kitchen accessories, timepieces, and even eyewear, as well as 20th and 21st century contract lighting from Europe and parts of Asia.
Kahane stumbled into the latter at the recommendation of a German business associate who suggested he go to Milan and visit the studio of architect and designer Michele De Lucchi. “At the time, his Produzione Privata, a collection of glass fixtures mouth-blown in Murano, was just getting off the ground, and we became the U.S. distributor,” Kahane recalls.
Those early days paved the way to an array of highly crafted lighting from the likes of Denmark’s &tradition, Germany’s Midgard, and Japan’s Yamagiwa. “I have always been much more attracted to low-tech and warm, decorative lighting versus high-tech task lighting. Of course, our fixtures should perform their function of diffusing light in an attractive way, but often they are just as much illuminated works of art,” Kahane explains.
Unveiling three different lighting collections, from London’s BEEM and the Danish brands Le Klint and Made by Hand, was AMEICO’s plan for ICFF. When the show was canceled, the company turned inward, instead creating a video that welcomes viewers into AMEICO’S showroom for a virtual tour of its offerings.
“I am thrilled about the result and feel this is something we should continue, even when trade shows are back,” Kahane says, noting how one positive outcome of the COVID-19 crisis was halting the normal business to re-assess priorities. AMEICO is determined to embrace a more collaborative and educational approach going forward, exploring its role amid the larger intertwined community of designers, architects, artisans, retailers, and users. “We are also working on doing a better job of being a brand ambassador for the collections we have the good fortune of representing and telling their stories,” adds Kahane. “Obviously, we also need to sell products, but that cannot be our raison d’être.”
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