Interview: Kirsten Møller

  • Kirsten Moller is the fresh face of iconic Danish designer, Moller Furniture. Granddaughter of founder Niels Otto Moller, Kirsten heads the renowned family business that has moved gently through the decades with its refined and well-crafted pieces. Remaining relevant for almost 75 years since its debut, Moller has stood by practices that have been around since their factory opening in 1961. Working out of the same factory has ensured the Moller ethos is not lost, rather crafted by a new generation constantly reminded of what has gone before and what truly sets the bespoke business apart from the rest.

    The Moller brand have long established a relationship with Great Dane Furniture that ensures we can appreciate Moller in the Southern Hemisphere. As we (just like the Danes) have a keen interest in natural materials, it’s not uncommon you will recognise a Moller Bench as a celebrated centrepiece in many an Aussie home featured on est.

    Late last year Kirsten and her family visited us down under, popping into Great Dane Melbourne to see their designs on show and to hear an appreciation for their work firsthand. Wrapping up the CEO’s first visit to Australia, we were lucky to have a chat with Kirsten about her proud new role and breathing fresh ideas into the future of her enduring family furniture business.

    How did you find your first visit to Australia?

    Kirsten Moller: Australia was lovely, and jam packed for my family and I. We met wonderful people, enjoyed many beautiful beaches, and even got to know the local wildlife – we fed wallabies and a kangaroo. Since we only had two weeks, we were out experiencing everything the country has to offer. On top of that, we had an event at Great Dane furniture in Melbourne and in Sydney, where we were able to share the Møller story with many Australians who are passionate about design.

    Can you tell us a bit about how the Moller brand started and your partnership with Great Dane Furniture?

    Kirsten Moller: The Møller brand has been developed over many years. My grandfather Niels Otto was born in 1920. His father had a workshop that shut down in the early 1940’s. Being around wood work from an early age sparked something in my grandfather, and the Møller brand began in 1944 when he finished his cabinet maker education. From 1951 until his death in 1982, he designed ten dining room chairs and corresponding armchairs, as well as benches, stools, tables, and lounge chairs. The models that were designed in the 1950’s and 1960’s are still the company’s most sought-after pieces, which truly speaks to his ability to create timeless designs. Anton was introduced to Møller through his start in the vintage business. Because Møller never compromised on quality, our 40-50 years old chairs can be found on the secondhand market.

    Great Dane furniture truly appreciates high quality, genuine Danish manufacturing. Since there are not many furniture factories left that keep their production in Denmark, the products they show in Melbourne and Sydney are not found everywhere.

    Your timeless designs are still manufactured in the same facilities that your grandfather built in 1961.  Why is tradition and history so important to the Moller brand?

    Kirsten Moller: What my grandfather achieved in his lifetime truly blows me away. I think of him every day as I walk through the floors of the factory. Møller has always been a family-run company, so keeping our family legacy alive is extremely important. We continue to use decades-old manufacturing and craftsman techniques, as it is how we produce the high-quality dining products in our collection. If you purchase a Møller piece today, it has been produced the same way it was when it was first set into production. This sets us apart from many of our competitors in the industry.

    What sparked your initial interest and involvement in the family business?

    Kirsten Moller: My brothers and I grew up in Minnesota but visited Denmark twice a year to spend time with our grandmother (the wife of the founder of Møller). From an early age, we always knew about the factory, but didn’t have a strong connection to it. My father asked if I was interested in staying in Denmark to work for the family business while I was finishing up my master’s degree in Copenhagen two years ago. I never once felt pressured to carry on the family legacy, the opportunity just occurred at the right time.

    Congratulations on your new role as CEO. As you take the brand forward, what are you most focused on and why?

    Kirsten Moller: Right now, I am most focused on modernising our brand by introducing a new website and updated photography of our products. The power of exhibiting at furniture fairs and maintaining personal relationships with customers has always been important to Moller, so I am doing a lot of traveling as well. In the future, we need to start hiring a new generation of Danish craftsman to be able to continue producing the high-quality products we are known for.

    You sell more of the Moller Bench in Australia than anywhere else in the world. Why do you think your furniture is so iconic in the Australian design landscape?

    Kirsten Moller: We attribute much of our success on the Australian market to Great Dane furniture. Anton and Megan visit the Moller factory in Denmark almost every year. This personal relationship means a lot and Great Dane’s admiration for our products can truly be seen in their showrooms and in their passion for our brand. After visiting, it was evident that the Australian design community values the natural materials that we use in our products, such as solid wood combined with papercord.

    Design by Studio Tate | Photography by Sharyn Cairns | Artwork by Celia Gullett at Otomys

    Do you have a favourite Moller piece or collection?

    Kirsten Moller: Our catalogue from the 1960’s is spectacular. It sits on my desk and I draw inspiration from it every day. It contains black and white photographs of the collection at that time, including Chair 83, which is my favorite model. It is not as popular as some of the other models, but the extra craftsmanship this piece requires, in my opinion, sets it aside from all the others.

    As a business, how do you maintain a timeless, bespoke approach and avoid getting caught up in the fast pace or trends of the industry?

    Kirsten Moller:The buzz phrase ‘Danish Design’ has been booming for some years now. New Danish brands are coming to the market all the time. What sets Moller aside from other companies in the industry is our production location, our production techniques, and our timeless designs. We manufacture everything in Denmark at the same factory my grandfather built in the 1960s. New craftsman get trained by hand, so knowledge is transferred manually. Our classic collection has been quite popular for a decade now, but this wasn’t always so. The furniture industry goes through cycles, and in a few years, plastic and metal chairs might be in. It is a dynamic industry, but we will continue to do what we do best: crafting some of the world’s most beautiful and high-quality dining chairs.

    What can we look forward to next from the Moller brand? 

    Kirsten Moller: I would really like my father to design a new chair. He received the highest honour in his craftsmanship education in Denmark but hasn’t designed a new model in more than 30 years. It would be an honour to work with him on a new design. We celebrate our 75th anniversary in 2019, so a celebration is in order.

    Moller Bench #63 Great Dane
    Design by Studio Tate | Photography by Sharyn Cairns

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