Kirsten Moller – J.L Møllers Møbelfabrik
In February this year, Sarah-Jane and Juliette were fortunate to visit the Stockholm Furniture Fair with our friends from Great Dane Furniture, to experience the best of top-tier Scandinavian furniture and lighting design. In addition to visiting the fair, the tour with Great Dane involved an afternoon at the J.L Møllers Møbelfabrik factory, to get a behind-the-scenes look at the level of craftsmanship that goes into the brand’s sophisticated, timeless designs.
Kirsten Møller is the granddaughter of Niels Otto Møller, the founder of J.L Møllers Møbelfabrik who created the business in 1944. With an American mother and a Danish father, Kirsten grew up in the US and eventually moved to Denmark to complete her masters in Environmental Economics. Over time, the pull to return to become a part of her family’s business became stronger and now she carries on her family’s legacy by continuing to grow the brand. As a third generation Møller, Kirsten is proud to be involved in the family business and imparts a youthful diversity whilst ensuring the longevity of the brand’s uncompromising quality.
We caught up with Kirsten to learn more about her background and we found out why she’s so proud to continue the family tradition.
Can you tell us about your upbringing and the time spent between the US and Denmark?
I was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota and raised in Eagan, a suburb just outside the city. My mother Mary is American and my father Jørgen is Danish. I have an older brother named Michael and a younger brother named John. Our summer holidays were always spent in Denmark visiting my grandmother, family friends and the factory.
What can you share with us about your education and career to date?
I started gymnastics at age three and dedicated fifteen years to the sport. I received my bachelor’s degree in Business and Scandinavian studies from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. I worked at my parent’s furniture store International Design Center in Edina when I was home from school during the summers. After university, I moved to Oahu and worked for two years at Inspiration Interiors, a furniture store in Honolulu, and took some economic courses at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. I then moved to Copenhagen and received my master’s degree from the University of Copenhagen in environmental economics and worked for the consulting company Cowi. While writing my thesis, I made the decision to start working at the factory in Højbjerg and carry on the legacy of J.L. Møllers Møbelfabrik.
And how long have you been based in Denmark?
I have been living in Denmark for four years, two of those years in Copenhagen and two years in Aarhus.
Does Denmark feel like home to you?
Absolutely. I have two homes; one in Minnesota, where I grew up and where my family and some of my closest friends live, the other in Denmark, where some of my dearest childhood memories came from and where my boyfriend and I now live and work.
J.L Møllers Mobelfabrik was founded in 1944 by your grandfather Niels Otto Møller. As the 3rd generation in the family business, how important is the brand heritage for now and the future?
Our company history is fascinating. Our grandfather was educated as a cabinetmaker and started out as a one-man show in 1944. He had a small workshop in the city centre of Aarhus, where he designed and produced one product at a time, and our grandmother sold them in the front of the store. In 1961, they designed and built a 7000m2 factory located in Højbjerg, where all production still takes place today. At that time, there were over 200 men in production and 30 in the office.
Over his lifetime, our grandfather designed many dining room pieces, but his dining chairs are what he is known for. From 1951 – 1981, he designed ten dining chairs with corresponding arm chairs, along with benches, stools, dining tables and a gorgeous tea trolley. Because he was educated as a cabinetmaker, he knew all the intricacies of production and worked together with the production managers to introduce new designs to the collection. Compromise was not an option, only the highest of quality was acceptable. In 1981, the company received the Danish Furniture Industry Prize for “succeeding in combining the best craftsmanship with rationalized production in a marvelous way.” Wherever Møller chairs have been exhibited (including the Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London) they have garnered international attention.
After our grandfather passed away in 1982, my uncle, Jens Ole ran the company until his sudden death in 1994. My father has been running the factory from the USA for the last thirty years, along with two contemporary furniture stores of his own in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Memphis, Tennessee. As the 3rd generation in the family business, I look forward to continuing what my grandparents, uncle and father have worked so hard for.
What do you think contributes to the success of the brand?
I think it’s a combination of quality craftsmanship, timeless design and unparalleled comfort. We have always been a family-run business, and having a close connection to the company and our dedicated workers make a big difference. Furthermore, our grandfather exhibited at furniture fairs all over the world between the 1960’s-1980’s and this has contributed to the widespread recognition of Møller chairs. Our products are sold all over the world today, including North America, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, and Europe.
Do you have a favourite piece of furniture or collection (past or present) from JL Møllers Mobelfabrik?
The new barstool and counter stools are special for me, as I was a part of the process of bringing them into production. I do have a favorite brochure – in the 1960’s, our grandfather had a very talented photographer take some of the greatest photos of our collection to date. They are in black and white and all of the focus is on the chair.
What is next for J.L Møllers Mobelfabrik?
New pictures of the collection and a new website!
What does a typical day in Denmark entail for you?
I wear many different hats, so none of my days are typical. I have been working at the factory for two years now, and I am still learning something new every day. It’s an exciting and rewarding period.
Favourite travel destination/s?
Amsterdam and anywhere that is close to warm water. I’m spoiled after living on Oahu.
What does living a beautiful life mean to you?
Spending time with family and friends.
In a few words, what are you currently…
Coveting: Another pair of Acne Jeans
Reading: The NY Times
Watching: Starting Game of Thrones… goodbye life
Beauty is: Diversity
J.L Møllers Møbelfabrik is available at Great Dane Furniture