Kirsten Møller is CEO of famed Danish furniture business J.L. Møllers Møbelfabrik. Proud to stand by practices that have been around since their factory opened in Aarhus, Denmark, in 1944, Kirsten says the family-run business legacy is to never compromise on quality. “From 1951 until his death in 1982, my grandfather designed ten dining room chairs and corresponding armchairs, as well as benches, stools, tables and lounge chairs,” Kirsten says.
There are no assembly lines in the Møller workshop, but production is streamlined – from cutting raw wood down to the final weaving. As Kirsten puts it – if you purchase a Møller piece today, it has been produced the same way it was when first designed. “New craftsmen are trained by hand, manually transferring knowledge; one of our craftsmen has been with us for 53 years now and could sand our chairs with his eyes closed,” Kirsten says. The Møller #63 bench reveals the signature technique of wrapping a single piece of paper cord around the soaped oak frame. “No screws or nails are used in assembling a Møller design – they are all hand-glued,” Kirsten says. “To weave a Møller bench model 63 with a natural paper cord, it takes almost an entire workday,” she adds.
“What makes our factory quite unique is that some of our craftsmen have been with us since my grandfather was alive.”
Jacob Plejdrup and his wife Ann Plejdrup established dk3 in 2009, introducing their signature timber plank tables to the Danish design scene. Denmark’s golden era ‘the Mid-century movement’ and a grounding philosophy of bringing the beauty of nature indoors for the cold climate inspired dk3. “Solid wood wrapped in minimalism and true craftsmanship – that ?s dk3,” Jacob says. “Good craftsmanship is good quality; we have passed this knowledge onto our highly successful TEN TABLE dining table collection.”
Designed and produced in Denmark, the TEN TABLE collection reveals Jacob’s passion for honest, sustainable materials and minimal forms. Working with emerging Danish designer Christian Troels, they created a new concept for grooves on the legs and base. “The grooves are not stuck onto the base but are drilled into the solid wood legs and each leg is made of ten pieces of solid wood,” Jacob says. “The role of our carpenters has been essential for the creation of the TEN TABLE; the legs are a wood-engineering masterpiece.”
While the label ‘Danish design’ is stronger than ever, only a handful of makers are left in Denmark today. Heritage lighting brand LE KLINT is one of them. Established in 1943, they have manufactured their lamps in Odense, Denmark, ever since. “It is a completely conscious choice that we have maintained our production in Denmark, and it is an important part of our DNA,” CEO Kim Weckstrøm Jensen says.
The artisans, colloquially referred to as the ‘pleating ladies’, are the driving force behind LE KLINT’s hand-pleated paper and plastic lamp shade legacy. To become a skilled pleating technician at LE KLINT takes approximately three years until you instinctively know how to pleat and fold every design.
One of the most iconic pieces in the LE KLINT range is Model 101, also known as The Lantern, designed by architect Kaare Klint in 1944. “The lamp unifies craftsmanship, technique and design,” Kim reflects. “It is almost unbelievable that a rectangular piece of paper can be folded into a three-dimensional ball with such a beautiful and complicated structure.”
Founded in 1861 in Stockholm, Swedish furniture maker Gemla plays home to the country’s oldest furniture factory located in Dio?, where their entire range is still handmade. Gemla partner and chairman Benny Hermansson says they make most pieces using the same technique of steam bending solid wood – where many moulds are more than a century old. “Everything produced at Gemla is built on solid craftsmanship, natural materials and a strong belief in being careful with resources,” he says.
The VILDA 3 dining chair by interior and product designer Jonas Bohlin, known for hospitality design in Sweden, is a contemporary piece based on Gemla’s traditional taming of beech or ash wood. Jonas came up with the concept for the VILDA dining chair when designing Restaurant AG in Stockholm. “That’s how VILDA 3 was born,” Benny says. “The vegetable-tanned thick leather from Ta?rnsjo? is vital to the updated look and the comfort of the chair – and will mature for a stunning patina”.
Interior and furniture design practice POIAT STUDIO, based in Helsinki and Fiskars, craft all of their pieces from wood and finish them by hand. “We don’t want to exclude new technologies, but feel when we desire a level of quality, it’s harder for a machine to mimic human craftsmanship,” Timo Mikkonen says, POIAT STUDIO co-founder. “We believe that skilful craftsmanship brings extra value to a product,” he adds, creating each collection in small quantities.
POIAT STUDIO bring a ‘form follows emotion’ approach to the traditional Finnish design ethos of form follows function. “The objective is that the person who owns a piece of furniture has an emotional attachment,” co-founder Antti Rouhunkoski says. “This thinking enhances sustainability; when you have an emotional bond, you want to cherish it for decades.”
The studio are long-time collaborators with Finnish designer and master cabinet maker Antrei Hartikainen, also based in the artisanal village of Fiskars. They worked with Antrei to prototype the Bastone cabinet. “Antrei’s inspiration behind the Bastone collection comes from admiring the tall and sparse woods where one can see how the light shifts through the trees,” Antti says. This is reflected in the cabinet’s wooden dowel rods that create an arched form, revealing the possibilities of wood as a material.
“The objective is that the person who owns a piece of furniture has an emotional attachment. This thinking enhances sustainability; when you have an emotional bond, you want to cherish it for decades.”