"We set out to build the biggest and the best kitchen brand in the world"
Michael Andersen and Jeppe Christensen are making a bold statement about design, longevity, and accessibility through Reform’s distinctive aesthetic and approach to manufacturing. The pair relocated to Berlin last month ahead of Design Week, celebrating this year’s edition through a series of collaborations and events from their Mitte showroom. We caught up with the founders to discuss bringing Reform to other German locations and defining timeless design.
Founded in 2014 over a beer, Michael and Jeppe wanted to challenge industry giants veered toward exclusive clientele by making good design more accessible. Born in Denmark, but never considered "just a Danish company," the vision was always international. In 2016 they opened their first store in Copenhagen, the following year Reform New York was launched, with Jeppe moving stateside while Michael stayed in Copenhagen. They opened the Berlin Mitte showroom earlier in 2019 and next year they plan to launch in Los Angeles and Munich.
As their presence and demand have grown in Germany, a Cologne showroom was opened a few weeks ago and Hamburg is set to follow later this year. With Michael and Jeppe’s attention focused on Reform’s expansion into Germany, they decided to both relocate to Berlin—becoming housemates in Prenzlauer Berg along the way. Michael will be based in Berlin during the working week and weekends in Denmark, while Jeppe and his family have completely relocated.
Shortly after moving, and to coincide with Berlin Design Week, they teamed up with valerie_objects for a week-long collaboration to challenge ideas of what a kitchen should be. Rare and sought-after design pieces curated from the Antwerp-based design label’s collection were presented at their showroom, including examples of artist-designed cutlery, furniture, and home furnishings.
Reform also explored how art and design shape everyday life experiences through a panel discussion in their Mitte showroom. ‘Design Translations - Rituals, Curiosity, Everyday’ saw Lukas Feireiss moderate a conversation between Jeppe, Sam Chermayeff, Ania Rosinke, and Katrin Greiling. The panel delved into how design can lead to freedom in creative thinking and reflected design processes from their own personal experiences.
The panel discussion allowed individuals to interrupt their perspectives of modern design while laying out visions for a future world. The speakers, known for their forward-thinking styles and approach, reflected on their experiences and the progressives techniques being used in their work. Creating a forward-thinking brand that respects traditional techniques is originally what brought Michael and Jeppe together.
Michael is an engineer and former employee at Bjarke Ingels’ architectural firm BIG. Jeppe holds a Master's in Marketing and Economics, he was a former partner at a carpentry and design business.
Before Reform began, they were discussing kitchen design one day and were stunned at how "old and boring" the industry was. Unless you were designing for a luxury market, the industry was stagnating and aesthetics were being overlooked. Michael and Jeppe wanted to create something that highlighted aesthetic values while maintaining functionality at the core.
Kitchens for generations were overlooked in homes and from a design perspective. Lifestyle changes and a culinary revolution transformed these forgotten spaces into the spin of modern life at home. An emphasis on healthier cooking and design becoming a subject that connects with ever more people created a space for a fresh approach to kitchens.
"We wanted to create a kitchen company that was innovative and forward-thinking while pushing the boundaries of what kitchen design can be like in the future," they explain. Jeppe couldn't find a company that suited his aesthetic so he decided to start one—he thinks this is why so many people can relate to Reform.
"We see the kitchen as part of the furniture," not a room shunned to the corner of the home where food preparation happens while the entertainment is elsewhere. It's the most important piece of furniture for Michael and Jeppe. "We wanted to create a kitchen company that was innovative and forward-thinking while pushing the boundaries of what kitchen design can be like in the future," Jeppe tells us.
They aimed to bring good design to the masses, not an exclusive few. "We set out to build the biggest and the best kitchen brand in the world," and to connect with the masses they adopted a smart model. To them, IKEA is one of the best design companies in history, which is why it was incorporated into Reform's vision. Using IKEA kitchens as the base for clients, Reform 'modifies' elements and adds their timeless designs to give it a new personality and purpose.
Reform collaborates with some of the biggest names in Danish and international design and architecture for special pieces. Muller Van Severen, Note Design Studio, and Studio David Thulstrup are just a handful of brands in recent years. This helps them push the boundaries of design by allowing new and innovative approaches to be molded into their operation each year. New sustainable practices are being incorporated into Reform's vision every year. They recently collaborated with Lendager Group on 'Up' to make a sustainable kitchen using off-cuts of high-end plank flooring from Dinesen.
"Through great design, we can make sustainability second nature and build lasting kitchens," Michael tells us. Reform has torched designs at the last-minute and scrapped hundreds of ideas if they aren't deemed lasting. Their aim is to create contemporary yet classic pieces that won't look out of place in 30 years, 40 years, or a lifetime in a home.
"Sometimes we get cold feet in the end, there's a risk your outcome won't be what you set out for it to be. We have to trust our (design) judgment, as a designer it hurts seeing your baby being thrown away, but it is a process we have done many times," Michael explains. Nailing down a concept that stands the test of time is something at the heart of design for Michael and Jeppe, they recall scrapping plans in the final hour when doubts about longevity were raised.
“Nothing is more sustainable than creating something that lasts a lifetime,” they explain. This is something that has struck a chord with thousands of people as Reform's international presence grows. They source materially locally, often using recycled wood, plus work with local craftsmen.
Building a network of artisans and craftsmen in North America and other locations across Europe are part of Reform’s long term plan. With Hamburg set to open later this year and Munich next year to meet demand in the growing German market, Reform are looking beyond 2020. Reportedly on the agenda are showrooms in Vienna, London, and Paris. Five years ago, Michael and Jeppe set out to build the biggest kitchen brand in the world, today Reform is sold in more than 30 countries.