"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 their distinctive aesthetic and approach to manufacturing. Reform kitchens started over a beer in 2014-their intention was to challenge industry giants veered toward exclusive clientele. Born in Denmark, but never considered "just a Danish company" by the founders, the vision was always international. Ahead of relocating to Berlin in September, we spoke to Michael and Jeppe at their showroom close to Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz.
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, the Scandinavian custom of 'hygge,' and design becoming a subject that connects with ever more people created a space for a fresh approach to kitchens.
This is what brought Michael and Jeppe together. "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. Michael 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 as a brand.
Both Michael and Jeppe come from design backgrounds and have worked in successful organizations. Michael is a composed individual, a vegan who spends a lot of time cooking at home, and also an engineer and former employee at Bjarke Ingels’ architectural firm BIG. Jeppe is a passionate creative who 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.
"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 to 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 'hacks’ elements and adds their timeless designs to give it a new personality.
Reform collaborates with some of the biggest names in Danish and international design and architecture for special pieces. Henning Larsen, Norm Architects, and Cecile Manz 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 weaved 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.
Being innovative and pushing design boundaries is their overall intention, not to create a 'new Scandinavian taste,' Michael explains. Vibrant colors and shapes make them distinctive, sometimes going against the minimalism grain which forms much of the region's aesthetic.
"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.
Sure, they admit mistakes have made in the past, but they concentrate on this lasting principle. "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 judgment, as a designer it hurts seeing your baby being thrown away, but it is a process we have done many times," Michael explains. Both Michael and Jeppe have Reform kitchens at home.
Design is before manufacturing at Reform, something they believe separates them from the 'bigger guys.' Michael says it "isn't our production manager or team that decides which kitchen we are going to produce, it is the designer. Aesthetic and functionality skin our pieces." This means Reform end up with different "design expressions" than traditional kitchen makers, working from the vision first instead of the material.
To Michael and Jeppe, nothing is more sustainable than creating something that lasts a lifetime. 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. They have showrooms in Denmark, New York, and soon four different locations in Germany-Cologne and Hamburg are set to open later this year. The Reform team are turning their attention to Germany, which is why both are relocating to Berlin.
Talking about where the company is today and what it means to them both, Jeppe told us, "Reform to me is everything, it is the biggest influence in my life. I moved to New York to open up in the US. I'm now moving to Berlin to work on Reform in Germany. I think about it every day. My wife works at Reform, my best friend works at Reform, it is kind of like my family. This is also why I'm very sensitive about Reform and why it is so important for me to do well for the clients."