Meet a woody PUZLer.
It has been amazing to interview Malte Gormsen, a master craftsman who has elevated woodworking to an art form. With a legacy rooted in a family of creatives, Malte has honed his skills to become a cabinetmaker, renowned for his exceptional craftsmanship. His expertise has caught the attention of renowned establishments such as Geranium and Noma, where his bespoke furniture has found a place of honor. Join us as we delve into the captivating talk with Malte Gormsen.
What inspired you to become one of the most skilled cabinetmakers of our time?
Growing up in a creative family I always knew that I wanted to work with craftsmanship and creativity. I guess you could say that cabinetmaking runs through my veins. With a creative mother and a father, who was a cabinetmaker as well as an architect, I became a creative child. At the age of 15, I had developed a fascination for wood which gave me a clear direction. I visited different types of wood craft workshops, and it was in fine cabinetmaking where I found the perfect combination of creativity and craftsmanship. Also, a woodwork tradition that had been kept intact albeit with the integration of modern technology.
I trained as an apprentice cabinetmaker at a young age. Initially in Scotland with a small family-owned cabinetmaker and later with Niels Roth Andersen, where I helped making furniture pieces by distinguished designers such as Finn Juhl, Helge Vestergaard Jensen and many others.
About 25 years ago, I started Malte Gormsen Møbelsnedkeri and today we’re around 25 highly skilled employees, ranging from cabinetmakers and carpenters to architects and project managers. The uniting theme is uncompromising focus on quality and detail. We deliver the highest quality of craftsmanship and design solutions, with a distinct aesthetic and a strong sense of professionalism, achieved through a combination of classic cabinetmaking solutions and complex technology.
You and your team have made bespoke interiors for several renown restaurants, including two of the top World’s best restaurants Noma and Geranium. Are you a gourmand?
I really appreciate and enjoy the food experience that restaurants like Geranium and Noma create – it’s more than just a meal, it truly is an experience where every little detail has a place in telling the story. Over the last decades Copenhagen has become a food hub and I enjoy the luxury of living at a place where it’s accessible. What I especially appreciate with what the likes of René Redzepi and Rasmus Kofoed are doing is, the craftsmanship, the precision, and the repetitive thoroughness of performing at the same high-level day in and day out. It is a great inspiration to me and something that I like to apply into what we do at our workshop. Many people from different backgrounds and trades could learn from this and apply to their life and professions. That is what I enjoy the most, when visiting for example Noma or Geranium – The effort that lies in it.
Tell us about your favourite go-to dish?
Although I enjoy eating at restaurants, my favourite meal and way of living is more modest. I love nature and especially being in the forest. So, for me it’s an easy answer, food made on an open fire. To cook outdoors together with friends and family. Anything goes and, in that context, almost everything that you cook tastes great. My favourite is probably, if the season permits it, mushrooms from our local forest with some freshly baked bread or a stew.
Which machine in the workshop do you love the most?
I like machines, good quality machines. It doesn’t matter if they are old or new, packed with technology, connected to computers or controlled with complex software. For example, I like, our five-axial CNC machine, on which you can do many extraordinary things with extreme precision.
If I was to choose one machine only, it would be our circular saw. With that I can do pretty much anything. I’m also a big fan of old traditional machines and I have a deep fascination of how some of them are built. These are also great examples of craftsmanship and engineering.
If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?
That is a very good question. As I’ve already mentioned, I’m fascinated by trees and there are many trees with unique qualities. But since you ask, I would choose the oak tree. My wife usually says that I’m an “old man in a young man’s body” (that said – I’m not sure that my body is that young anymore …). The oak tree grows slow, and it’s a wise tree. The wisdom is represented by the many years in crafting one’s skills through repetition. I believe that in becoming exceptional in a craft, one must practice repeatedly, over and over again. It’s a mindset. Repetition, repetition, repetition. All the hours of doing the same thing repeatedly. Creating a toughness by keeping going. Taking the time to do it. The oak tree represents that to me.
What is your weirdest passion?
Copenhagen has been voted the world’s most sustainable city. Do you have the same picture of your city?
I believe that we have only just started. There is a lot that can be done to become better. Let’s face it, our consumption is too high. We throw away too many things. Our mindset is short term. There are two very important factors when talking about sustainability – Recycling and quality. Many of Copenhagen’s buildings were built hundreds of years ago. Quality. We should by default build and make new things with the idea that they should last for a long time. I think that that our turnover is too high. We need to learn how to think quality and long term. At Malte Gormsen Møbelsnedkeri we try to implement these factors in what we produce and the wood we use. I like to think that our furniture is made for the generations to come, not just for the next years to come.
Which are your favourite places in Copenhagen?
There are many beautiful places in Copenhagen. This is where I grew up and I have collected memories from all stages of my life in many of the different neighbourhoods. If I had to pick one, I would choose the harbour, sailing in a little boat. From here you can see the canals and view the city from another viewpoint than we are used to. Copenhagen presents itself best from here. You will see old and new buildings, standing side by side, shaping a skyline of architecture and history. The development of the city. The best city in the world if you ask me.
What do you do to relax on a weekend?
I spend time with my family. We have a summerhouse close to the forest and the sea. I like spending time here. Or I spend time in our little workshop at Frederiksdal bådbyggeri (Frederiskdal boat workshop), where I have an old wooden boat that I refurbished a few years ago. The workshop is located next to a big lake and surrounded by a big forest. We have a close collaboration with the owner of the forest, and we have recently started to source trees from there. It takes about 4-6 years before we can use them in our furniture.
We have heard that you are fast down the ski slopes with your Telemark. You’re not 20 years old anymore, don’t you get a sore knee?
No, I can still rely on my strong legs. 🙂
Are you a collector?
Oh yes, big time … don’t get me started. I don’t like throwing things away. There is almost always a time when a particular item or thing can be used or is needed.
Finally, tell us about one or two projects that you are working on right now?
As mentioned above, we’d like to get closer to the natural resources. Wood as a resource and material. Therefore, one of our ongoing projects is our furniture collection. The furniture collection was born out of an ongoing collaboration rooted in our continuous work in creating bespoke furniture for both private clients and exclusive interior projects such as restaurants Noma, Geranium, Geist and 108. A lot of our collection is in collaboration with the Danish design studio Space Copenhagen.
The current collection evolved from a body of works realised over the last decade. Slow living and high-quality furniture that lasts for generations has been the concept and in 2019 we launched our own furniture collection, Malte Gormsen Kollektion.
Malte Gormsen Kollektion is, like our custom made solutions, an example of our uncompromising approach to craftsmanship and quality. Inspired by a naïve, Scandinavian aesthetic, rooted in our Danish rural culture with references to the centuries-old woodworking traditions. The collection journeys both backwards and forwards in time. I believe that new furniture can only come into existence if it is to be as relevant in its look, shape, function, and quality, today as well as in one hundred years. Uncompromising quality, fine cabinetmaking craftsmanship and a love of details from the inside out. These are our most important core values in terms of furniture, where each and every piece is a sculptural experience that will stand the test of time.
Last year we added six new items, designed by Norm Architects, a multidisciplinary design studio, who we have had the pleasure to work with on various projects throughout the years.