Interview with Monte Design Group, in honor of our “Glide into Spring” contest!
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Reposting this great interview with Monte Design Group, who are furnishing the awesome grand prize in our going-on-right-now-so-hurry “Glide Into Spring” Contest. Comfort. That’s not a word we use often when speaking about modern design and modern furniture. That’s not to say that there isn’t any comfortable modern furniture out there; plenty of our favorite designs to look at are also enjoyable to use. But to meet leaders of a company that stress that comfort, over the look of a product, is their main goal, well that’s just refreshing.
Luckily for us, the founders of Monte Design Group not only concern themselves with comfort, they also happen to produce darn good-looking furniture pieces. With four kids, Michelle and Ralph Montemurro sure know a thing or two about the needs of stylish parents who desire a comfortable, functional and stylish home. In fact, when starting their family and trying to build and design a home, they just weren’t able to find what they were looking for; Monte Design Group was born. With a variety of products geared specifically for parents who have kids to rear and not a lot of time to spend trying to find furniture that will withstand them throughout the years, Monte’s products are perfect both in looks and in comfort. And, as we learned during our conversation with Ralph, these products are built to last (as only the dad of four kids under 10 years of age would know). Learn more about Ralph, Michelle, their family and their products in this awesome interview:
Our podcast music is “Dropping out of School” by Brad Sucks, licensed for use
under Creative Commons license Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
Down below you’ll find our thoughtfully typed-out transcript in case you’re at work and can’t listen to the downloadable interview (this one: Monte 2Modern Interview). And totally find the awesome furniture designs of Monte on 2Modern for sale!
2M: We’ve got Ralph Montemurro with us, who along with his wife Michelle, founded Monte Design Group, a company who makes good-looking modern furniture. Thanks for being here!
RM: Thank you, Adrienne.
2M: What inspired you guys to start a company with such a diverse range of products?
RM: About five or six years ago Michelle and I built a home, and it’s a pretty modern home. And at that time we had our third child. We were designing the nursery and we have pretty modern tastes and we couldn’t find furniture that fit the room to go with the house. From scratch we just slowly built up a company that builds chairs. Furniture felt like a good fit. I didn’t know much about it but I learnt as went along and now we’re here!
2M: What words would you use to describe the style of your furniture?
RM: It has to be comfortable, and it has to be practical and it’s got to be modern.
2M: You guys definitely have a very modern, clean look, but your furniture totally looks so comfortable; you just want to get snuggly in it. What’s more important to you: how something feels or how something looks?
RM: I think the feel is more important than the look. I don’t think it would be as nice of a piece if it wasn’t so comfortable. I mean we can design all these beautiful pieces that are so stunning, but if you sit in it and it’s not pleasurable, you’re gonna hate it. So they have to be hand in hand. The comfort has to be the most important, for this particular market, nursing and being with the child in the chair—comfort has to be number one.
2M: Since children are around your furniture a lot, what are the things that are designed into your furniture to withstand—although kids are pretty adorable I think we all know they can be pretty tough.
RM: Yeah they, we realize having four kids they can and will break anything possible. A big hunk of a steel…they will find a way to crack it. So we just try to build furniture that is pretty much…that can fall of the back of a truck and still survive kind of thing. So we make very durable, durable furniture.
2M: What’s your specific role at the company? Do you mainly do business stuff or do you get to get involved in creative stuff?
RM: I primarily design. Basically running the company but the true passion of what I love to do is the design part of it.
2M: So what is a typical day like for you?
RM: Depends on what time of year it is. Like right now I’m thinking about what products to launch this fall. So I’d say a quarter of my day or even half of my day is spent doing sketches of new items or sourcing a new material or a new process we can do for a future product. The other part of the day, the typical roles of a CEO of just managing the day to day of a company.
2M: So how do you and your wife split the duties?
RM: Well she’s not here every day, she’s at home raising the kids—they’re aged 10 to 2 so it’s a handful, and her main role is to tweak and finesse the pieces. She gives me the woman’s touch with what’s right and what’s wrong with what I’m thinking.
2M: I’m sure you guys have a lot of insight with all the kids. Do the kids get to have any input in there yet?
RM: They’re still too young, but we have a few chairs, like our Cubino Chairs where they’re the ones that tell us if they like sitting in it or not, so yeah they do have a little bit of input.
2M: Wanting to have furniture that the whole family can use is a big inspiration it sounds, but what are just some of the every day inspirations that come through in your design? Do you look to more Mid-Century Designers or more futuristic designers—who do you look to?
RM: I think the whole spectrum of designers really; there are so many designers working today who are so inspiring. Like Jaime Hayón from Spain, Marcel Wanders in the Netherlands. These guys have it so together and their designs are so bang on, when I see that they can do something so well it’s so inspiring that it’s possible to do great things today.
2M: I think that you guys have a lot of sustainability elements to your furniture, could you talk a little bit about that?
RM: Sure, when we do design and build what we do, it’s almost like the sustainability part is a given. It’s not like there’s any other option than to look for what are the most sustainable products we can offer. Whether it’s the foam or the fabric or the wood, it has to be the best sustainable thing that we can put into this product. So it’s almost like I don’t really want to promote the fact that it’s so sustainable other than it’s really the only way to design stuff for today. For our market anyway. Maybe there are people who are trying to make low-end stuff that try to be sustainable…it’s like we can’t think any other way.
2M: This might kind of be like trying to choose your favorite kid or something, but what are some of your favorite pieces that you guys carry?
RM: Personally the two pieces that I could probably stare at all day is our Tavo high chair and our new Joya Rocker. It’s just maybe because they have exposed wood and we do mostly full-upholstery, so when we have a little bit of wood showing it’s intriguing for me anyway. But all of our pieces are favorites.
2M: I understand.
RM: Well it was the Luca Glider that actually broke us into this market. That was the first chair we came out with, and that really led the way for everything else. And it is still our best seller that is the Luca Glider.
2M: Oh nice. That’s how you know you’re doing a good job, when the first thing you designed is still going strong.
RM: Exactly. That’s still number one.
2M: What would you be doing if you weren’t a furniture designer?
RM: Something related to design. Building our house and [working with] our architect…really opened my eyes to the great world of design and I’ve specifically focused in on furniture. So it would have to be something design-oriented. Now if it wasn’t design-oriented, I think it might be something in television or music. I don’t know what it would be, but some kind of behind-the-scenes in music or TV.
2M: What is up next for the Monte Design Group?
RM: We’ve got a few more chairs on the go, so possibly another glider. We’re also working on a fully-upholstered bed. So hopefully we can enter the bed market this year. I think there’s a market for higher-end, well-built, fully-upholstered beds with a lot color options. So we’ll see if it works out or not.
2M: Interesting. I can’t wait to see how that comes out. Thank you so much for speaking with us today.
RM: Oh my pleasure, Adrienne
2M: Be sure to visit montedesign.net for more information about Ralph and Michelle and Monte Design Group. You’ve been listening to a 2modern designer interview. For more fun podcasts, inspiring design posts and design advice, check out the blog at 2modern.com