When a tree falls in Charleston, Michael Moran is usually the first to hear about it. The furniture maker has made a name for himself as the go-to for custom, hand-crafted pieces, all under the moniker of Moran Woodworked Furniture, the studio he founded in 2004.
“I grew up around building things,” says Moran. “My father made sure that my siblings and I all had the basic knowledge and understanding to build, or learn how to build, whatever we needed.” Following two ankle surgeries in college and the hard realization that his career as a soccer player was over, Moran met a local furniture maker and soon found himself helping out around his shop. “In 2004, with no knowledge of business, very little money in my pocket and the enthusiasm of youth, I started my own shop,” he says of his unexpected career path.
Twelve years later, Moran moved his workshop to Hudson Valley, where he now works alongside his partner, Celia Gibson. “Two years ago, Celia and I bought our first house and moved our business about 1,000 miles from where I started it,” says Moran. “We’ve been building a workshop on the property ourselves and slowly integrating into a new community, while continuing to deliver our work near and far. We’ve put every ounce of energy and money into this endeavor.”
That energy, as well as Moran’s dedication to using responsibly sourced materials, has left an impression with everyone who has worked with him. It’s a stance that has led to a few lost clients along the way, but has resulted in a strong body of work and a reputation that precedes the designer. “In some ways, it’s empowering to be able to turn a job down,” says Moran. “Ten or twelve years ago when I first started our shop, I wouldn’t have dreamed of [it].”
The mark Moran and his partner make on every piece that leaves their shop is evident. “We really hope our work allows people to appreciate the unmistakably natural characteristics of our materials in a way that is contextualized in the modern world, but not so stylized that it can’t fit into many different historical contexts,” says Moran.
One of their most treasured pieces is a walnut dining table Moran and Gibson have in their own house, which has become the centerpiece of any gathering. “We tend to spend our weekends with friends centered around what we’re cooking for the next meal, what cocktail we may be experimenting with or what special bottle of Champagne we’re opening,” says Moran.
“Every piece of wood that passes through my hands is inherently different and unique and both requires and enhances different aspects of design and construction,” says Moran. “I’m also reminded on a daily basis that the materials I work with are older than I am and, if I build things correctly, can outlive me by many lifetimes. In this sense, I’m just a small point on what is hopefully a very long continuum.”