The Legacy of Larry Moh

Posted in International on Monday, 26 August 2013. Print

The late Mr Laurence Moh, a visionary who made huge contributions to the global furniture industry and who inspired great many people

The Legacy of Larry Moh

I’m sure many of you remember the name Larry Moh. You may not have met him personally but his contributions to the furniture industry are without parallel. Larry was a Chinese businessman, who turned his Hong Kong-based plywood company into a global empire with the creation of a company in 1959 he called Universal Furniture. He manufactured bedroom, dining and occasional furniture in Taiwan and exported it unassembled to countries around the world. This concept revolutionized the American furniture industry. He sold Universal to Masco in 1989 and later established Plantation Timber Products and Fine Furniture Manufacturing & Design.

Larry was a visionary. A man ahead of his time. He was also a very caring individual. He came to me many years ago and asked for a favor. He said that America had been very good to him and he wanted to do something to encourage our young people to make their career in home furnishings. The furniture industry was his passion. He wanted to establish a scholarship fund that would allow America’s brightest students to attend the college or university of their choice to major in a field that would prepare them to be leaders in our industry.

I have been privileged to chair the Celia Moh Scholarship committee since its inception in 2001. The scholarship is named for Larry’s beloved wife, Celia, who lives today in Shanghai. Larry passed away in 2002 at age 76. Today, Larry’s son, Michael, heads Fine Furniture & Design in Shanghai.

Every year our committee reads dozens of scholarship applications from students who wish to major in some aspect of home furnishings: furniture design, interior design, manufacturing, logistics, sales & marketing. Each applicant writes an essay of why he or she wants to be a part of our great industry. I would like to share of few of their thoughts and aspirations with you.

From an Industrial Design major: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” This quote, from William Morris, is one of my favorites. However, items in the home must be useful AND beautiful. I want to design furniture, home accessories, or products to make useful and beautiful objects. There is no reason why an object that serves an ordinary, functional, purpose should not delight or enrich the user’s experience through its visual appearance as well.”

A Furniture Design major: “I find most attractive the idea that the furniture I design, that comes from within and is part of me, will eventually outlive me. The idea of creating something that families may pass down for generations gives me an incredible feeling of accomplishment.”

An Industrial Design major: “Solutions in furniture design allow one to form emotional connections to an object. The process to get to these connections is full of what most would label as mistakes. In truth, this is a way to gain knowledge on making a product work better.”

An Interiors Merchandising major: “Living at the coast and recently hearing the needs of a customer at my father’s furniture store has already sparked my first idea. I would like to develop a sofa with outdoor qualities to be used indoors and that is resistant to florescent lights. Hearing people’s problems and having the education, passion and talent to develop an idea gives me hope I will succeed in my career.” An Industrial and Systems Engineer major: “My dream career would be to travel to the countries that are exporting furniture to the United States and investigate the current logistics strategies. I would want to interact with these people to try and analyze and figure out the most effective method to minimize the total cost of handling and transporting furniture from overseas to the consumer. I think this is a major step in helping the furniture industry as it expands globally.”

A Home Furnishings Marketing major: “I would like to work for a furniture company as a sales representative. Selling furniture isn’t about selling a specific item or piece; it’s about selling comfort, creativity and a lifestyle.”

An Interior Design major: “Designing a space is much more than a paycheck. Furnishing a home is a privilege. When I look at the possibilities the home furnishings industry has to offer it can be overwhelming but equally exciting. Reading a brief history of the life of Laurence Za Yu Moh, it is inspiring to learn of his aspirations to connect people, furniture and design globally. I too have a similar passion.”

I am sure Larry would be pleased that his life and generosity has inspired so many young people. They are our future. I encourage you to consider sending your son or daughter to one of the several U.S. colleges that teach home furnishings courses. You may also encourage your trade association to provide scholarships. Our industry and our world will be more connected and stronger for it.

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