written by:
February 26, 2015
Originally published in Simple Modern Ideas
Forever Better
The great-grandsons of the founders of German appliance company Miele are in it for the long haul.
First washing machine with electric motor.

1911 - Miele introduces the first washing machine with its own electric motor.


1 / 7
Miele bicycle.

 1924 - The production of bicycles starts at Miele’s new factory in Bielefeld, Germany.


2 / 7
1929 Miele dishwasher.

 1929 - Miele debuts the first dishwasher in Europe.

3 / 7
Miele vacuum.

 1931 - Model L is Miele’s first canister vacuum cleaner, with a Bakelite casing.


4 / 7

 1958 - Miele opens a new chapter in the history of laundry care with the first domestic tumble dryer.


5 / 7
Miele built-in oven.

 1974 - A new range of built-in ovens is launched to coincide with a new generation of fitted kitchens from the Warendorf plant.

6 / 7
Miele 6000 line.

 2014 - Miele unveils Design for Life with the Generation 6000 series of appliances with intuitive interfaces.

7 / 7
First washing machine with electric motor.

1911 - Miele introduces the first washing machine with its own electric motor.


In 1899, Carl Miele and Reinhard Zinkann founded Miele & Cie. in the German town of Herzebrock with a small factory, 11 employees, and one product: cream separators. Having manufactured everything from washing machines to bicycles, the company celebrates its 116th year as a family business. Today, the founders’ great-grandsons, Markus Miele and Reinhard Zinkann, oversee a brand that—while smaller in scale than the Whirlpools of the world—operates as a true global player. (In Hidden Champions of the Twenty-First Century, author Hermann Simon reports that “it generates 73 percent of its revenues outside its home market, an unusually high percentage for an appliance maker.”) Dwell sat down with Miele and Zinkann to find out how they retain their supremacy in a competitive industry while staying on the cutting edge of technology. 

Dwell: Miele is a century-old family business. How does the company maintain its leadership?

Reinhard Zinkann: The company slogan, which was put on the lid of the first machine, is “Forever Better.” So each generation has strived to think about what could be different about the Miele product in terms of being better in quality and durability but also technology. Generation 6000 [Miele’s most recent line] is a huge step toward this, and it really improves cooking appliances. It’s now—we’re proud to say—the latest standard in our field.

Markus Miele: Our first product was a butter churn. My great-grandfather said, “We can make it longer lasting, but we have to use different wood and we have to charge a higher price.” This was the foundation of everything we do now.

Dwell: How is building to last the essence of sustainability?

Miele: That’s the interesting thing. An older lady wrote a letter to me about her Miele washing machine. She bought a new one and said, “Thank you very much, because the last washing machine lasted 38 years.” She wrote at the end, “This was the cheapest washing machine I could buy.”

Zinkann: Also, quality is priceless, and we never, throughout our history, talked about the price of the product. We do not talk about washers. We talk about taking care of laundry, taking care of what you wear—it is your second skin. If we talk about cooking appliances, we think about the most positive results and the easiest user interface. So we always think in value. As a family business having survived so many difficult times—from two world wars to four or five currencies—our consumer knows he can rely on the product. Or, to put it briefly: Plug, play, and forget. 

Dwell: How does Miele determine which products and lines different markets want? What drives this decision?

Zinkann: If you want to be different, then you have to think ahead. You have to be a technology leader. The best example of that is the first dishwasher, which we introduced to Europe in 1929. Right after Black Friday, we came into the market with the dishwasher. There was nobody in Europe or anywhere else in the world who even thought about the dishwasher. Nobody knew the product, nobody wanted it, and nobody trusted it. Nobody wanted to pay the price, which was three or four times annually the salary of a housekeeper. But our grandfathers and great-grandfathers stuck to the product because they knew the time would come. Now we can say we are the company with the longest history in engineering and producing dishwashers.

As a family company, we have a very long breadth. We are auto financed; we do not have any debts. If we believe in a product, we believe in it. We do not have to travel around the world and look at the competition. Sure, looking at what others do is interesting to understand, but it never gives you the idea of where you want to go or where you should go. That’s absolutely the secret of success.

Dwell: From a product perspective, is there something missing from the Miele line that you would like to produce?

Zinkann: Not directly. We always like to expand business in a way that we can connect to our existing products. With the built-in coffee system, for example, we knew how to make built-in appliances, we just didn’t have the knowledge about coffee. So this was how we tried to extend our product line, this is also how in the future we will extend our product line. We have something special coming to the U.S…

Miele: We have a whole line coming and it will be the best and ultimate in the U.S. market when we launch it. I can’t wait. I couldn’t wait until Generation 6000, and I can’t wait until the next step comes here to the U.S. because I love it so much. There are so many ideas that will come in the next few years, so I’m excited about the future.

Dwell: What does the future hold for Miele?

Miele: Each generation in our business—our fathers and forefathers—had to undergo huge changes in terms of the product line, productivity and factories, globalization, markets, demands, consumers, and trade. That’s business life, and that’s normal. So “if we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.” That’s a quote from an Italian writer named Lampedusa in his novel, Il Gattopardo. We will always have to face challenges, but if we stick to our values, if we stick to our core beliefs, we needn’t be afraid.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

45 dva 2270 persp1 cmyk 0
The prospect of retirement doesn’t just signal the end of a career; it offers the chance to recalibrate and re-prioritize in life.
July 25, 2016
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016