Herman Miller's Most Famous Products
Herman Miller furniture is some of the most famous and instantly recognizable in the world. The range of artists and designers who built it, and the huge impact the company as a whole has made on the American scene are all testaments to the lasting nature of the furniture it produced. Now that Smart Furniture has the opportunity to work with Herman Miller and sell many of their most revered and impressive products, we couldn’t be more excited. While still emphasizing the customization process and the focus of Design on Demand, we are able to offer our customers some of the greatest furniture built in the 20th and 21st century. All of these products are time tested and lasting, all of them are beautiful and full of a rich history, and all of them are available to you from Smart Furniture.
Herman Miller has a long and illustrious record of working with the best furniture makers and designers available. Over the years Herman Miller furniture has become synonymous with quality, classic collections, and museum quality modern furniture. The company has been the home of artists like Charles and Ray Eames, Isamu Noguchi, and George Nelson. It has fostered the careers of men like Jeff Weber, Bill Stumpf, the artists at Studio 7.5, and Yves Behar. Over the years, it has become the only place to go for some of the most famous pieces of furniture ever made. The following article is a list of some of the most famous modern classics to emerge from the Herman Miller furniture warehouses, all of them available now from Smart Furniture and Herman Miller. Looking at this furniture you can’t help but be thrilled at the beauty and impressed by the pedigree; get yours today.
The Eames Lounge Chair
The Lounger is possibly the most famous pieces of American furniture ever made. That’s not only in the Herman Miller furniture catalogue either; that includes literally all American furniture. It certainly is one of the most celebrated; eclipsed, possibly, only by another Eames creation, the LCW, also available from Herman Miller. The look of the chair, the feel of it, and the ideas and technology behind it were all groundbreaking in their time, and it’s just as beautiful and useful today as it was when it first debuted. It’s plainly rich; looking at the chair you can’t help but feel relaxed, and the inviting, soft leather and gently curved, dark-stained molded plywood looks no less comfortable and inviting.
Herman Miller furniture like the Eames Lounger truly set the tone for all the American industrial designs that came after it. They were innovative in their engineering, bold in their creativity, and completely breathtaking in presentation. They were solid, comfortable, person-centered, but they were also stylistic and creative masterpieces. That’s the reason the chair has been in the catalogue, continuously, since the very day it was introduced to the public. The meaning of the term “modern furniture” is up for debate in many circles, because of overuse, but there can be no doubt that this chair is one of the most important examples of the form. It’s the right time period, the right look, the right technological innovation, and the right designers. It was instrumental in helping other designers and homeowners start to look at lounge chairs in a different way, and therefore look at their homes and living rooms in a different way. It was a chair that expanded the consciousness of a whole generation, opening their eyes to high art as design and a home as well appointed as any kings, without the opulence or the price tag. It was a new thing, a first step on a road that hasn’t ended, and it earns every bit of its reputation. Part of that reputation is grounded in the technological processes that made it possible for the prototype to be converted into Herman Miller furniture.
Herman Miller and the Eames combined the molded plywood technology they had pioneered with old school leather upholstery and the most comfortable seat and seat backing technology they could find. They used browns and blacks, wood and leather colors, because they wanted the chair to look like “an old catcher’s mitt.” In other words, they wanted it to be redolent of American history, to feel as if it had been broken in, to look as familiar and necessary in your home as a glove, while retaining the beauty and comfort of high design. They succeeded in every way, and on every front.
And don’t forget the ottoman. The ottoman the Eames created to go with the chair has it’s own list of commendations and celebrations. Made of the same materials that went into the lounge chair, the ottoman also features the graceful curves of molded plywood and the comfortable, pillow-y richness of fine upholstered leather. Without it, the chair isn’t complete, and Herman Millers furniture is much the poorer for the lack. While the ottoman isn’t always a necessary complement in the world of lounge chairs, in this case the two designs are such a perfect pair that it would truly be a shame to keep them apart.
The whole chair was curvy and inviting; the back of the chair was rounded, and so were the sides, as if the molded plywood and the leather were hugging the user. The arms of the chair described arcs and curves as well, peeling away from the center of the chair to provide comfortable and optimal armrests and support. It’s no wonder that the lounger quickly became the centerpiece of countless American offices and living rooms; it was gorgeous, it was affordable, and it was as comfortable as any chair has ever been.
The Lounger really made an enduring statement. It left its mark in the American consciousness is such a way that even if you didn’t know who designed it, or if you couldn’t quite name it, you’d recognize it if you saw it. That may be from museum trips you taken (where it is almost invariably present in permanent collections), or art books you’ve read, but most likely it’s from homes you’ve been in, offices you’ve visited, and all the common places that the chair lent its beauty and classic stylization.
Luckily for consumers, museums aren’t the only places you can see the lounge chair. You can get it right now, today, from Herman Miller furniture and Smart Furniture, putting classic design in the hands of our customers. Get yours today.
The Eames Molded Plywood Lounge Chair
TIME magazine called the Eames LCW (Lounge Chair Wood, as they called it) the greatest design of the 20th century. Not the computer chip; not any park or recreation zone; not any technological breakthrough; a simple chair, created with a new and exciting technology by two of the most creative and gifted industrial designers that ever lived. It’s one of the most prized assets in the entire Herman Miller furniture catalogue. Even if you aren’t familiar with the name of the chair, you’ve almost definitely seen it. It’s a fixture of schools and auditoriums across the country, and it’s seen in offices and homes as well. Its low height makes it a favorite of children (and adults who are creating spaces for children) and its colorful, playful appearance sync perfectly with that crowd.
Actually, using the word “simple” to describe the LCW is a bit misleading. It refers only to the shape and execution of the chair, which uses a single material (molded plywood) and a single color (you can choose from several) to make a beguiling single product. The process that Charles and Ray Eames had to go through to actually make the chair, the process of learning how to effectively mold plywood, was quite complex and long term.
They called their first machine Kazam!, and it earned the name. They built it on their own, a machine meant to mold plywood in three dimensions, and they installed it in their small apartment. More than once, they blew out the power of their entire apartment building, and on one memorable day Charles himself climbed the telephone poles to “borrow” power from the lines. They needed a lot of it; the intense heat they needed to be able to mold the plywood could only come from using a lot of energy. After years of experimentation and re-drawing, re-designing and re-imagining, they emerged from the apartment with their first prototype. From there it was only a hop skip and a jump to a New York exhibition, and from there, based on a meeting with George Nelson, director of design at Herman Miller, they officially became part of the Herman Miller furniture fold.
The chair was extremely popular, as it’s continuing and modern day popularity would suggest. People loved how it was so different yet so comfortable, so out of left field yet curiously at home in nearly ever space; living rooms, bedrooms, classrooms, offices, you name it. Here was a side chair that was more than that, that could serve as the focal point of any room and the prized, colorful centerpiece of any exhibit or public space. It was beautiful, it was unique, it was the product of true innovation and technical mastery; it was the design of the century.
When you sit in the chair you’re generally in a state of repose, unless you perch on the edge. You’re also sitting on a seat that’s much larger than the back. Both of those things were odd enough going by the conventions of design at that time. More than that, not one thing on the chair was flat; everything was a curve, everything undulated. It was just a great looking, sleek piece of furniture, and rather than make the chair uncomfortable, the curves and valley just made it more comfortable than every other wooden chair on the market. Neat trick, and something Charles and Ray Eames loved about their chair. For years it was one of the most popular design items in the Herman Miller furniture catalogue, and it wasn’t long until that enormous popularity began to turn into reverence.
The LCW very soon became an icon of modern design, and that Charles and Ray Eames came to be considered the greatest designers in America. Their interests and curiosity were far-ranging; in the end they contributed to many more mediums than industrial design. They made important entries in the worlds of film, architecture, exhibition, toy making, and photography. They were prodigious workers, but they never made anything that was able to outshine their original creation, the LCW. Herman Miller furniture and Smart Furniture are very proud to offer our customers one of the greatest industrial designs in the history of the medium. Get yours today.
The Eames Aluminum Group Chairs
Charles and Ray Eames designed this set of chairs as a response to a challenge from their friend Eero Saarinen. A great designer in his own right, Saarinen wanted to build a set of chairs that would work just as well outdoors as the worked indoors. They needed to have the weather-proofing and durability of outdoor furniture with the beauty, style and comfort of indoor. What he got was the prototype for the first Aluminum Group chair, now available from Herman Miller furniture.
The original prototype used a mesh instead of the leather that the chair has become associated with in the last several decades. But the chairs were so beautiful that Herman Miller couldn’t resist making them full time indoor chairs, and upholstering them in leather to accent the aluminum. The result was...cool. An ambiguous word for a chair, but an accurate one. The coolness of the chair is one of the major reasons it remains a fixture in tech companies, young companies, hip living rooms and “retro” design schemes. But the chair wasn’t just cool; it was also innovative.
Until these chairs began to appear in the Herman Miller furniture catalogue, chairs were thought of almost exclusively as being one piece, one shell (the exceptions was and is chairs with slats, but they subscribed to the same general idea). However, this was a chair that used two supporting “poles,” the aluminum supports on the left and right sides of the chair, and created a comfortable seat back by stretching the fabric between them. It was like a suspension bridge, and just as strong and durable. The material hanging between two poles also created a comfort pocket for users, just one more feather in the cap of the Aluminum Group Chairs. These are still some of Herman Miller’s most popular items, more than 50 years after they first came out.
Later, Charles and Ray Eames decided to go a little further with the group, and they created what they called the Soft Pad chairs. The Soft Pad chairs were the Aluminum Group, essentially, but with the crucial addition of several pads on the seat and seat back to increase the cushy-ness factor and allow the chairs a more rich look. The Soft Pad chairs were great successes in their own right, because they retained most of the edge and sleekness of the Aluminum Group while adding on a few layers of comfort and workability.
The Eames Soft Pad Chairs
The Eames Soft Pad Chairs were the evolutionary next step in the aluminum group line of chairs for Herman Miller furniture. As much as people loved the aluminum group, there were some who wanted them to be even more sophisticated and tailored to indoor and office seating. While originally the aluminum group was designed to go both inside and outside, Herman Miller and a whole lot of customers saw the chairs mostly as indoor staples. They were classic, elegant, timeless and cool; that’s why you still see them in young offices, retro design schemes, and modern furniture showcases. But with all that glamour, you’ve still got to provide the basics, and comfort is one of them.
Charles and Ray Eames decided they needed to make some new versions of the aluminum group chairs when they saw they were become such a big part of peoples offices and interior spaces. When you put a chair in an environment like an office, where you need to actually sit in them for long periods of time yet stay comfortable and focused, it’s important to make necessary adjustments to the chair to make it more accommodating. Charles and Ray always believed in a concept they called “way-it-should-be-ness,” which meant they wanted their chairs to be gracious and inconspicuous hosts. Herman Miller furniture is meant to anticipate the needs of clients and buyers, and to make them comfortable as well as satisfied with the aesthetic and historical importance of the furniture. With the Soft Pad Chairs, Charles and Ray proved their commitment to serving the user by changing a groundbreaking and renowned design to make it more comfortable. Of course, being the Eames’ they also gave it’s own unique look that lost nothing aesthetically to the earlier model. And you could sit on it for eight hours at a time. The best of both worlds.
You don’t have to sacrifice comfort and support to aesthetic consideration when it comes to great furniture. The truly great industrial designs of the last century or so have considered the effect they have on users bodies, and not just on users eyes and senses. Charles and Ray Eames were at the forefront of this kind of thinking; they called it the guest host relationship, and they tried to make it a centerpiece of everything they ever built for Herman Miller furniture. Sit in the Soft Pad Chairs yourself; you’ll see that you don’t have to compromise when it comes to comfort and beauty.
Thanks to the foresight of the Herman Miller furniture catalogue, both the Soft Pad and the aluminum group chairs are available and have been in production since they were first debuted. While the basic design has certainly faced some twists and turns (from indoor outdoor to indoor only, from looking great and feeling good to looking great and feeling even better) it has more than stood the test of time. Get yours today from Smart Furniture, where the classic Herman Miller catalogue is yours to customize and enjoy.
The Eames Molded Plastic Chairs
You’ve seen this chair before, dozens of times (or at least knock-off versions of it). Even if you didn’t know it was one of the more important designs in the last century, and even if you didn’t know it was designed by the consensus holders of the title “Greatest Design Team in History,” the Eames Molded Plastic Chair, from Charles and Ray Eames, is one of the most ubiquitous chairs in the whole Herman Miller furniture catalogue. You’ve seen their egg-shell shapes in kindergarten classrooms, outside police stations, in public parks, in theatres and auditoriums, and even on the subway and the elevated train. You’ve also seen their more adult models, which have defined arms and are available as side chairs, loungers, and even rocking chairs. Versatility was always the strong suit of Charles and Ray. Versatility of form, of purpose and look, of color and medium. Versatility even of designer; it’s hard to tell where Charles begins and Ray ends in many of their designs. That the Molded Plastic Chairs are everywhere tells you something very important about the design; it’s beautiful, it’s all-purpose, it’s famous, and it’s affordable. It’s also very available and very customizable for your home from Smart Furniture and the Herman Miller furniture catalogue.
The molded plastic shell of the chair is a derivative of the molded plywood shells the Eames’ made earlier in their careers (derivative only in stylization, not in quality or desirability). They spent years and years coming up with the correct process for molding and shaping plywood into beautiful forms, and it’s a good thing they did; the LCW, the Eames Plywood Lounge Chair, was recently named the greatest design of the 20th Century by none other than TIME magazine, and the Eames Lounge Chair has a claim on the LCW’s popularity and critical adoration as well. But imagine their shock, or perhaps their pleasure, in discovering some time later a material that had a greater capacity for mold-ability than plywood, and that at the same time could be hardened into a total shell; a single piece that encompassed the seat and the seat back at the same time. With plywood this was impossible, because the wood couldn’t hold up the pressure of the opposing forces, and the process you had to go through to make it that strong was prohibitively expensive. Realizing this fact was one of the great disappointments at the office of Charles and Ray Eames, because their original vision had called for a single shell molded plastic chair. But they adjusted beautifully. The delight of plastic was that no adjustment was necessary; here they had play do for adults, something they could really sink their teeth into. the breakage and pain-in-the-neck strictures of dealing with wood were totally eased with a brand new material that was shaking things up in the modern world, and which was proving to have all types of practical uses: plastic.
The Eames saw the potential in plastic immediately. And their creation in plastic, the Molded Plastic Chair, is a testament to how well they grasped its capabilities. The shape of the shell is attractive and deceptively simple. The egg shape is actually very comfortable, as the presence of the chair in auditoriums, classrooms and public spaces can attest. It wraps the user in the chair, giving them a pocket of comfort to relax in. At the same time, it doesn’t restrict the arms or legs of the person who sits in the chair. Comfort, freedom, and style; hallmarks of Charles and Ray. Even more advanced and comfortable are the open-egg designs, the molded plastic that folds out into armrests and can be turned into a rocking chair. These designs have a more grown-up feel, but lose none of the fun and playful form of the egg shape.
The Herman Miller furniture catalogue is full of great chairs, but none with the ubiquity and cultural relevance of the molded plastic model. Get yours from Herman Miller and Smart Furniture today.
The Eames Desk and Storage Unit
The Eames Desk is an excellent distillation of almost everything that made the work of Charles and Ray Eames so wonderful. It’s useful, it’s playful, it’s innovative, and it’s unique. All the positive aspects of the creators were put to use in the design, and the worlds of the home and corporate office are much the better for it. The desk has been one of the most important and most popular designs, not to mention desks, in the entire Herman Miller furniture catalogue, and the mere fact that is has endured for so many decades without losing any of the freshness and verve that makes it special is a testament to the richness of the design and the forward thinking designers. A funny thing about Charles and Ray Eames and the things they made; hyperbole is rendered impossible.
The desk is simple but elegant. Simple in form, simple in function, but elegant in execution and design. At the time the desk came out, about half a century ago, most offices and even home offices didn’t have the color and excitement the desk did. Offices were a somewhat staid place, and the idea that the furniture should have a sense of fun and play was somewhat alien. But Charles and Ray Eames, with the help of Herman Miller furniture distribution and sales, began to change all that. The Eames Desk has plenty of pop and color; there are color panels on the desk that range between red, blue, white and yellow. These same colors could be found in many of the Eames designs and compositions, including in their personal home, which is now an architectural landmark in California.
The colors were bold and primary, and they made a statement that was fun without being juvenile, and sophisticated without being stuffy or pretentious. They made the user or the viewer comfortable in their own skin, a real treat for both.
But the desk was also useful, as all Herman Miller furniture strives to be for buyers and users. The plane of the desk was clean and uncluttered with unnecessary storage or display space. There was a single drawer, which could go on either the right or the left side, and which was large enough to carry lots of different kinds of material. Between the desk surface and the drawer, there was empty space that could be used for more storage, or even for private display.
When it came to more serious storage solutions, there was the storage unit, which was a great piece of furniture in its own right. Outfitted with the same colorful panels as the desk, but with even more textural differentiation and stylization, the storage unit comes in many different sizes to fit all sorts of different needs. There is a 1x1, a 2x2, a 4x2, and other sizes as well. The storage unit was unique among Herman Miller furniture at the time, not only for its commitment to color and a sense of play, but also because it offered so many different types of storage solutions in just one do-it-all package.
The storage unit was diverse. It had all kinds of different compartments for different types of storage. There was a cabinet, a display shelf, a sliding panel, and all types of colors and textures and wood grains spotting the whole thing. It’s amazing that something so intricate and so seemingly wild could be at the same time organized and not at all busy. There was much color and much differentiation, yes, but the storage unit never loses sight of itself; it’s not overwhelming, except in the sense that it is overwhelmingly excellent at an overwhelming variety of tasks and uses.
Both the desk and the storage unit became hallmarks of Herman Miller furniture at the time, and they’re still popular today. Get yours now from Smart Furniture.
When the Eames Hang-It-All first debuted on the American scene, in 1953, it was meant for children. The whimsical styling and Charles and Ray Eames’ own proclivity for playfulness and toy making led to the creation of a lasting piece of furniture that was as child-like and fun as it was sturdy and useful. The piece is a series of painted solid maple balls that decorate the ends of a steel frame, multi-level coat rack. The balls are differently sized and spaced, and they give a definite air of fun and whimsy. The Hang-It-All can go in almost any room of the house and serve a useful purpose. Hang it in the bathroom for towels and bathrobes. Put it in the foyer and hang up all your coats, scarves and shoes. Put it in the kids room and hang up backpacks, clothes, even toys. It’s a fun little creation with practical use.
The Eames Hang-It-All is also very sturdy and well made, as is all Herman Miller furniture. You can hang anything that can be hung - thus the name. It holds coats, hats, umbrellas, skates, shoes, shirts, keys; anything you can think of, the Hang-It-All can handle. Even the name of it is a playful, even childish put on; “hang it all” being a self-consciously adult and prickly epithet at the time.
Playfulness was a major and sometimes overlooked facet of the legacy of Charles and Ray Eames. This piece of furniture isn’t even the main reason why. In their long and fruitful careers there were few objects that Charles and Ray made more of than toys. They wanted to give them to their own children and grandchildren, and they wanted to give them to the children and grandchildren of friends. In this long and storied collection there are dozens of worthy, clever and unique entries. Even in the films they made toys play a part. One of the most famous Eames short films was called Tops, and was merely a short dissertation on the nature of tops. Charles and Ray even found a way to make math fun with a large exhibit called Mathematica. Their home was colorful, as were most of their designs; their Herman Miller furniture always carries with it that hint of childhood wonder and curiosity, and a profound and pervasive sense of play.
The Eames Hang-It-All is a practical way to bring a little fun into your interiors, and the Herman Miller furniture catalogue wouldn’t be the same without it. After seeing it, you may decide your home wouldn’t be, either. Get yours today from Smart Furniture.
The Nelson Swag Leg Collection
The Nelson series is one of the most popular and enduring of the Herman Miller furniture catalogue. It was designed by George Nelson, who for many years was a creative director at the company, and made his mark on it in more ways than one. As a businessman, artist, architect and industrial designer he contributed a lot to Herman Miller, as well as to American design. Nelson is one of those designers whose work is valued just as much for its historic proportions as it is for its aesthetic quality. The things he made have lasted not only because they’re wonderful, but also because they’re important. Important to the history of design, and certainly important in the annals of Herman Miller furniture.
One of the most important things he contributed was the process of swaging. While he certainly did not invent the process, he was the first to use it as a way to make beautiful furniture. Swaging is the process of bending metal tubes, and sculpting them, under high pressure. Until the release of the Nelson series in 1958 it was the province of the military and industrial companies. But Nelson saw in it a way to go deeper and make better furniture. In a meeting at Herman Miller he had famously asked, wouldn’t it be great to produce beautiful, finished metal legs for furniture? The obvious answer was yes, but no one really knew how to do it without spending a lot of money or wasting a lot of time figuring out the process. But with swaging, Nelson knew he had his answer. The result was a five part series of furniture, all of which featured lovely, sculpted, finished and polished swagged legs.
The first piece in the series was the desk. The desk was important to Nelson, because one of the main ideas behind the series was to tie home life and work life together. Not in a workaholic sense, but in a peaceful, harmonious sense. The desk would be of a piece with the dining room table, and the work table, and the chair that went with all three. The pieces would be lightweight and able to “float” in a home without having to have clear boundaries and defined permanent spaces. They could be mixed and matched, moved and re-matched; they were adaptable and flexible, in the same way modern homes were becoming more flexible and able to accommodate several different needs at the same time, sometimes in the same room.
More than that, the series was affordable. To Nelson, that meant it was democratic. Done were the days when only aristocrats and corporations could get their hands on designer furniture; the new industrial processes were cheaper, and they allowed more and more people to bring aesthetic beauty and accomplished design into their houses. This is a part of his design ethic that really can’t be overstated. Most of the things he did, while elegant and beautiful and owing a lot to the moneyed halls of museums and art appreciators, were in a sense populist. He wanted to serve the American household, the American designer, the American office and American taste in general. He wanted to make things that were attainable, and that weren’t just eye candy. He succeeded over and over again, and his success in the mid part of the century coincided, not coincidentally, with the emergence of Herman Miller furniture as the best on the American scene.
But back to the desk. It was clean and accented in white and beech, with storage space on top and display space as well. The small storage cubbies just happen to be the perfect size for laptops, MP3 docks, and external hard drives; the small scale technological implements of work that we use today. That alone is one reason that Herman Miller furniture has decided to re-issue the series. The desk is simple without being austere, and modern without being pretentious or self-conscious. It’s a good place to get some work done, as well as a good place to sit and look out the window. Nelson wouldn’t discourage you from doing either.
There is also a work table, which is just a very simple, elegant addition to the desk. The swag legs remain, and so does the color scheme, but the work table is just a plane; a place to work with a little more space and none of the frills available on the desk. It’s not small, but neither is is really large. It’s not quite the space saver and all purpose room-fitting piece of furniture the desk is, but then again, if you’re looking for even more desk space, that probably not your main concern. The Work Table also happens to be a perfectly serviceable desk in its own right. There is no shelving or cubby space, but if you just want something lovely and plain, then the Work Table is right up your alley.
The dining room tables come in two types, round or rectangular. It was important to Nelson to include the round version in the Herman Miller furniture catalogue, because it echoed the democratic ideals of the series; there was no head of the table, and it inspired more intimate conversation and fellowship. Even the rectangular version is somewhat on the small side; but that’s intentional as well. Smaller means more intimate. The swag legs of course remain, and they’re worked into the table in a different way than the desk. They are kept together with wooden slats, to stay out of the way of the legs that will be gathered under the table.
The last piece of the series, and fittingly the one that ties the whole thing together and complements each piece, is the swag leg chair. The chair has swag legs that are bunched and splayed like a bouquet, and the effect is lovely. It borrows aspects of the Eames molded plastic chair, but it adds a hinge point for increased comfort, and airspace to alleviate heat buildup and let air flow through. The effect is a more comfortable, equally stylish chair that Nelson produced with the blessing of Charles and Ray Eames.
The total effect of the series is really stunning. It’s idiosyncratic in a way, with a focus on synthesizing the work and the home environments, but it works, and that’s one more laurel for George Nelson to lose in the shuffle. Everything in the series is beautiful, everything in the series is useful, and everything in the series is the product of one of the great minds in industrial design history.
Smart Furniture is very proud to offer this series from the catalogue of Herman Miller furniture.
The Nelson Coconut Chair
George Nelson is probably the number one competitor with Charles and Ray Eames when it comes to furniture designers of the 20th century. He has as strong a case as anyone; it was he who developed the Coconut Chair, the Marshmallow Sofa, the first L shaped desk, and the Nelson Swag Leg Series, and all of them in concert with Herman Miller furniture. It was he who put his indelible stamp on the world of industrial design in the 1950s, and helped to birth, along with Charles and Ray, the furniture and design sensibilities that would flourish in the coming years and guide American taste for the next half century. He was that important.
And the Coconut Chair, all on its lonesome, is nearly that important as well. It was the first in a long line of whimsically named Herman Miller furniture. It was the first to think of a coconut shell as a possibly comfortable shape for the human form. It was the first to introduce true, unique, highly creative modern sensibilities to the traditional lounge chair. For many, the idea of sitting in a coconut was not a pleasant one. But Nelson changed all that. What he really wanted from the shape was its potential, and he got every drop of it.
The shape of the chair allows for unprecedented freedom (at the time) to move and shift your body while remaining seated and comfortable. It made a striking, gorgeous statement in any room of the home, and was a conversation piece for guests and visitors. It was richly comfortable and luxurious, and its assured symmetry and beguiling, edged structure were ravishing to the eye. The Coconut Chair quickly became one of Herman Miller’s biggest and most sought after products, and it’s no wonder; the chair was nearly magical. It was strong, it was beautiful, and it was so, so comfortable. It was a George Nelson design, through and through. The striking outline of the chair makes it distinctive from a mile away; the sharp edges of the profile made soft (but not dulled) by the rich leather of the upholstery, and the curiosity of the shape offset by the familiarity of the material. The mix of the comfortable and the familiar with the avant garde would become a trademark of Nelsons over the years, and thus a trademark of most industrial designers. Odd shape and comfortable material; it’s a winning formula when done right, and no one did it better than George Nelson.
Herman Miller furniture has had a lot of lovely chairs come through the doors. But few have had the staying power and high-wattage attraction of the Coconut. It’s been a staple of high design and industrial design ever since it was debuted in the mid 50s, and its place is assured at the high table of all time great 20th century designs. You can see it in museums, you can see it in books and catalogues; or, with Smart Furniture and Herman Miller furniture, you can see it in your living room. And that means you’ll have the pleasure of sitting in, living with, and looking at the Nelson Coconut Chair for many years to come.
The Nelson Marshmallow Sofa
The Marshmallow Sofa is one of the most unique creations in the Herman Miller furniture catalogue, for obvious reasons. It’s a couch with a lot of empty space, a seating solution designed in 1956 that obviously belongs to the pop art sensibilities of the 60s, a complicated design that’s actually quite comfortable. But everything can be explained.
First of all, that empty space isn’t as empty as it looks. The couch is a compact piece of furniture, and users never find themselves uncomfortable because of the small gaps and crevices. In fact, those space contribute to the appeal of the sofa, the fun and playful look of it, without detracting one iota from important factors like comfort and support.
As for the very forward thinking design, it’s important to note that this is a product of the mind of George Nelson, a man who was never constrained by the times he lived in. Nelson was one of those designers who built and planned the future, rather than wait for it to come to him. He anticipated the playful pop art sensibilities that were just around the corner, and he used the conventions of the genre to his own ends. He wanted a striking design, but a light hearted one, and one that folks could actually use. The Herman Miller furniture catalogue from 1956 takes pains to let customers know that the Marshmallow was very comfortable, despite its “astonishing” look. The spotted, brightly colored, charismatic features of the couch are a feature with no drawback, no catch. It’s comfortable and it’s gorgeous, and those are two of the most important goals for every piece of Herman Miller furniture.
Yes, it’s a somewhat complex design. It consists of 18 padded discs, cushions, all arranged in a frame that ignore the traditional boundaries of the traditional sofa. There are no arms to the piece, but users are equally comfortable on the sofa whether they lie down or sit up. There is space for up to three users sitting up, one laying down. The frame of the couch recedes into the background noise of the room and allows the gaiety of the cushions to do all the work of aesthetic and artful consideration.
This is a sofa that really belongs anywhere; anywhere that could use a splash of color, or a quirky design piece, or a bold statement. And what place couldn’t use something like that? The Marshmallow Sofa is a truly remarkable piece of Herman Miller furniture, a totally unique entry in the catalogue, and they are proud to have produced it for so many fruitful years. It’s available in a bunch of different colors and attitudes, from all black leather to many-colored collages of joy.
You can mix and match to taste, but no matter what you do, the brilliant energy of the original will always shine through. The Marshmallow sofa is truly great design, and a significant entry on George Nelsons embarrassingly long list of accomplishments and artistic achievements.
The Aeron Chair
The Aeron Chair is one of the most modern pieces in the vaunted Herman Miller furniture catalogue of classics. But it has made its mark on the international work scene like few other task chairs ever have. It was the first in many ways, and on many fronts; the first chair to rely on less material for more comfort, the first chair that had so many functions and adjustments that nearly anyone could make it tailor-made to their body type, the first to be transparent, the first to rely on the relatively new science of ergonomics to make it the best it could be. It was also the first ergonomic chair built by Bill Stumpf that brought him the international recognition he had deserved and been lacking for years. It was the first modern work chair, the first .com chair, and the first work chair any museum would put in their contemporary design section, with a bullet.
Less material. It seems like an odd concept. For many many years designers fell over themselves trying to stuff padding, leather, and cushions into every surface of every chair they could. They wanted to create cloud-chairs, where you barely felt the pressure. What they didn’t realize was that it didn’t work in a lot of ways. For one, the support wasn’t there to keep your back strong and healthy, your shoulders freed up and you neck feeling good. For another, it was bad for the environment, filling up landfills for no good reason. One of the many innovation you can chalk up to Bill Stumpf is realizing that less in an office chair could literally be more. By taking out the stuffing and padding and putting in plenty or ergonomic research and technology, you could actually make a chair that didn’t look particularly inviting much more comfortable over a long workday than a chair that came with four inches of padding and dense material. The new kind of chair was lighter and better than anything else in the Herman Miller furniture catalogue, and it soon took the country and the world by storm. Aeron became the blueprint from which all other work chairs began, and it became the impetus for a renewed focus on ergonomics and environmentalism in the furniture industry, and even at the super-conscientious offices and manufacturing centers of Herman Miller furniture.
It was also a transparent design. You could see right through it, literally in some ways. The airy-ness of the design combined with the open spaces between functions and structures made a barely there icon. But it was also transparent in another sense; every feature and adjustment was right out there for everyone to see. There were knobs and togs and functions, and all of them were externalized and visible. Stumpf wanted this to be a chair with absolutely no secrets, a chair that was obviously and self-evidently a work chair, a task chair, a business chair. While it was beautiful and stylish, it never lost sight of its true purpose; making people comfortable, keeping them supported, and giving them a much better way of working.
The Aeron Chair really changed things, and not only at Herman Miller. It became one of the most influential chairs ever built. It was deeply comfortable, supportive, and affordable. It cut down of chiropractor bills and visits to the doctor, and not just on quick leg-stretching or de-numbing sessions between tasks at work. It was a truly 21st century chair, built in the 20th, and that kind of forward thinking design and progress has always been what Herman Miller furniture is all about.
The Noguchi Table
Isamu Noguchi is one of the most remarkable designers that ever produced Herman Miller furniture. He had a life full of adversity and triumph in equal measure, and his reputation as a sculptor and designer are unimpeachable. His most famous creation is the Noguchi Table, a beautiful coffee table that was unlike anything before or since.
The Noguchi table takes the concepts of balance, reflection, and symmetry and goes to new heights of elegance and design. A sculptor and artist at heart, Noguchi always produced industrial designs that were conceptually interesting, and not just pretty or useful (although everything he did were those two things as well). In the case of the table (which could be described as a coffee table, due to its height and surface area) he was able to create a “two legged” three point table, as a response to an insulting challenge thrown his way early in his career. He carved two pieces of wood into the shape of two dimensional canoes, each with a higher bow than stern, then turned one upside down and laid the point of its stern (pointing down) on top of the upright stern of the other. He held them together with a single wooden pin, and thus produced a clever, beautiful “two legged” table. Wood was often Noguchi’s chosen medium, and the rich qualities of the material really spoke to him. Much of the Herman Miller furniture catalogue uses wood in new and interesting ways, but Noguchi was more interested in bringing modern beauty out of traditional techniques and looks. He didn’t want to bend wood, or change its appeal; he just wanted to bring the best out of it.
The top of the table was glass. In fact the original table, the very first one Noguchi made, used a sheet of large found glass. This was not only modern and lovely; it also served a conceptual purpose. By making the surface of his table clear and smooth, like a lake, Noguchi was able to create a mirror image with the canoes. One floated upside down on the “lake” of the glass top, and the other floated on the “lake” of the floor. When the shadowy light produced by the glass top comes into play, the synchronicity is truly fascinating, and truly beautiful. Two solitary scenes of tranquility, or floating, reflected back on one another endlessly. The table is a wonder of modern design and timeless sensibility; it incorporates so many thoughts and representational elements into its aesthetic that it can be thought of almost as a poem, or even a haiku; a lot packed into a small space.
It’s a wonder that Noguchi was able to summon this kind of tranquility in his art work. Of all the many designers that have made Herman Miller furniture, his story is one of the most interesting. when he was a young man he developed the first baby monitor machines, and they quickly became a big seller. However, when World War II began he was shipped off into a Japanese-American internment camp, what he euphemistically called “going west.” Most of his radios were destroyed; nobody wanted a machine with a Japanese name embossed upon it. As if that were not enough, he had shown a small table model, similar to the Herman Miller Noguchi Table we know today, to another furniture maker. During his time in the internment camp, the other designer stole his work and sold it as his own. When Noguchi complained, upon release, the man told him that “Anyone can make a three legged table.” It was in part to prove him wrong, and in part to create, and in part to move past the pain of the internment years that Noguchi built his famous and enduring table.
It has endured, and so has his good name; Noguchi is now one of the most well known and respected Herman Miller furniture designers of all time.
The Noguchi Table he built has been in production ever since, and it remains one of the most popular and critically adored tables on the market. Herman Miller furniture doesn’t get much better than this table, and Smart Furniture is very proud to offer such a great piece of history and industrial design to our customers. The glass might no be found, but all the elements of the original table are still preserved, as they should be. Get yours today, and bring a truly unique work of art into your home.