Herman Miller Caper
21st Century and Contemporary American Modern Side Chairs
21st Century and Contemporary American Mid-Century Modern Office Chairs ...
Herman Miller for sale on 1stDibs
No other business of its kind did more than the Herman Miller Furniture Company to introduce modern design into American homes. Working with legendary designers such as Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson and Alexander Girard, the Zeeland, Michigan-based firm fostered some of the boldest expressions of what we now call mid-century modern style. In doing so, Herman Miller produced some of the most beautiful, iconic and, one can even say, noblest chairs, sofas, tables and other furniture ever.
Founded in 1923, Herman Miller was originally known for grand historicist bedroom suites: heavily ornamented wood furniture that appealed to a high-minded, wealthier clientele. The company — named for its chief financial backer — began to suffer in the early 1930s as the Great Depression hit, and D.J. De Pree, the company’s CEO, feared bankruptcy. In 1932, aid came in the form of Gilbert Rohde, a self-taught furniture designer who had traveled widely in Europe, absorbing details of the Art Deco movement and other modernist influences. After persuading De Pree that the growing middle class required smaller, lighter household furnishings, Rohde set a new course for Herman Miller, creating sleek chairs, tables and cabinetry that were the essence of the Streamline Moderne style.
Rohde died suddenly in 1944. The following year, De Pree turned to George Nelson, an architect who had written widely about modern furniture design. Under Nelson’s leadership, Herman Miller would embrace new technologies and materials and audacious biomorphic forms.
Some of the pieces the company produced are now emblems of 20th century American design, including the Eames lounge chair and ottoman and Nelson’s Marshmallow sofa and Coconut chair. Such instantly recognizable furnishings have become timeless — staples of a modernist décor; striking, offbeat notes in traditional environments.
Materials: Plastic Furniture
Arguably the world’s most ubiquitous man-made material, plastic has impacted nearly every industry. In contemporary spaces, new and vintage plastic furniture is quite popular and its use pairs well with a range of design styles.
From the Italian lighting artisans at Fontana Arte to venturesome Scandinavian modernists such as Verner Panton, who created groundbreaking interiors as much as he did seating — see his revolutionary Panton chair — to contemporary multidisciplinary artists like Faye Toogood, furniture designers have been pushing the boundaries of plastic forever.
When The Graduate's Mr. McGuire proclaimed, “There’s a great future in plastics,” it was more than a laugh line. The iconic quote is an allusion both to society’s reliance on and its love affair with plastic. Before the material became an integral part of our lives — used in everything from clothing to storage to beauty and beyond — people relied on earthly elements for manufacturing, a process as time-consuming as it was costly.
Soon after American inventor John Wesley Hyatt created celluloid, which could mimic luxury products like tortoiseshell and ivory, production hit fever pitch, and the floodgates opened for others to explore plastic’s full potential. The material altered the history of design — mid-century modern legends Charles and Ray Eames, Joe Colombo and Eero Saarinen regularly experimented with plastics in the development of tables and chairs, and today plastic furnishings and decorative objects are seen as often indoors as they are outside.
Finding the Right Seating for You
With entire areas of our homes reserved for “sitting rooms,” the value of quality antique and vintage seating cannot be overstated.
Among the earliest standard seating furniture were stools. Egyptian stools, for example, designed for one person with no seat back, were x-shaped and typically folded to be tucked away. These rudimentary chairs informed the design of Greek and Roman stools, all of which were a long way from Sori Yanagi's Butterfly stool or Alvar Aalto's Stool 60. In the 18th century and earlier, seats with backs and armrests were largely reserved for high nobility.
The seating of today is more inclusive but the style and placement of chairs can still make a statement. Antique desk chairs and armchairs designed in the style of Louis XV, which eventually included painted furniture and were often made of rare woods, feature prominently curved legs as well as Chinese themes and varied ornaments. Much like the thrones of fairy tales and the regency, elegant lounges crafted in the Louis XV style convey wealth and prestige. In the kitchen, the dining chair placed at the head of the table is typically reserved for the head of the household or a revered guest.
Of course, with luxurious vintage or antique furnishings, every chair can seem like the best seat in the house. Whether your preference is stretching out on a plush sofa, such as the Serpentine, designed by Vladimir Kagan, or cozying up in a vintage wingback chair, there is likely to be a comfy classic or contemporary gem for you on 1stDibs.
With respect to the latest obsessions in design, cane seating has been cropping up everywhere, from sleek armchairs to lounge chairs, while bouclé fabric, a staple of modern furniture design, can be seen in mid-century modern, Scandinavian modern and Hollywood Regency furniture styles.
Admirers of the sophisticated craftsmanship and dark woods frequently associated with mid-century modern seating can find timeless furnishings in our expansive collection of lounge chairs, dining chairs and other items — whether they’re vintage editions or alluring official reproductions of iconic designs from the likes of Hans Wegner or from Charles and Ray Eames. Shop our inventory of Egg chairs, designed in 1958 by Arne Jacobsen, the Florence Knoll lounge chair and more.
No matter your style, the collection of unique chairs, sofas and other seating on 1stDibs is surely worthy of a standing ovation.
- 1stDibs ExpertSeptember 28, 2021The best Herman Miller chair is going to vary by owner. There have been many revered chairs and other seating manufactured by the legendary American furniture company over the years. Chairs by Herman Miller are often alluring in appearance, comfortable, and long-lasting. 1stDibs offers a variety of vintage and new Herman Miller chairs that are contemporary in design and durable.
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