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A pioneer within the office furniture industry, Herman Miller has been one of the most highly regarded manufacturers and designers of office furniture for over a century. The company’s ingenuity blending design and function has made it one of the market's most popular office furniture manufacturers. 

But what is Herman Miller’s story, and how did it become one of the top-ranking companies within its industry?

Early years 

Originally founded under Star Furniture Co. in 1905, Herman Miller has since become a true office furniture designer and manufacturer leader. When it first began, the company produced high-quality furniture inspired by historical revivalism, a movement in the architectural realm from 1880 to 1940. 

In 1923, D.J. De Pree, Star Furniture’s president, convinced his father-in-law to buy 51% of the company’s shares and rename it Herman Miller Furniture Company. De Pree’s father-in-law was Herman Miller, a well-known businessman in the area. It wasn’t until 1960 that the company became Herman Miller Inc.

Herman Miller’s designers have always been heavily inspired by architectural movements. Through architectural elements, Herman Miller designers stripped back the traditional formalities surrounding how furniture should be created. They focused on how buildings were made and how to replicate this strong foundation in their furniture. This helped them add maximum support and comfort to their designs with a luxurious edge. 

The Great Depression 

The Great Depression greatly impacted Herman Miller Inc., much like many other businesses during the 1930s. Until the 30s, Herman Miller only produced traditional wood furniture, but with the economic turmoil created by The Great Depression, the company had to explore new products to survive.

In a bid to save the company’s fate, the decision to hire Gilbert Rohde was made. Rohde was a designer who specialised in modern designs, a market that wasn’t drastically impacted by The Great Depression and was rather popular. 

New way of designing furniture – Gilbert Rohde

Rohde’s designs were visionary, and his creations turned the company in an entirely new direction. Rohde began experimenting with designs inspired by the modernist movement. Modernism rejected the ideas of realism and encouraged experimentation with form, allowing the company to create truly unique and groundbreaking furniture designs. 

In 1933, Rohde’s exemplary designs and new visions for the company debuted in a line of modern furniture at the Century of Progress exposition in Chicago. This line was well received, and Rohde paved the way for the company’s future success. 

The company opened two showrooms in 1941, one in the Merchandise Mart in Chicago and another in New York City. The company had survived The Great Depression and was thriving by the early 1940s. Rohde’s influence on the company didn’t end there; his influence led to the company entering the contract office furniture market in 1942. This was done by introducing the “Modular Executive Office Group”, or the EOG, which became the first of the company’s many office furnishings lines.

New era – George Nelson 

Upon Rohde’s death in 1944, the Herman Miller team hired architect George Nelson. Nelson joined the company as design director and moved Herman Miller into a new era of innovation for office furniture. 

Nelson’s influence upon the company was astronomical, not just because of his personal design contributions but for his recruitment of several talented designers. These experts included Charles and Ray Eames, Robert Propst, Isamu Noguchi, and textile designer Alexander Girard.

As a result of Nelson’s contributions, during the next four decades, Herman Miller produced several pieces of modern office furniture, which have become some of the industry’s most iconic. These pieces include the Noguchi Table and the Eames Lounge Chair, which perfectly encapsulate modernist movements in art, architecture, and design. 

Herman Miller Research Division 

In 1961, the company set up the Herman Miller Research Division, which developed the Action Office Line of furniture in 1964 under Robert Propst, with design assistance from George Nelson. Unfortunately, the line was unsuccessful, but this did not deter Propst. 

Spurred on by the failure of the initial line, Propst developed the Action Office II Line (changed to Action Office in 1978). This line was so revolutionary that it changed the office environment completely. The most notable of the Action Office II Line was the Office Cubicle, a piece of office furniture used globally to reduce distractions within the office space and provide each staff member with a level of privacy they had not had before. 

By 1998, Herman Miller’s Action Office Line had generated over $5 billion in sales. Many offices today still use variations of the Office Cubicle, showing the long-lasting impact Herman Miller as a company has had on the office furniture industry. This success is just one of the reasons they are still market leaders today. 

Aeron Chair

During the 1970s, several new designers joined the company, widening the company’s scope and creative vision. The new designers were to greatly impact the company, predominantly Don Chadwick and Bill Stumpf, who co-designed the Equa chair, an office chair still widely marketed today. 

However, perhaps their most famous creation to date is their Aeron Chair, supposedly named after a Celtic God while also referencing aeration and aeronautics. The Aeron chair, called by Bloomberg as ‘America’s best-selling Office Chair’, was such an innovative design, incorporating ergonomics with modernism, that it is featured in The Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection. 

This highlights just one of the many ways Herman Miller has incorporated art and architectural elements in its office furniture designs. It is one of the pioneering furniture companies to do so. Their furniture designs are so innovative that they have made themselves a reputation in the world of art rather than just the furniture industry. 

From 1970 to 1989, artist Stephen Frykholm produced a series of promotional posters for Herman Miller’s annual summer picnics, further integrating Herman Miller into the artistic world. Some of these prints are permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, and, much like many of Herman Millers’ creations, they remain highly sought after today. 

Herman Miller Today 

Even today, Herman Miller is considered one of the best companies for office furniture design. In recent years, the introduction of desk chairs such as the Herman Miller Sayl Chair and the Herman Miller Embody Chair have continued to astound the industry. 

Each office chair and furniture piece is thoroughly researched, designed and produced to the highest possible degree to provide a high quality product. If you’re looking for innovative, ergonomic and contemporary office chairs, browse our Herman Miller collection today or contact us on 01603 722483 to learn more.

Latest Reviews

OFS have been very helpful setting up an order for 5 chairs for our office. They have been of great assistance with regards to sorting out the order and communication has been brilliant.


Ordered a Herman Miller Embody chair with a one-week delivery time, received a phone call after placing the order to confirm delivery for the next day! Chair arrived well packaged, would definitely recommend.


I highly recommend this place for a working from home office chair. Really helpful advice and a chance to see which chair suited me best.


Ordered a Herman Miller chair from OFS and was delivered next day, I couldn't get the gas lift to work, they were in touch the same morning and resolved over the phone. Great customer service would definitely recommend.


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