Herman Miller: A Way of Living

Every once in a while, I purchase a book based on the reviews I’ve read and fully expect the actual product to not live up to the hype. Usually, it’s that thing where my expectations were inflated due to glowing reviews that tout the quality of the layouts, the editorial, photography and more. With my recent purchase of “Herman Miller: A Way of Living” I have to say the reviews were spot on. (Amazon has this for about $20.00 less)

This book chronicles more than 100 years of Herman Miller’s history and the key events that have made it a cultural icon. Broken out into 10 chapters, the book creates a timeline that highlights key achievements, people, and events that have made the Herman Miller company the powerhouse that it is today.

Thanks to exhaustive research done by Herman Miller archivist Amy Auscherman, Sam Grawe and Leon Ransmeier the book is 614 pages of history, illustrations, photography, and essays that add up to a comprehensive history that in my opinion is the best book on Herman Miller to date.

Auscherman, Grawe and Ransmeier, spent the better part of four years combing the design collections at the Vitra Design Museum, UCLA Libraries, the Eames Office, Museum of Modern Art, Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, and The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation included for Herman Miller-related documents, photographs, archives, and illustrations for the new book and it paid off. They have gone into historic detail that not only delves into the company history but the influence that the products, architecture, and people brought to Herman Miller culture over the last 100 years.

The 10 chapters that go in-depth on everything from key figures in the company’s history (Nelson, Eames, Girard, Frykolm) to pivotal moments in popular culture that shaped Herman Miller’s trajectory, this book is the summation of Herman Miller’s existence thus far—the most expansive one to date.

“Even the nerdiest nerds and Herman Miller fans and people who have spent their whole working life at the company will have something to learn from this book,” she says. “I sit in this interesting position at the company where I kind of know the genesis of ideas that have proliferated and made the company what it is today. These ideas have been revisited and refined over and over again—not in a bad way. Usually, people aren’t coming up with something totally new, but they’re new iterations on something that’s already existed and making it better.”

Amy Auscherman

The book covers everything from furniture design, advertising materials, design research, human factors company culture, textile development and more. Each section or chapter is prefaced with an in-depth essay on the influence that this portion had on the company as it grew from a small Michigan based furniture manufacturer into an international powerhouse.

The Value of Good Design

If I only had a few extra days of vacation and a few extra dollars to spend I know what I’d be visiting in the next couple of weeks. MoMa’s “The Value of Good Design” exhibit that is currently up through June 15th. The video below is a fun two-minute look at some of the design and designers featured and some of the more iconic pieces in the show. If you’re in New York or headed there soon, this would be well worth a visit.

Featuring objects from domestic furnishings and appliances to ceramics, glass, electronics, transport design, sporting goods, toys, and graphics, The Value of Good Design explores the democratizing potential of design, beginning with MoMA’s Good Design initiatives from the late 1930s through the 1950s, which championed well-designed, affordable contemporary products. The concept of Good Design also took hold well beyond the Museum, with governments on both sides of the Cold War divide embracing it as a vital tool of social and economic reconstruction and technological advancement in the years following World War II. This global scope is reflected in many of the items on view, from a mass-market Italian Fiat Cinquecento automobile and a Soviet-era East German Werra camera to a Japanese poster for a Mitsubishi sewing machine and a Brazilian bowl chair. These works join both iconic and unexpected items made in the US, such as the Eames La Chaise, a Chemex Coffee Maker, and Irwin Gershen’s Shrimp Cleaner.

“These details are not accents or quirks, they are evidence of quality.”

In the short film below for Herman Miller, Dress Code focuses on the production of the iconic Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman that has been in constant production since 1956. The video documents the visual account of the chair being manufactured, and simultaneously reveals the ethos of Herman Miller’s design principals and process. In two minutes the viewer is presented with lush visuals, and solid narrative that embodies not only the Eames Lounge Chair, but everything Herman Miller produces. The flow, cadence, and visual treatment of the short reads more like a tribute, and less like an ad. This is a great example of an emerging form of online content that feels more engaging and genuine than a typical 30 second spot on TV. Hat tip to Herman Miller for commissioning, and to Dress Code for a great production.

“These details are not accents or quirks. These details are not the details, they are evidence of quality.”

Simply Bent. Cowrie from Made in Ratio.

Since I was a kid, I have always been fascinated with furniture made from bent plywood. I think it comes from the fact that my grade school had so many Eames molded plywood chairs through out the building. Yes back in the day, before they became a coveted purchase from Design Within Reach, the Eames chair was pretty utilitarian. Beautiful, but affordable and utilitarian. This morning I was checking email, and a friend of mine had sent me a link to the “Cowrie Chair” designed by Brodie Neil, and built by Made in Ratio.

This stunning piece of furniture was inspired by the concave lines of sea shells, and requires an innovative process to build. A process that is a blend of digital technology, and handmade processes. The end result is a continuous flowing form from a single surface of Ash plywood. The chair is deceivingly simple and elegant with a feeling of pleasant continuity from the geometry of form.

Is it to late to add this to my Christmas wish list?




Live-Work Space from John Dwyer.

For the last 3 and a half years I have lived in a fairly small house by most American standards. Modular 4 was just over 1500 square feet. About three weeks ago we moved and downsized even more to a loft that is right at 1000 square feet in size. Moving into a small space puts a lot of things in perspective, and makes you rethink what you actually need, and what is important in your life.

The first floor of our building is designated for commercial space, promoting a work/live environment for the building. This is something that I can totally get behind. The space is zoned for commercial use, but regulated by the HOA so no restaurant, bar, or other late night business can go in.



This morning while looking for similar buildings online I came across Minneapolis architect John Dwyer’s Live/Work space. This small building houses a living environment upstairs, and office space below. Judging from the photos I would be willing to bet that each space is around 1000 to 1200 square feet in size. I can relate to the aesthetic shown here. Minimal amounts of objects and artifacts are seen in the rooms. Furniture is clean and space-saving like the Eames compact sofa that divides the living room from the dining room. The fundamental shape of the 1920’s era structure has been reduced to a minimal form modernizing it. Large windows flood the space with light making it feel more open and spacious.  I think could get used to living and working in a space like this.

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My End of the Year, the Mayan’s are Wrong Christmas Wish List.

Here we are again, in the middle of the Christmas holiday season, and it’s time for me to post my wish list just incase the world doesn’t end tomorrow. If there is a secret Santa out there that want to help me fulfill my needs, feel free to deliver any of the gifts below to Modular 4 between now and Christmas.

The theme this year focuses on well designed relaxation. Something I am going to need to shed the stress that has built up anticipating the end of the world on December 21st as the Mayans wrongfully predicted.

Item one is the Eames Leather Lounge Chair and Ottoman. This iconic piece of furniture will help me rest and relax for weeks to come as I forget about how I was supposed to float off into space as the earths gravity reversed on December 21st.  It also ties into the next few items.


Item two will further my relaxed and unworried mood by wrapping my ears in ambient cocoon of sonic bliss. The Klipsch M40 noise canceling headphones will help drown out any background noise as I sit in my lounge chair with feet propped up on the ottoman.  These headphones not only offer excellent Passive Cross-over Network, Active Noise Reduction, they look good and sound better.


Item three will help me fall into complete sonic bliss. Nothing says relaxation like a fine bourbon whiskey. That is where the Pappy Van Winkle comes in. This stuff is extremely hard to find, so Santa if you’re reading this, I have tried very hard this year to be a good boy. If you bring me this whiskey, I promise I’ll share with you.


Item four is an essential part of any good Bourbon or other whiskey drink. Whiskey Stones. These innovative soapstone cubes were designed by Andrew Hellman to cool your drink without diluting the spirits you are consuming. They are Milled in Perkinsville, Vermont by the oldest soapstone workshop in the United States, and paired with crystal glasses made in Slovenia & the Czech Republic.



All of this does me no good if I don’t have a stylish and powerful media player to deliver soothing music to my ears. This is where Item five comes in. The new Olive One media player. Not only is this beautiful to look at, it is packed with state of the art electronics that deliver Hi-Fi sound quality and the ability to play back pretty much any media source.  Olive has always produced some of the best digital media players on the planet, and with the Olive One it goes to the next level in design and functionality.



This scenario wouldn’t be complete without a place to store all of my fine whiskeys, the media player, barware, and other relaxation accouterments. This is why item  six is a fitting choice for my post “end of the world didn’t happen” bliss. The Wallace Credenza from Thrive is a great example of mid-century modern styling updated for the 21st century. This hand built American Walnut cabinet is simply stunning to look at and it has loads of storage for booze, book, and music.

Credenza_01_V3_00002_noBGAll this play and no work leads to a life of sloth. Since sloth is one of the seven deadly sins  it would probably be in my best interest to get my boozed up butt off of the Eames lounger for some outside activity. This is where item seven, the Ural Patrol motorcycle with motorized sidecar comes in handy. With this retro inspired, utilitarian workhorse of a bike, I can transport myself to any wilderness location for hiking and outdoor activities. This bike is the Jeep of motorcycles so getting to remote off road locations shouldn’t be an issue.

orpat2Hiking requires a good set of boots amongst other things. Item eight on my holiday wish list is a pair of  Garmont Tower Gore-tex hiking boots. The stylish red color matches the color of the Ural bike, and the look says this guy knows how to climb mountains. A must have for when I am hanging out back at the lodge drinking my Pappy Van Winkle.

GarmontI like to document my hikes with photos, but I hate carrying a tripod, and yes sometimes you need to steady the camera to get the shot. That is where item nine comes in. The Novoflex Walking Stick and Monopod. It’s ultra-lightweight at 9 ounces, collapses to 25 inches and expands to just under 60, and features a 1/4 inch screw mount to attach  your camera via the tripod mount.

monopodAfter a long day of motorcycles, hiking and photographing, what better way to wind down  before slipping back into my lounger than with soak in this amazing wooden soaking tub from Rapsel. The Ofuro tub would be a great way to unwind after any long day. This wooden tub is extra deep, and the clean simple lines won’t add any superfluous visual detail to distract me as I think about end of the year activities now that I know for sure the world hasn’t come to an unexpected halt on December 21st.

TubSo, Secret Santa, or regular Santa, if you are reading this… I have been very good this year.







Dexter Work Sled from Stéphan Angoulvant.

I don’t do any work on my MINI. The car is still under warranty and frankly it sits so low to the ground it’s impossible to get under without a lift. If I did have an older car that had adequate ground clearance, I’d be tempted to buy this creeper so I could access the underside of my car a bit easier.

If you have ever tried a creeper you know that it’s far from a perfect solution, but designer Stéphan Angoulvant came up with a solution to improve upon the standard issue tool from AC Delco creating a well designed solution for casual users and auto enthusiasts alike. Angoulvant got so frustrated with the cheap commonly used creeper he owned that he set out to design a better solution.

“The thought process that brought the Dexter Work Sled to fruition pondered how to develop an emotional tie (other than anger and frustration) to our creepers. From there, the “what ifs” included a wearable vest with tank treads, and finally settled on a hammerhead shark-inspired shape rendered in molded plywood like the famous Eames chairs.”

Angoulvant result is a creeper that looks beautiful and is functional. The sled features integrated magnets to hold tools in place, and LED work lights to illuminate the underside of the car. Angoulvant pushed the wheels out to the sled’s edges, allowing them to be larger, and an easy-to-use brake lets gear heads really crank down on stubborn bolts without having their work platform slip out from under them.