George Nelson

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.

Half Nelson.

It’s a snowy last day of 2012 here in Kansas City and I’m using the time to go through a bunch of things I bookmarked a while ago. A few months back I was searching for new table lamps for the bedroom when I came across “Half Nelson” designed by George Nelson Office, circa 1950. The lamps are being produced by Modernica in Los Angeles to the exacting standards of the original lamps produced by Koch & Lowy from 1977 until they were discontinued in the late 1980’s.
20121231-133947.jpgGeorge Nelson originally designed the ‘Half-Nelson’ Table Lamp for the Holiday House project, a commissioned design vacation home for the publishers of magazine bearing the same name. The house was built in 1950 on the southern coast of Long Island where it was intended to showcase the magazine and to promote a post WWII economy where anyone could afford to own a vacation home. George Nelson designed the home and most of its furnishings. The ‘Half-Nelson’ was designed specifically for the living room, and originally existed only as a prototype.

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Telling Time with George Nelson.

Since I was a little kid I have loved George Nelson clocks. I think the fascination with them stems from the fact that a number of our neighbors had them, and the iconic shapes seemed to be everywhere. I remember the pediatrician had one in the waiting room. The Nelson Ball Clock. One neighbor, and I can’t remember which one had a Kite Clock. That particular clock is one that I have always wanted, and lucky for me two weeks ago Fab had the entire line on sale. I scored a George Nelson Kite Clock for 90 bucks and couldn’t be happier.

The clock arrived this afternoon and was waiting for me when I got home. It’s smaller than I remember. I also had forgotten that the face is made from cut and bent steel. The clock is a stunning and timeless piece of design (pun intended). So after un-boxing the new Kite clock is now hung in the kitchen against the bright orange wall section. The off white and black look wonderful against the bright orange, and the clock counters the Nelson Crisscross bubble lamp hanging above the island ten feet away.

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Chroma Lab Clocks

I have been wanting to get a wall clock for the new house for some time. At first I considered a George Nelson clock, but they have become so popular that i started looking for something a bit different. Today I came across Chroma Lab hand-made clocks and I think I might have found what I am looking for. The clocks have a sophisticated, bright color pallet that is accentuated with simple geometric forms, and a visual vibrancy that plays off of the competing color values.

Each  clock is built by hand from quality birch plywood and then hand painted. They are .5″ thick by 105″ across and come in a variety of colorful designs. Chroma Lab uses American made quartz mechanisms that run on one AA battery.

The cost is $65.00 which seems very reasonable considering that each one is hand painted. And I love the size,at 9.5 inches it is not to big, not to small.

Edward Wormley for Dunbar

“Furniture is needed for practical reasons, and because it must be there, it may as well be as pleasant as possible to look at, and in a less definable psychological way, comforting to the spirit.”

A few years back I did a freelance job for Dunbar Furniture. It was  my first real introduction to the furniture designed by Edward Wormley, and I instantly fell in love with his understated and elegant design aesthetic.

Born in Rochelle, IL near Chicago. Edward Wormley came from humble beginnings, during the late 1920’s his financial state caused him to struggle  to stay in school for interior design at the Art Institute of Chicago. in 1930 he was forced to cut his schooling short, and he went to work as an interior designer for Marshall Fields in Chicago. Ultimately unfulfilled with his career at Marshal Fields he quit in 1931 to join the Dunbar Furniture Company of Berne, Indiana. His job as lead designer was to update their overall product line.

Wormley’s work with Dunbar met with immediate success and his career with them lasted for 30 years. He had a outsatnding eye for quality and the exacting craftsmanship needed in the development of high quality modern furniture. Wormley began incorporating European innovations and created furniture that was elegant, understated and modern.  In 1944 Dunbar decided to focus exclusively on Modern lines, and to this day manufactures and sells furniture that Wormely designed between 1944 and 1970. While Wormley was never truly at the forefront of Modern design he was able to take the best elements from classical, historical design and translated them into Modern vernacular. His result was furniture that was sophisticated, yet mainstream, and this translated into a very successful product line for Dunbar.

Wormley was fortunate enough to be included in the “Good Design” Exhibitions staged by the Museum of Modern in New York between 1950 and 1955. This elevated him to a respected place alongside designers like Harry Bertoia, George Nelson and Charles and Ray Eames. Edward Wormley thoroughly understood the essential elements of what became known as Mid Century Modernism but never limited himself to this single ideology. His furniture designs represent an understanding of classical design principles merged with 20th century innovation. The convergence of these helped to create timeless classic pieces that greatly appeal to today’s collectors.

 

Edward Wormley designs from the current Dunbar catalog

 

 

Design Friday.

Foster+Partners designed the Arc Table for the Italian manufacturer Molteni&C.

arc_231009_01Inspired by the semi temporary fabric structures, which are increasingly used in contemporary architectural design, (think Crown Center Ice Skating rink) the base is soft, fluid table. I love the undulating geometry of the intersecting parabolic arcs that are wrapped over the sub-frame. The images of the table remind me of George Nelson Bubble lamps in their simplicity, and how the light plays off of the stretched white fabric.

The base is made of an innovative material of composited  cement and organic fibers, the material is resistant and elastic at the same time. It lends itself very well to complex geometric  structures. The material  is also waterproof, and the pigment dyed base in white and two tones of gray, ensures the color stays color fast throughout its lifespan, and in exposure to direct sunlight. Because of this the base  materials make this a perfect candidate for  outdoor use.

Arc complements its base with a tempered glass top, in sizes of  140 or 150 cm in diameter. The glass comes in both clear and a smoked finish and according to the manufacturer’s website there is a future option for frosted as well. I have to say that I really love the smoked glass option that is shown in the photos though.

Now, what would the perfect chair for this table be? Hmmmm.

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The Bubble Lamp is Go.

George Nelson Criss Cross Bubble Lamp, by Modernica

George Nelson Criss Cross Bubble Lamp, by Modernica

Yesterday when I got home from the trip I had the nice surprise of finding the George Nelson Criss Cross Bubble lamp installed above the kitchen island at the house. It looks fantastic. There is a nice visual break in the line of sight across the ceiling without being to obtrusive to the flow of the room. The light it emits has a wonderful diffused pattern that subtlety hints at the overall shape of the lamp itself. I love the look of the stretched white plastic membrane across the wire framing. The chiaroscuro of form created by the undulating bends in the elliptical shape of the lamp is punctuated with dark contrasting lines from the wire structure beneath it.

According to our handy man the installation was a snap. The light came with all the wiring and attachments, plus a face plate that perfectly covered the hole from the existing recessed fixture. Installation time took about 30 minutes and this included removing the original lighting fixture that was installed in the ceiling.

I’m curious to see how the light is going to hold up and how easy it will be to clean it under normal conditions. The plastic membrane that is stretched over the wire frame seems extremely durable but it is hard to tell. I’m wondering about things like discoloration, which I know was an issue with the original Nelson lamps from the 50’s and 60’s. I’ll be making additional posts about the lamp as we use it more and I have a chance to see how it holds up under daily use in the house.