Herman Miller

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
MillerKnoll, Inc.
FormerlyHerman Miller Inc.
Company typePublic company
IndustryFurniture manufacturing
Office and home furnishings retailer
  • Star Furniture Co.
  • Michigan Star Furniture Co.
  • Herman Miller Furniture Company
Founded1905; 119 years ago (1905) (as Star Furniture Co.)
FounderD. J. De Pree
Area served
Key people
Andi Owen
(President and CEO)
RevenueIncrease US$4.09 billion (2023)
Increase US$122 million (2023)
Increase US$42.1 million (2023)
Total assetsDecrease US$4.27 billion (2023)
Total equityIncrease US$1.43 billion (2023)
Number of employees
10,900 (2023)
Footnotes / references
Financials as of June 3, 2023.[1]

MillerKnoll, Inc., doing business as Herman Miller, is an American company that produces office furniture, equipment, and home furnishings. Its best known designs include the Aeron chair, Noguchi table, Marshmallow sofa, Mirra chair, and the Eames Lounge Chair. Herman Miller is also credited with the 1968 invention of the office cubicle (originally known as the "Action Office") under then-director of research Robert Propst.[2][3]


Low table by Isamu Noguchi (1945)
Sofa by Isamu Noguchi (1950)
Bucket chair by Charles and Ray Eames (1950–1953)
Aeron chair by Don Chadwick and Bill Stumpf (1990s)

Herman Miller was founded in 1905 as the Star Furniture Co. Initially the company produced furniture, especially bedroom suites, in historic revival styles.[3] In 1919, it was renamed the Michigan Star Furniture Co. under then-president Dirk Jan De Pree. De Pree and his father-in-law, Herman Miller, (born Harm Mulder on 7 September 1867 in Hoogemeeden, Groningen, Netherlands [4] [5]) purchased 51% of the company stock in 1923 and renamed it the Herman Miller Furniture Company.[6]

With the coming of the Great Depression, the company faced bankruptcy until De Pree met Gilbert Rohde, an up-and-coming modernist designer.[3][6] Rohde convinced De Pree that the furniture industry's focus on historical reproduction furniture in lieu of new designs was not only out of touch with the consumer, but fundamentally dishonest in the practices used to make furniture pieces appear older and of higher quality than they were.[6] De Pree acquired the rights to Rohde's modernist furniture designs in exchange for a three percent royalty on any furniture sold. In 1933, Herman Miller debuted a line of modern furniture at the Century of Progress exposition in Chicago, Illinois.[3][6] In 1941, the company opened a showroom in the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, and another in New York City. Under Rohde's supervision, Herman Miller entered the contract office furniture market in 1942, with the introduction of the "Modular Executive Office" Group (EOG).[3]

Rohde died in 1944[6] and was replaced by architect George Nelson, who joined the firm as director of design in 1945.[3] Over the next four decades, Nelson influenced Herman Miller through both his personal designs and the designers that he recruited, including Isamu Noguchi, Charles and Ray Eames, and textile designer Alexander Girard.[3] Beginning in the late 1940s, the period under Nelson's guidance saw Herman Miller produce some of the company's most recognizable pieces of furniture, including the Noguchi table, Eames Lounge Chair,[7] Marshmallow sofa, Ball clock (actually produced by Howard Miller Clock Company), and the Sling sofa.[3]

The company reformed as Herman Miller, Inc. in 1960.[3] De Pree continued as Herman Miller CEO until 1961, when he was forced by illness to step down. He was succeeded by his son, Hugh De Pree, who was CEO until the mid-1980s. Florida architect Gene Leedy designed a residence for De Pree on Marco Island in 1979. Hugh De Pree was succeeded by his brother Max De Pree, who held the position until 1990.[3]

In 1961, Herman Miller set up the Herman Miller Research Division, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.[3] This division developed the "Action Office" line in 1964 under the supervision of Robert Propst and with the design assistance of George Nelson's New York design studio.[3] Though the initial line, known as "Action Office I", was not a success, it led Propst to develop the "Action Office II" line, which introduced the office cubicle.[3] In 1978, Action Office II was renamed simply "Action Office". Herman Miller's line of Action Office products generated sales of over $5 billion as of 1998.[3]

George Nelson's influence at Herman Miller gradually declined during the 1970s as new designers joined the company, including Don Chadwick and Bill Stumpf, who in the 1990s developed the highly-successful Aeron chair.[8] In 1981, Herman Miller started to work with the Italian designer Clino Trini Castelli on the process of designing physical environments, a so-called Design Primario.[3][9] Designer Tom Newhouse introduced the "Newhouse Group" of freestanding furniture in 1987, and assisted with the "Ethospace" wall panel system for the Action Office line. Ray Wilkes designed the "Modular Seating Group", popularly known as the Chicklet Chairs.[3]

In 2010, the firm acquired Colebrook Bosson Saunders, a designer and manufacturer of ergonomic furniture.[10]

The acquisition of Knoll by Herman Miller was announced in April 2021 in a $1.8 billion deal. The acquisition was closed on July 19, 2021, and the company was rebranded as MillerKnoll.[11][12]


In addition to Herman Miller and Knoll, the company owns notable brands including Design Within Reach, Colebrook Bosson Saunders, Dates Weiser, Edelman Leather, Holly Hunt, Hay, Maharam, and Muuto.[13]


In March 2008, Herman Miller settled an antitrust lawsuit with the states of New York, Michigan, and Illinois for $750,000.[14] The lawsuit focused on Herman Miller's use of a suggested retail pricing policy.

According to CNN Money, as of March 2011, Herman Miller was ranked as the second most admired company in the Home Equipment, Furnishing division.[15]

In April 2023 CEO Andi Owen scolded employees for worrying about bonus pay in an internal town hall meeting.[16] The video went viral for her criticizing employees after Owen told them to "leave Pity City." Owen had reportedly received $4 million in bonuses in 2022.[17] Some social media users criticized her comments as "unhinged", "nasty" and "toxic".[18] A company representative insisted the video was taken out of context and was a small exchange in a mostly positive town hall meeting that went for 75 minutes.[19][20] Owen later apologised to employees.[21]


Herman Miller has engaged in a number of initiatives to promote sustainability. The company has developed a technique of mixing sawdust with chicken manure to produce topsoil. Management of the company has expressed concerns about global warming, and the company was using 27% renewable energy as of 2007.[22]

Herman Miller calls its driving sustainability initiative "Perfect Vision" and it put the strategy in place in 2004.[23] These targets include zero landfill disposal, zero hazardous waste generation, zero air emissions (VOCs), zero process water discharge, 100% green electrical energy use, company buildings constructed to a minimum LEED Silver certification, and 100% of sales from DfE-approved[clarification needed] products.[24]

Herman Miller helped fund the start of the United States Green Building Council, and hired architect William McDonough + Partners to design a factory incorporating green design principles.[25] The building is known as the "Greenhouse", and is an example of green building. The building won the following awards:

  • AIA Committee on the Environment Top Ten Environmental Buildings, 1997
  • Business Week/Architectural Record Good Design Is Good Business Award, 1997
  • AIA Central Virginia Honor Award, 1998
  • International Development Research Council, Award for Distinguished Service in Environmental Planning, 1995[26]

Notable products[edit]

A typical distribution depot, in Chippenham, Wiltshire.


  1. ^ "MillerKnoll, Inc. 2023 Annual Report (Form 10-K)". U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. July 26, 2023.
  2. ^ Schlosser, Julie (March 22, 2006). "Cubicles: The great mistake". Fortune Magazine.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Pina, Leslie (1998). Classic Herman Miller. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing. ISBN 0-7643-0471-2.
  4. ^ "Birth Harm Mulder on September 7, 1867 in Hoogemeeden gem. Aduard (Netherlands) » Open Archives". Retrieved 9 August 2023.
  5. ^ "Herman Miller (1867–1948)". FamilySearch. Retrieved 9 August 2023.
  6. ^ a b c d e "A model home for the modern era: How industrial designer Gilbert Rohde helped Herman Miller become America's top producer of modern furniture". Curbed: Longform. Curbed. 23 May 2019. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  7. ^ "Charles Eames, Ray Eames. Lounge Chair and Ottoman. 1956". The Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 2022-09-01.
  8. ^ "Donald T. Chadwick, William Stumpf. Aeron Office Chair. 1992". The Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 2022-09-01.
  9. ^ Sam Hall Kaplan, "West Week Spotlights Furniture", April 7, 1985, Los Angeles Times.
  10. ^ "Colebrook Bosson Saunders sold to Herman Miller". BCMS: Your M&A partner. Retrieved 2021-08-20.
  11. ^ "Herman Miller Completes Acquisition of Knoll" (Press release).
  12. ^ "Herman Miller and Knoll Announce New Name: MillerKnoll" (Press release). www.hermanmiller.com. Retrieved 2022-09-15.
  13. ^ "MillerKnoll Brands | MillerKnoll". www.millerknoll.com. Retrieved 2022-09-01.
  14. ^ "Herman Miller, states settle suit on Aeron chair price". Muskegon Chronicle.
  15. ^ "World's Most Admired Companies 2011: Herman Miller snapshot". CNN.
  16. ^ "Why MillerKnoll CEO's Rant on Bonuses Put Executives' Multi-Million Pay in Focus". MSN. Retrieved 2023-04-20.
  17. ^ Olson, Emily (April 19, 2023). "'Leave pity city,' MillerKnoll CEO tells staff who asked whether they'd lose bonuses". NPR.
  18. ^ Aimee Picchi (April 18, 2023). "MillerKnoll CEO sparks backlash after telling employees to "leave Pity City" over lack of bonuses". CBS News. Retrieved 2023-04-18.
  19. ^ "CEO tells employees to stop complaining about not receiving bonuses while she gets $1.2m bonus". news.com.au. April 18, 2023.
  20. ^ Strachan, Maxwell (18 April 2023). "Don't Live in 'Pity City,' Office Chair Magnate Tells Employees Who Want Money". www.vice.com.
  21. ^ Morrow, Allison (2023-04-20). "CEO apologizes after 'pity city' speech backfires | CNN Business". CNN. Retrieved 2023-04-20.
  22. ^ "Tim Zaun, "Herman Miller, the BHAG, and Internalizing Sustainability", GreenerDesign, Greenbiz.com, Jun. 22, 2007".
  23. ^ "Herman Miller builds a sustainability model". Crain's Detroit Business. 2015-08-09. Retrieved 2019-07-10.
  24. ^ "Our Vision – Herman Miller".
  25. ^ "Herman Miller Embraces Nature and Engages Our Youth". Huffington Post. July 18, 2012.
  26. ^ ""Greenhouse" Factory & Offices | William McDonough + Partners". Archived from the original on 2012-07-16. Retrieved 2012-07-21.

External links[edit]

  • Official website
  • Business data for MillerKnoll, Inc.:
  • The Herman Miller Consortium Collection at Wayne State University Library is a historic, digital, product collection originally accumulated as part of Herman Miller's corporate archives in a digitized, searchable format.
  • CNN.com: "Cubicles: The great mistake"
  • YouTube.com: "Comments on Herman Miller"—by designer Yves Béhar
  • "Herman Miller Embody Office Chair Review", The Tech Reviewer