George Nelson made his reputation as a designer. But could his real legacy be as an author? In 1948, the Herman Miller design director came out with a 72-page hardback, The Herman Miller Collection. Filled with illustrations and photos of furnishings by himself as well as Charles and Ray Eames, Paul Laszlo, and Isamu Noguchi, it sold for the equivalent of $29 today, an unheard-of price at a time when catalogs were distributed for free. More than a mere trade catalog, however, this brand-builder established Herman Miller as a definitive voice of American modernism.
Reviving the Herman Miller Collection name isn't just an exercise in mid-century nostalgia. The moniker now designates a product family rooted in the past but intended to evolve. Currently a 200-piece series, it comprises several subgroups beginning with icons that have remained in continuous production, unchanged. Meanwhile, discoveries from the company's vast archives have been reinterpreted or updated. Nelson's 1954 pedestal table has been adapted as a stool, for example-with assistance from his widow, Jacqueline. All four versions of the Eames dining and lounge chairs from 1946 offer upholstery options for the first time since 1957. The couple's 1948 side chair, discontinued because of environmental problems with its fiberglass-reinforced molded-plastic seat, was reintroduced in 2000, thanks to improved plastics technology, and is now also available in a richly grained rosewoodlike veneer. Making up the next category are selections from the Italian manufacturers Magis and Mattiazzi, resulting from exclusive U.S. distribution agreements. Finally, at the NeoCon World's Trade Fair in Chicago, the collection comes full-circle with brand-new furniture from luminaries-in-training: Craig Bassam and Scott Fellows of BassamFellows, Ayse Birsel and Bibi Seck of Birsel + Seck, Sam Hecht and Kim Colin of Industrial Facility, and Leon Ransmeier of Ransmeier. 888-443-4357; hermanmiller.com
.Firm: Herman Miller Project: The Herman Miller Collection Photos: Courtesy of Herman Miller