Everything Thats Old Suddenly Is New Again

May 30, 2002
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GRANDVILLE — When Herman Miller Inc. started reproducing some of its furniture designs from a half-century ago, the idea was to serve a small but loyal customer base that values fine design.

Seven years later, the furniture pieces that are reintroduced annually have grown in popularity among consumers who can afford to add a certain flair to their homes’ decor.

The success and popularity of the mid-century furniture pieces, in fact, “continues to amaze” Herman Miller executives, said Ray Kennedy, general manager of Herman Miller for the Home.

“Initially we thought this was going to be a little, small new niche market.

“This has far outpaced our expectations and it continues to,” Kennedy said.

Herman Miller formed the division in 1994 to produce and market home office furniture and its pieces from the 1940s and 1950s. The division’s sales have grown steadily ever since, increasing 40 percent alone in 2000, Kennedy said.

Among the pieces reintroduced this year are the 1955 Nelson Coconut Chair from designer George Nelson, which was on the market for just five years, and the Eames Wire Chair designed by Charles and Ray Eames, first introduced in 1954.

The vintage pieces, Kennedy said, “remain true to the original in terms of designs, materials and detailing.”

Since 1994, Herman Miller for the Home has reintroduced 21 furniture pieces from the recent past, Kennedy said.

The division has also created new designs that fit with the vintage designs and plans to bring back some of the classic bedroom furnishings of the past as well.

Such is the case with the Capelli Stool, which features two identical pieces of molded wood cut with “fingers” that interlock to form a seat.

“We’re not just resting on our laurels,” Kennedy said. “We need to continue the drive and the initiative.”

He said that initiative is based on driving new business revenues and celebrating Herman Miller’s rich designs history and heritage that includes some of the most influential furniture designers of the last century.

Building on that design heritage to drive new business, while accommodating a growing number of collectors and consumers who hungered for the vintage pieces, was part of the premise behind the formation of Herman Miller for the Home, Kennedy said.

“We wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t successful and generating sales and earnings. Additionally, it does make a nice connection back to the history and heritage of our company,” Kennedy said.

“We know what we have and we appreciate what we have, and we use that to drive our business.”

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