Herman Miller on Screen
Seen On Set presents sixty years of Herman Miller on the big and small screen
Once upon a time in West Michigan, businessman Herman Miller helped his son-in-law D.J. De Pree, to buy the Michigan Star Furniture Company. De Pree, in-turn, renamed the company after his father-in-law, and the Herman Miller story began.
By the middle of the 20th century, the name Herman Miller had become synonymous with “modern” furniture. The design legacy of this iconic American brand was forged by collaborations with legendary designers George Nelson and the husband and wife team of Charles and Ray Eames. Since then Herman Miller has collaborated with some of the best designers in the world, including Alexander Girard, Isamu Noguchi, Bill Stumpf, Don Chadwick, Ayse Birsel, Yves Béhar, Doug Ball, and many others. Together with these designers the company is responsible for creating pieces that have become classics of industrial design.
With a remarkable catalogue of iconic furniture it was not surprising that Hollywood set decorators would use many of these pieces when dressing their sets. In-house designers Charles and Ray Eames even consulted on the design and decoration of dozens of movies in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Two of these were The Moon is Blue (1953) and Executive Suite (1954). Both movies feature countless Eames and Herman Miller pieces as well as pieces designed by their close friends, including Eero Saarinen and Isamu Noguchi. From small independent to big budget tent-pole pictures, the use of Herman Miller furniture in filmed entertainment continued throughout the next six decades.
As the company collaborated with exciting new designers the furniture and lighting being produced continued to catch the eye of, not only the public, but the designers working in Hollywood. In more recent years designers such as Bill Stumpf and Yves Béhar have created some of Herman Miller’s most sought after products. Bill Stumpf is responsible for changing the face of ergonomically designed office chairs. He and fellow designer Don Chadwick produced the Aeron Chair, regarded by many as the most well-known office chair ever made and the Gold Winner in the Designs of the Decade competition held by the Industrial Designers Society of America and Business Week magazine. The Aeron chair can be seen on the set of countless movies and television shows, including: Bounce (2000), Casino Royale (2006), Entourage (2015), The Big Short (2016), Sicario (2015), The Big Bang Theory (2007), Lie to Me (2009) and Suits (2011).
Yves Béhar could be considered one the company’s most forward-thinking designers, and his designs are simply jaw-dropping. Most notable of these is the uber-stylish Sayl Chair. This innovative chair, with its futuristic aesthetic, is almost entirely recyclable (93%), only adding to its impressiveness. Like many of Herman Miller’s contemporary office chairs it is quickly becoming an industrial design icon (along with its creator). Available in a plethora of colors and configurations, it’s not surprising that it can be seen on set of some of the most prominent movies and television shows, such as The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) and Silicon Valley (2015).
Even with its growing roster of wonderfully talented designers and innovators, it is testament to Herman Miller’s legacy that it is their earliest collaborators who remain so relevant and sought after. The original designs of George Nelson and Charles and Ray Eames grace the interiors of homes, offices, hotels and movie sets around the world. Their furniture surpasses the mid-century modern category and are as at home in the most contemporary post-modern spaces as they are in an eclectic early 20th century environment. These pieces are timeless. We see them every evening in the most popular television shows and on the silver screen in movies both big and small. From The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964) to Mad Men (2007) and from Sunday in New York (1963) to Spectre (2015) their appearances are innumerable.
Mad Men (2007–2015)
Appearing on our screens for the first time in the summer of 2007, AMC’s Mad Men grew into a hugely popular, award winning TV and fashion and interior design trend setting TV show. It is as equally well known for its set design and wardrobe as it is for its dramatic story telling. Creator and writer Matthew Weiner was meticulous in his attention to detail when it came to designing and dressing of the sets. With its rich mid-century modern aesthetic it is not surprising that numerous Herman Miller classics appear on set. The Eames Executive Chair A.K.A the Time-Life chair is one such piece. Created in 1959 for the ultramodern lobbies of the Time-Life Building in New York. Generously sized, the executive chair features the highest quality materials: an aluminum base and frame, finely detailed upholstery accented with upholstery-covered buttons, and edge details typical of traditional fine furniture.
White Collar (2009–2014)
When a smart white collar criminal agrees to help the FBI catch other white collar criminals we enter the different worlds of high-end luxury lifestyles. The result is one of the most sleek and stylish shows in recent years. Decorated with an amazing juxtaposition of some of the best classic furniture combined with highly contemporary pieces. One of our favorites is the sumptuous Nelson Coconut Lounge Chair. It is certainly one of Nelson’s most iconic pieces. First introduced in 1955 it is as good to sit in as it is to look at. With its shallow sides and inviting curves, the chair is designed to let you sit in any position, move, and relax with surprising ease. Seeing it on the set of modern television shows it is hard to believe that it is over 60 years old. The Nelson Coconut Lounge Chair is part of the permanent collection in museums worldwide.
Sterling Archer, the world’s greatest spy, works for a spy agency which is owned and run by his overbearing mother. One of the reasons the show has been such a success has been the amazing illustration and animation which bring the characters to life. A great example of the level of detail the illustrators go to is how they use real life furniture designs. You can find pieces from the likes of Charles and Ray Eames, Florence Knoll, Le Corbusier, and many others. If you are a lover of iconic furniture then Archer is a treasure trove of such pieces and a must see. Most of the shows sets feature at least one piece of Eames furniture, including the Eames Molded Plastic Side Chair. The first single-shell form Molded Fiberglass Shell Chair was realized in 1950. Herman Miller reintroduced the Molded Plastic Side Chair in 100 percent recyclable polypropylene. This particularly well-known chair is an endlessly versatile option for living, dining and work spaces.
Power has quickly emerged as a hugely popular cable network television show. James "Ghost" St. Patrick is a wealthy and well known New York City nightclub owner. However, Ghost is also a kingpin of the city’s most lucrative drug network. Power is a clever and stylish show with some strong performances, most notably by the show’s lead Omari Hardwick. Filmed at Steiner Studios in Brooklyn, New York, and utilising some of the best production designers and set decorators working in the industry today the show features many beautiful interiors. From glamourous nightclubs to Manhattan penthouses there is a great mix of furniture used to dress the diverse sets. The Nelson Swag Leg Chair always catches our eye. When designing the chair in 1958, George Nelson received permission from Charles and Ray Eames to use the patented process that they developed for molding plastic. This wonderful chair could pass for a chair designed in 2016.
There is one Herman Miller piece, however, that seems to shine brighter than most. Designed in 1956, the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman has become an enduring screen star in its own right. The design evolved from Charles and Ray’s research into molded plywood and applying that design aesthetic to the familiar English lounge chair. Charles wanted to produce a modern version of the chair that would have “the warm receptive look of a well-used first baseman’s mitt”. It is the only exception to their visionary creed of good design as an agent for social change by mass producing well designed furniture that would be available to all – the Lounge Chair is not cheap – and yet it became an almost instant American design icon.
The Lounge Chair and Ottoman is arguably their most famous design and subsequently it has become an on-screen regular. Appearing in a never-ending list of movies and television shows including Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) Malibu mansion in Ironman (2008); Kevin Flynn’s (Jeff Bridges) glowing lair in Tron Legacy (2010); Del Spooner’s (Will Smith) apartment in I, Robot (2004); Michael Newman’s (Adam Sandler) living room in Click (2006); Arthur’s (Eli Wallach) study in The Holiday (2006) as well as in Dr Feld’s (Steve Carell) office in Hope Springs (2012). The Lounge and Ottoman also had a starring role in the hit television series Frasier (1993) as well as Empire (2015), Gossip Girl (2007) and Archer (2016), among countless others.
For us here at Seen On Set celebrating design has been our ethos and our passion since our inception. We are only too aware that good design is something that should be, not only encouraged, but protected. It is seldom so many iconic designs can be traced back to one place. It is because of this that, since its formation in 1923, Herman Miller has become part of the fabric of the global design community. So, as we continue to share with our readers all of the wonderful pieces of furniture seen on the sets of their favorite movies and television shows, we smile. Because we know, even though they are timeless, these pieces will also continue to enjoy the magic of on-screen renewal and reimagining. From period dramas to romantic comedies and from dark thrillers to science fiction adventures, good design will always belong.
Read up on the evolution of Herman Miller here.
Discover the amazing furniture and decor seen on the sets of the movie and TV shows featured above: Bounce, Casino Royale, Entourage, The Big Short, Sicario, The Big Bang Theory, Lie to Me, Mad Men, White Collar, Suits, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Silicon Valley, Spectre, Archer, Power, Iron Man, Tron: Legacy, I, Robot, Click, The Holiday, Hope Springs, Frasier, Empire, Gossip Girl
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