Herman Miller, America's most famous design brand, opened its only retail store in North America this week, and there's plenty to ogle within the 6,000-square-foot space. Filled with furniture, lighting, and accessories—manufactured not only by Herman Miller but also by independent designers and sourced from the Chicago auction house Wright—the store in New York is designed to embody the Herman Miller lifestyle.
"It's important that we don't envision us as just a furniture store, but that for the consumer, can we help you imagine a modern way to live?" Herman Miller's executive creative director Ben Watson told Co.Design earlier this year. Organized into room vignettes—think fully furnished living rooms, dining rooms, kids rooms, and more—the store achieves just that.
The furniture company, whose bread and butter is workspace design, has slowly been positioning itself as a lifestyle brand through what it calls its "Shift" strategy, a five-year initiative that was developed in 2011 to reorient the company toward consumers. The retail store is this strategy materialized. Unlike a showroom, in which customers can't actually walk away with products, virtually everything in the retail store is for sale. It's like being able to walk into a design mag spread—and walk out with something for your own home.
"Part of the exercise when we built our Shift strategy was to imagine a timeline and imagine what does nirvana look like when we arrive?" Watson told Co.Design in May. "Very early in that process, we imagined that a flagship location as the top of the pyramid, which embodies our shift from being just a contract company or just an industry brand to truly be a powerful lifestyle and consumer lifestyle brand—to make that palpable and a physical experience that all of our customers can walk through."
Herman Miller plans to change out the displays inside the store on a regular basis, while an architecture and design book store also offers plenty to chew on. Currently, the space houses a mini exhibition explaining the design genius of the Aeron—the iconic office chair, which the company reengineered this year—that includes prototypes and early models.
It's a must-visit for design nerds in need of some retail therapy. Head to 251 Park Avenue South to see it in person, or flip through the slide show above.
[Photos: Nicholas Calcott for Herman Miller]