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A recent showcase of classic and contemporary Herman Miller furniture pieces at the Greenhouse restaurant celebrated enduring style and taste.

Seating that allows for both great comfort and productivity is so important that the South African government has just passed new laws to ensure employees don’t have to endure dodgy ergonomics in the workplace. One imagines iconic industrial designers Charles and Ray Eames would approve.

The pair believed that furniture needed to be as functional and playful as it was good-looking, as the inviting folds of their famous lounge chair and ottoman attest. This and other mid-century classics, such as the duo’s striking moulded plywood chair, stood elegantly at ease on the borders of a summer lunch at the Greenhouse restaurant in Constantia in December.

Hosted by global furnishing company Herman Miller, the media event was an informal ode to much-loved favourites from its Classics Collection, with a nod to some newer design stars. All items on show are available in South Africa through local distributor All Office.

Something old, something new

Regional manager Robert Reilly was on hand to recap a little of the illustrious 100-year-old-plus company’s history. The Eames were engaged by the firm’s first design director, George Nelson of the Marshmallow Sofa fame, a man who “had no background in the furniture design industry but who made it his own”. The company went on to revolutionise modern home furnishing and is responsible for the first open-plan office system, the first L-shaped desk and – more recently – the Aeron chair.

The Aeron is a slinky, vastly supportive office chair and the company’s “highest-selling and by far the most famous chair,” said Reilly. Naturally, he has one parked at his own desk, and is in good company. “God had one of these in The Simpsons, and Barack Obama replaced the presidential chair in the Oval Office with an Aeron as soon as soon he got into power.” The original 1994 design was remastered in 2016, its new materials, finishes and tweaked spinal support credit to the US$30m Herman Miller spends on research annually.

Overall, 2019 was a good year for Herman Miller. Its Cosm high-end office chair, released in 2018 by Studio 7.5, won the Best of the Best Red Dot award in the office chair category. There was the successful showcase of its growing collection of brands, All Together Now. And it completed its acquisition of hot young UK brand naughtone, which is making such pretty things as the Hush Chair and was recently named one of the Telegraph’s Fastest Growing British Exports.


Feelings matter

Media representatives left head chef Farrel Hirsch’s exceptional table between courses to try the feel and fit of various pieces. The Aeron was widely admired; the airy Cosm an ergonomic revelation that defied gravity; the Eames Classics all perfect Instagram moments.

Charles Eames has said that the “role of the designer is that of a very good, thoughtful host anticipating the needs of his guests”, and Herman Miller showed similar judgement in their choice of eating establishment. The Greenhouse menu proved as enveloping an experience as the chairs themselves. With its emphasis on local stories and culture, playful moments such as the “microveg” and potted beet desserts, innovation, aesthetics and excellence, it underscored the facts that chefs, too, are fine designers. It matters how you feel when you leave the table – or the office desk. And to quote Charles Eames once more, “The details are not details. They make the product.”



The smart solution for corporate and home offices, these Herman Miller pieces can be purchased from All Office, the sole stockist of Herman Miller furniture in South Africa.

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