The Herman Miller We Once Knew Is No More
After 33 years, Herman Miller has cut off Design Quest.
After 33 years, Herman Miller has cut Design Quest off as a retail partner, simply because we are too close to the recently opened, and Herman Miller owned, Design Within Reach. This came at a time when our sales of Herman Miller furniture and Lamps were growing and had become a significant part of our sales volume. We received a letter from Antoinette Dagobert, VP of Global Wholesale, on June 14, 2023 stating that effective August 4th we would no longer be an authorized dealer. We have always followed their retail policies and our accounts have always been current.
Design Quest was the first furniture store to offer Herman Miller furniture to the residential customer. In 1989, I persuaded Herman Miller to use our new showroom, at the Home Design Center, as a test venue to sell Eames, Noguchi, and other Herman Miller designs with obvious residential application, to our customers. They were concerned about conflict with the commercial office market so I suggested that they start a new division and call it Herman Miller For the Home. It took a little time before they agreed to let us try, but they did (perhaps with some help from our long-time customers and friends, Joseph Schwartz, former Sr. VP Sales and Marketing, and Glenn Walters, former President of Herman Miller).
Herman Miller must have been pleased with the Design Quest experiment, for a few years later they followed my suggestion and in 1994 officially started a division called Herman Miller For the Home.
But our interaction with Herman Miller goes back even further, to our opening of Design Quest in Grand Rapids in 1972. Customers told us about a company with a stellar reputation, about the humane way they treated their employees, and their commitment to quality, innovation, and design. This was clearly personified in D.J. De Pree, founder of Herman Miller, during his visits to Design Quest. He always wanted me to take him on a full tour of the whole store, showing great interest in all aspects of design, production, and delivery. He expressed regrets that Herman Miller had moved away from residential furniture and was now primarily concentrating on the contract market. As a teenager delivering furniture to D.J. De Pree, my son Thor remembers the enthusiasm with which Mr. De Pree shared anecdotes about the design choices made during the development of several Eames pieces.
Among the many Herman Miller executives who shopped at Design Quest, Max De Pree stands out. His gentle demeanor and his shy smile were always a welcome diversion during an ordinary day at the store. Max and his wife Esther were frequent visitors, usually together, but every Christmas Max would come by himself to a buy Georg Jensen Jewelry for his wife. I told him stories about our experiences with our manufacturers and he shared stories about Herman Miller, including the demise of the first Eames Lounge Chair prototype. In the Fall of 1995, I vividly remember Max and Esther coming to the store, their usual smiles absent. Max took me aside and with a glum face told me that he had just resigned from the Herman Miller Board. “They voted bonuses for the management and nothing for the employees.”
Our memories of the humane people and the exceptional company we knew, is something MillerKnoll cannot take from us.
We are already moving on, continuing our quest of over 50 years for exceptional designs and superb craftsmanship.
We invite you to visit Design Quest.
Design Quest owner and founder
Sorry to Hear This
So sad to hear when companies like Herman Miller choose not to honor long standing relationships like this. Especially when Design Quest helped contribute to their success in the home furnishings arena.
Shame on Herman Miller
This company, obviously, has no ethics and does not honor relationships. Perhaps they have, in pursuit of bigger sales,
outgrown the very people who put them in business. It will come back to bite them.