Herman Miller Showroom

Iconic Plywood Reimagined

The show­room is Her­man Miller Canada’s Nation­al Design Cen­tre and occu­pies the fourth floor of the com­pa­ny’s Welling­ton Street West head­quar­ters in down­town Toron­to. The exist­ing World War One ware­house build­ing was sur­gi­cal­ly lined with a sim­ple palette of objec­ti­fied mate­r­i­al lay­ers to dis­play Her­man Miller’s time­less col­lec­tion while embrac­ing vis­i­tors to expe­ri­ence first hand the com­pa­ny’s endur­ing design eth­ic.

The show­room pro­gramme was extend­ed to include meet­ing rooms, lounge spaces and a grand con­fer­ence area defined by over­lap­ping drapes of heavy wool felt, translu­cent cot­ton and flame-resis­tant sheers curved to avoid two large light sculp­tures made from recy­cled Eames Lounge Chairs’ seats and backs. An elab­o­rate fir ply­wood tube-like sheathe orga­nizes the space and pro­vides an ante­room to the for­mal show­room com­po­nent dis­trib­uted through­out the large­ly unal­tered full loft on the north end of the 10,000 square foot floor plate.

Her­man Miller Canada’s flag­ship show­room is Canada’s first LEED cer­ti­fied inte­ri­or. Our green approach to this project was auto­mat­ic giv­en the com­pa­ny’s strong ped­a­gogy that con­tin­ues to shape their oper­a­tional man­date pos­si­bly more than ever. We chal­lenged our­selves to cre­ate an envi­ron­ment that echoes Her­man Miller’s endur­ing design phi­los­o­phy while offer­ing a new, recon­sid­ered show­room expe­ri­ence.

Herman Miller Showroom
Her­man Miller’s long his­to­ry with ply­wood inspired the new show­room orga­nized under a routered ply­wood sleeve.

The deci­sion to move their head­quar­ters out of an office tow­er in Toron­to’s Cen­tral Busi­ness Dis­trict to a slow­er, reha­bil­i­tat­ed indus­tri­al area of the city was the first step in pro­mot­ing the idea that a vis­it to Her­man Miller’s Nation­al Design Cen­tre be an encom­pass­ing event — a des­ti­na­tion. The expe­ri­ence required, there­fore, that the vis­i­tors’ sens­es be re-set, so to speak, upon arrival. This “palette cleanser” takes the form of a ply­wood sheathe that greets and slow­ly redi­rects vis­i­tors right from the ele­va­tor entrance.

Mate­ri­al­i­ty and man­u­fac­tur­ing are of pri­ma­ry impor­tance to Her­man Miller, and its impres­sive list of fur­ni­ture design­ers. They often owe prod­uct suc­cess to inno­va­tion (as well as envi­ron­men­tal account­abil­i­ty) in these areas. As a ges­ture to fore­ground this phi­los­o­phy, as well as to cod­i­fy more inti­mate spaces emerg­ing from behind the thin ply­wood sheathe, a dot screen graph­ic image of Her­man Miller fac­to­ry work print­ed onto vinyl wall cov­er­ing, coats small meet­ing rooms and sup­port spaces that lead to the main show­room dis­play area. The show­room prop­er is housed in the gen­er­al­ly unma­nip­u­lat­ed, naked brick-and-beam north­ern half of the 4th floor for max­i­mum lib­er­ty of dis­play. Fin­ished prod­ucts are meant to be read against this degen­er­at­ed graph­ic field whose images come in and out of focus.

Once cap­tured by the reori­ent­ing ply­wood “fil­ter”, vis­i­tors are snagged by a series of inti­mate meet­ing and stag­ing rooms while being lured by the main show­room to the north, and the Marigold con­fer­ence areas to the south from behind bil­low­ing sin­u­ous drapes.

Adorn­ing their ceil­ings are two cus­tom sculp­tur­al light­ing ele­ments, act­ing as foils with­in the loft archi­tec­ture. Con­struct­ed of seats and backs from Eames lounge chairs, the light­ing sculp­tures are meant to evoke sit­ting under the beech trees’ canopy at Marigold (a Her­man Miller vil­la in Zee­land Michi­gan where Charles and Ray Eames, Noguchi and oth­ers spent much time think­ing.) The dis­as­sem­bly and then reassem­bly of these icon­ic chair parts cre­ates an entire­ly new light­ing object auto­mat­i­cal­ly imbued with the age-old val­ues of Her­man Miller.

Her­man Miller Cana­da Show­room was award­ed the Ontario Wood­Works Award for Inte­ri­or Design, Cana­di­an Inte­ri­ors’ Best of Cana­da Award, and rec­og­nized as a final­ist in the Lon­don Inter­na­tion­al Cre­ative Com­pe­ti­tion. It has been pub­lished as part of Beth Browne’s com­pendi­um, ‘21st Cen­tu­ry Inte­ri­ors’, as well as numer­ous oth­er design pub­li­ca­tions.

Project Facts

  • Client

    Her­man Miller Cana­da Inc.

  • Location

    Toron­to, Ontario

  • Size

    10,000 sq.ft.

  • Status


  • Sub-Consultant Team

    Mechanical/ Elec­tri­cal — Ven­neri Ltd.

    Light­ing — Light­bri­gade Archi­tec­tur­al Light­ing

    LEEDS Coor­di­na­tor — Hal­sall Asso­ciates Ltd.

    Show­room and Art Direc­tion — William Ander­son

  • Fabricator

    Mill­work — GM Man­u­fac­tur­ing
    Car­pen­try — Durham Car­pen­try Ltd.
    Cus­tom Met­al — Blast Met­al Works

  • Construction Manager

    Jevlan Con­tract­ing and Inte­ri­ors Ltd.

  • Photography

    Richard John­son

  • Artist / Graphics

    Graph­ics — Up Inc (Design), BGM Imag­ing