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