Herman Miller in the Great Outdoors

Herman Miller, the pioneering American furniture maker with a record of design innovations that have helped define modern residential and commercial interiors since the 1930s, continues to ramp up its offerings for exterior spaces. Last year, revisiting an earlier chapter of its storied past, the company re-introduced Eames Aluminum Group in an outdoor version, as it was originally intended in 1958, updated with more environmental materials to withstand today’s exterior demands.   

This growing outdoor program is an important part of the Herman Miller Collection, intended as a thoughtful response to how we live and work today. As technology now permits, it is only natural to think beyond the interior as a place for both work and play. The outdoor collection includes a range of lounge seating, dining, side chairs and stools complemented with dining, meeting and occasional tables. Critical to this expansion are new pieces from Herman Miller’s two Italian alliance partners, Magis and Mattiazzi created by some of today’s most respected designers such as Konstantin Grcic, Jasper Morrison and Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. Together, this new outdoor offer represents a large, carefully curated portfolio of elegant-yet-comfortable and highly accessible products appropriate for home patios, corporate courtyards, and alfresco cafes.

Eames Aluminum Group: a Classic Revisited

In 1953, the industrialist J. Irwin Miller and his wife, Xenia, commissioned a remarkable modernist trio to create their home in Columbus Indiana: Eero Saarinen designed the building, Alexander Girard masterminded the interiors, and Dan Kiley handled the landscape architecture. Noting the absence of high-quality outdoor furnishings, in 1957 Girard turned to his friends Charles and Ray Eames. Within a year the Aluminum Group Lounge Chair was in production at Herman Miller.

Always looking to new industries and materials that could be suitably translated to the design of furniture, the Eameses turned to aluminum, a material that was then on its way to becoming ubiquitous in postwar America. Their design consisted of a unique fabric seat slung between two aluminum “L” beams, themselves held in tension by two cross-braces (referred to as “antlers” by the designers). In the chair’s original incarnation, a nylon and saran covering (developed with Girard’s textiles division at Herman Miller) was employed to enable outdoor use. Despite the designers’ best efforts, the new material didn’t fare well in the elements or stand up to heavy use. The Aluminum Group soon moved exclusively indoors and evolved to include a diverse range of variations, becoming iconic in both home and office interiors.

Today the Aluminum Group chairs have been completely re-engineered for outdoor use with durable materials and finish options. Materials consultant Susan Lyons led Herman Miller’s development of a proprietary new fabric, Outdoor Weave, synthesizing the look and feel of the original saran with the technical capabilities of Pellicle, the company’s breakthrough suspension fabric first developed for its Aeron chair.

Says Lyons, “We had to completely rethink the original saran fabric, while retaining its rich textural quality. The new textile needed to be self-supporting, with enough stretch to be comfortable yet retain its shape over years of use. Since Herman Miller invented the modern suspension fabric with the introduction of Aeron’s Pellicle, it made sense to work in a similar construction. And as in all Herman Miller design, we wanted to set a new reference point in terms of sustainability.”

Lyons designed a construction that combined a precisely calibrated elastomeric warp with a heathered polypropylene weft, giving it the surface of an interior upholstery textile, with the porosity of an outdoor mesh. Technical and tactile, Outdoor Weave is PVC-free, a sustainable synthetic alternative to standard outdoor textiles and the first to achieve these qualities. Five colors – cool white, lead, java, jute, and graphite – complement the new white and graphite satin powder coated outdoor finishes. The Eames Aluminum Outdoor Group is also now offered in its early four-star base, in lounge, ottoman, and guest/dining versions, moving seamlessly from outdoor to indoor, leisure to workplace, just as the Eameses first intended.

Eames and Nelson tables

Outdoor leisure, dining, or work demands a surface that can both serve the need and stand up to the elements. The Herman Miller Collection responds with the reintroduction of stone top options on Eames and Nelson tables. Sourced from North American quarries and available in four varieties – Georgia White Marble, Wisconsin Black Marble, Georgia Grey Marble, and Quebec Graphite Granite – these sophisticated and durable tops will now grace the Eames Universal, Contract, and LTR bases, as well as the Nelson Pedestal table, in a range of heights and diameters, for both indoors or out. Like the Eames Aluminum Group Outdoor, these tables are available in white and satin graphite powder coat bases, to complement and complete an outdoor setting. This expanded range of stone and finish options is a purposeful statement of Herman Miller’s commitment to the artful balance of design, hand-craft and industrial production.

Medici Chair Outdoors

With generous dimensions and straightforward construction, the Medici Chair, by Konstantin Grcic, is a contemporary interpretation of the classic Adirondack chair. Grcic, first trained as a cabinet maker, found inspiration for the low, comfortable piece on the factory floor of manufacturer Mattiazzi, where traditional woodworking techniques meet the newest digital production technologies. The designer’s approach from the start: use only three-quarter inch planks throughout – a reminder of the beginning of the production process when a tree trunk is cut into slices. The result is a visible, easy-to-read structure that uniquely expresses the distinct characteristics of wood. The outdoor version uses thermo-oiled ash that employs a new process of heat-treating and hand-oiling to seal the wood and keep it moisture resistant. 

Paso Doble Outdoor Family

The lithe, elegant motion of a toreador and his cape – the signature movement on which the traditional Spanish paso doble dance is based – inspired Stefano Giovannoni’s dramatic but practical Paso Doble seating family made by Magis. The architect and designer developed the line around their concept of suspending material between rigid structures, much like the suspension found on Eames Aluminum Group chairs. In this case, Giovannoni’s seating employs sturdy, roll-formed aluminum rails and flexible polyester-polymer mesh to create a lightweight chaise lounge and ottoman, stool and dining chair. Each frame stacks with ease and comes with or without arms. Finishes include a white textile/white frame, or black textile/black frame. 

Baguette Table

Designed by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Magis, this table features delicate, chopstick-looking legs. Versatile and rectangular, it makes a statement wherever it goes – indoors or out, meeting or dining. The tabletop comes in two sizes and for outdoors, in painted white or black frame with a choice of Quartzite or fine Italian Ardesia Slate top.


Inspired by a toy top, Thomas Heatherwick has reconceived a chair as a playful, rocking, spinning experience indoors or out, casual office to pool side. Offered in red, purple, gray and white, the chair sits upright, like a vessel, when not in use; when resting on its side, it rotates 360 degrees and provides a place to recline. Produced by Magis, Spun’s playful possibilities result from research into the geometric simplification of a familiar object type. Using full-size test pieces, Heatherwick arrived at a form with seat, back and arms at all the
same profile to achieve a symmetrically comfortable chair.

Air Chair

The Air Chair by Jasper Morrison uses a complex air-molding technology to produce a deceptively simple design – a sturdy, lightweight, comfortable, stackable and highly flexible addition to any setting.  With or without arms, or as a folding chair, it comes in eight coloors for outdoor or indoor use. 

The Central Table by Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec is a small side or bistro table, with a flip up top for easy storage. Central can be quickly deployed as extra guests arrive for a meeting or poolside lunch. Both square (22 in.) and round (24 in.) shapes stand 28 in. high and come in black or white painted finishes for outdoor use. 


An updated take on the café chair, Vigna by Martino Gamper for Magis, is made of steel with powdercoated finish for outdoor use. The seat is made of polypropylene. Finishes include a white frame with black and grey seat; a warm grey frame with yellow/warm grey seat; purple frame with red/purple seat; and a granite grey frame with green and granite grey seat. 

About The Herman Miller Collection

In 1948, George Nelson created the first Herman Miller Collection, with the goal of “a permanent collection designed to meet fully the requirements for modern living.” He understood that the Collection would evolve as human behavior changed and new materials and manufacturing technologies emerged. Today’s modern living embraces the blending of life and work, with greater appreciation for contemporary design and mobile and ubiquitous technologies offering new freedom of choice in where and how people express their lifestyles and pursue their professions. The Herman Miller Collection welcomes and enriches this new era, as we endeavor to realize Nelson’s vision for the modern home, office, and public spaces. For more information at visit hermanmiller.com/collection

About Herman Miller

Herman Miller works for a better world around you – with inventive designs, technologies and related services that improve the human experience wherever people work, heal, learn, and live. Its curiosity, ingenuity, and design excellence create award-winning products and services, resulting in more than $1.7 billion in revenue in fiscal 2012. Innovative business practices and a commitment to social responsibility have also established Herman Miller as a recognized global company. A past recipient of the Smithsonian Institution’s Cooper-Hewitt “National Design Award,” in 2012, Herman Miller again received the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s top rating in its annual Corporate Equality Index and was also named, for the ninth consecutive year, to the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. The company is also named among the 50 Best U.S. Manufacturers by Industry Week. Herman Miller trades on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol MLHR.