Interview: Jennie Maneri on Herman Miller’s Consumer Experiences

We visit the recently reimagined retail store in NYC

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We met Jennie Maneri at the Herman Miller NYC store on a recent morning before its opening hours. She greeted us with a cup of Earl Grey tea in-hand and, despite clearly setting foot in to a store, we kind of felt like we were in her home. And that’s the point of this space. Herman Miller opened their consumer retail experience last year to welcome fans, shoppers and designers alike to see their iconic furniture and curated accessories in a more livable than transactional space. To keep things fresh, the store is redesigned every six months or so—this, the second iteration has been open for less than a month. Maneri took us through the space, pointing out favorite items and talking about her inspiration. Check out the slideshow above and interview below.

Herman Miller is more often considered an office furniture brand than a home brand, yet the store proves quite the opposite. How did you create such a homey feel?

We designed to the space to be experienced like a home. For inspiration, I had organized a trip to LA for our design team to experience some of the great modern homes: Ray Kappe’s personal residence, A. Quincy Jones’ live/work space; The Barn, some Neutra homes, Schindler House on Kings Rd and, of course, the Eames House. It was important for the team to feel the intimate scale, the progression of the rooms, the connection to nature, and the materials of these homes that are no more that a couple thousand square feet. The team translated these experiences into how people live today through authentic lifestyle settings merchandised with furniture and accessories.

This is the second iteration of the store. How are customers responding to it compared to the first?

We imagine a family lives in our conceptual home with a new family moving in every six months or so. This narrative direction drives our decisions for the furniture assortment and accessory buy. Our first family embodied our Herman Miller DNA—the spirit of the Eames’, the artfulness of Noguchi, and the curation of Girard. The second family takes on a more maximal, eclectic, bold, and colorful look and feel. Herman Miller furniture doesn’t only fit in one kind of home—the line is as diverse as our customers. The store evolves over time, just like our homes.

What have been the biggest surprises so far?

Overall, it is really amazing to see the love for our one-of-a-kind vintage pieces from our picker and Wright Auction. This assortment is always changing as objects and vintage furniture come and go.

We know when you’re in the store you’re constantly looking at ways to improve it, but do you ever relax in the space? Where’s your favorite spot to sit down and enjoy all the goodness?

I feel most at home in the store’s kitchen. I love the natural light, the warmth of the space, and being surrounded by all the beautiful things. If you know me, you will know that I practically live with a cup of Earl Grey in my hand so I like to sit down, have my tea, and catch up with customers and our sales team at the kitchen table.

Images by Josh Rubin