When iconic American furniture designer Herman Miller announced it was acquiring Knoll last spring for $1.8 billion, it cemented its status as a modern design juggernaut. The feat was the latest power move by CEO Andi Owen, who joined Herman Miller in 2018 following a career at Gap.
Owen’s mission has been to expand Herman Miller’s ambit from an office furniture company (Herman Miller invented the cubicle in the 1960s) into a general design company that sells covetable goods for the office, the home, and everywhere in between. She acquired a majority interest in buzzy Danish furniture and accessories brand Hay in 2020, for example, to bolster Herman Miller’s direct-to-consumer audience. Today, direct retail accounts for 23% of the company’s business, up from 15% in 2018. Last year, Herman Miller released its first gaming chair, in conjunction with the computer accessories company Logitech, to tap into the $300 billion gaming industry. It sold out in a day.
“I’m new to the business,” Owen says, “so I approach things with different eyes. That helps us think about ourselves differently.” It’s working: Furniture retail sales grew by 12% last year industry-wide, but at Herman Miller’s brands, which include Design Within Reach, they rose 42%.
Read more about Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business 2021