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November 07, 2005
How a few phonecalls made me see a great side of Herman Miller, speak with Mark Goetz and sit on a really amazing sofa he created. (A version of it, executed in Paul Smith fabric, hidden on the 12th floor over Madison Avenue.) Wow, what an odd adventure. Hmm, how can I put it mildly... the phone is an amazing device. It is much faster than email and it makes things possible I forgot were possible. Today was amazing. I "called" Herman Miller today, as I was very interested in sitting on a sofa. It was not just any sofa, it was that pretty amazing Goetz Sofa a contemporary classic designed by Mark Goetz, (the man behind Tz Design) for Herman Miller. The sofa is a bit like a mix of that Eames Lounge Chair, as it uses plywood for its frame but it also has some of those le Corbusier Petit Confort ideas, with the support being on the outside and the cushions being completely loose, simply held together by the structure of the design. (The Goetz sofa has some other brilliant qualities that are completely new and really brilliant. It is so incredibly precise that it would have been simply impossible to build before there were computer controlled saws. I mean, it is so precisely built, no human could possibly build it.) So I called Herman Miller. And I was expecting to get one of those "your call is very important to us" messages. Instead I got a human voice. I told my story. I really wanted to try out this amazing sofa, I have heard great things about it, it looks great, but I can not find a place where I could actually sit on it. I mean, is it comfortable or just a concept? The woman on the other end was surprisingly helpful (there had been no warning that our conversation were to be recorded.) She suggested several places of which I knew that they did not carry the sofa. We walked in our conversation from places in Midtown all the way to Carroll Gardens. No, the sofa was nowhere to be found. I finally made a jokingly suggestion that maybe Mark Goetz, the man who invented and designed the sofa would probably know where there was one to sit on. The woman at Herman Miller agreed. Not only that, she also just gave me a phone number. "Why don't you give them a call. I bet they know where the sofa is in New York City." "I can not call them. That is as if I called the Eamses to find out about a chair." "I bet you will just get to speak with the receptionist." We both laughed. Yes, those TzDesign people would know where I could sit on the sofa. The receptionist would know. So I called. And I did not get the receptionist. And it happened to be Mark Goetz' privat number. Nice. Here I was calling the only living designer who has his sofa sold by Herman Miller. And I get to talk to him in person. So, where can I sit on that Goetz Sofa? Mark Goetz was incredibly friendly, especially considering that I was a stranger calling about a sofa and where I might be able to sit on it. He agreed that it was difficult to find a sofa out in the wild of New York. "They happen to sell out very quickly," he admitted. "It looks like the design really rocks," I said. I mean, it does. Goetz remembered that there was a Herman Miller showroom on Madison Avenue, between 60th and 61st street. He actually even called information to get me the number(!)... wow. I thanked him for the amazing design (on which I yet had to sit.) He told me that Herman Miller had a version of the sofa on display which was covered in Paul Smith fabric. It apparently looked rather cool. (The man was really incredibly friendly.) So I called the showroom. Again an amazingly friendly person answered. I should just come by, just visit. Yes, they had the sofa on the floor. I jumped in a cab. It was late in the day and the streets were quite clogged. I arrived at the entrance a bit late, actually far too late for the doorman of the building. He just looked at me as if I wanted to enter a temple after sunset. I was not welcomed here. I called the showroom number. Again the friendly woman answered. She had been waiting for my arrival, and it was okay that I was a bit late, she knew I would be a little late. She called the concierge who just turned into a very different person. He made me sign in and I was allowed to enter. On the 12th floor of 660 Madison Avenue, I entered a place I had not even known existed. Here they were all the pieces I somehow knew from books and Highbrow Furniture dot com The objects here were somehow very special. Two of the Time Life Executive Chairs stood there, made out of Pony Fur, for example. (I do not think I have ever seen anything made out of Pony Fur up to this point in my life. The friendly woman walked with me to the back of the showroom. Here it was, that Goetz Sofa in Paul Smith fabric and it looked much friendlier and much more elegant than I had expected. I was offered some Pellegrino and I was just left alone with the object. Did I just call and did they keep the place open just so I can check the feeling of a sofa? I mean was this some sort of daydream or something? Did three phone calls just bring me into this amazing place? The sofa was incredible by the way. A walnut shell held together some very well crafted grey cushions. Nothing was attached here, the pieces just naturally knew where they belonged. I sat on the piece, I spread myself as comfortably as possible, I relaxed. I removed all of the cushions, one by one, I examined the quality. I checked the walnut edge. Admired the inhumanly precise cuts on the walnut veneer. Amazing stuff. I was given samples. I was given some more good advice. I was given some pointers about objects not available for sale. (Some crazy Eames Table I did not know ever existed, for example.) I left the place and walked onto Madison a little drunk from all the unexpected experiences. And I definitely did not manage to describe them all correctly. It was a really great evening. What surprises. How powerful of a tool is that phone. How amazingly friendly can people be. I am totally getting that sofa now. Seriously. It is the good stuff. All around. (Oh, and I will get it from HighBrow.)