Since I am by trade a writer, I have a particular interest in Herman Miller designer Mark Goetz’s assertion that creating a great new chair is analogous to writing a great new book: “Somebody had asked me one time ‘why did we need more chairs?, and I thought for a second and I said, well, why do we need more books?'” Because books occupy a rarefied terrain in my cosmos, this is kind of a difficult notion for me to accept, but the rationalist in me says he’s right. The perspective gives special insight into Goetz’s desire to coax new forms into being, forms that—like great literature—are both comfortably familiar and exceedingly novel at once, a formulation that nicely characterizes the Goetz Sofa.
Goetz Sofa. Designed by Mark Goetz for Herman Miller.
Goetz describes his process as “almost like searching for a light switch in a darkened room.” Would that I could turn on said switch to illuminate the synthesis of contemporary and mid-century modern that is Goetz’s Sofa, and would that it were in the company of an Eames Chair and a Noguchi Table—precisely what HM had in mind when they approached Goetz and asked him “to create an innovative piece that would complement the work of these great designers.” The sofa is so authentic that it could easily fool us all by taking center stage in the office of Mad Men’s Don Draper. Yet it also has the kind of advanced ergonomics that lend it enhanced functionality—generous cushions and a well-proportioned seat depth make it comfortable to sit up straight or lounge back in luxury.
The comfort quotient is nice, but for my money the sofa shines principally for its “inverted” design. Rather than relying on the traditional form of a wooden frame completely covered in upholstery, Goetz’s Sofa puts the inside out, employing a wooden shell as both structural lynchpin and aesthetic centerpiece. The shell-style frame is an exquisite example of the joiner’s craft—it features complex miters at every corner and only one seam in the entire shell (and a well-hidden one at that; I challenge you to find it).
As with the many incarnations of the Eames Lounger we’ve seen lately, expect the Goetz Sofa to persist years hence in multiple incarnations, multifarious guises. Veneer choices include light ash, natural cherry, walnut, and ebony; and upholstery options run the gamut, from solid fabric to colorful prints to the deep black leather that looks so good on the Eames. Play around with Herman Miller’s materials program to discover which combination is best for your customized Goetz.