"Catenary Group" ottoman


George Nelson ( American, 1907 - 1986 )


Herman Miller, Inc. ( American, 1923 )

designed 1963 (in production c. 1963–1968)
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General Description

Intended to be “entirely at home in surroundings where the corporate image of engineering or scientific activities, as in colleges or industrial offices, is to be conveyed,” furnishings from the Catenary Group share the common framework of “a suspension bridge in miniature.”

During the 1960s, designer George Nelson sought to develop modular construction concepts with which he had experimented during the 1940s and 1950s in works such as the Marshmallow sofa [1995.41]. As Herman Miller’s market began to shift toward commercial supply rather than domestic furniture, Nelson sought to introduce low cost, highly durable forms with simplified construction and repeated elements. The Catenary Group was one result of this effort. In this series, structural elements were fixed with epoxy resin rather than the usual welding, cushions were interchangeable, and components were readily exchanged between pieces. Rubber covered steel cables support the upholstery in a sling fashion, hence the “catenary” name. The result is truly architectonic, yet luxurious, evoking the classic modernist Barcelona chair [1990.130.1-2] and ottoman by Mies van der Rohe in its taut suspension of a richly upholstered surface.

Drawn from

  • Kevin W. Tucker, DMA unpublished material [2008.44.1-2], 2008.

  • Herman Miller Product Statement: Catenary Furniture, “A Synthesis of Needs.” Herman Miller, Inc., 1963.