Herman Miller Cognita

Posted by Scott

I’ve been obsessing over Herman Miller furniture lately, spending way too much time browsing Hive. Herman Miller introduced it’s new Lifework Portfolio recently and I have to say it’s pretty clean. Included are some old favorites like the Nelson Swag Leg Desk and also some great newcomers. This Cognita is what stood out to me, I’m always a sucker for the whole wood-grain/white/stainless-steel look. The only problem is the price: $999. I can’t imagine spending a grand for something billed as a “storage bench” any time in the near future but it’s always fun to look.

I feel like if I did get a piece like the Cognita it would make everything else I have look so bad I would have to throw it all away and start from scratch. I guess it could be reasoned that buying one expensive piece of quality furniture that will last you a lifetime is a better investment than constantly buying sub-par stuff (Ikea) and replacing it every few years as it breaks or starts to look dated. I guess I just don’t have any experience with Herman Miller in particular so I don’t really know if it would hold up long enough to be worth the investment. Anybody splurged on high end furniture like this and if so, has it held up well? Was it worth it or do you regret the indulgence? Let us know in the comments

17 Comments Leave A Comment


Brian says:

December 30, 2008 at 8:24 am

Most people don’t realize that if you go through Herman Miller directly, they give discounts for designers. I’m not sure of the discount for Graphic Designers (or if there is one) but I know they give discounts for Industrial Designers, Interior Designers, and Architects. For example, Architects get a 44% discount!

I’ve been able to buy a couple Eames Shell chairs. You should look into it.


Swift says:

December 30, 2008 at 8:35 am

I own & live with three eames herman-miller chairs & luv them to bits, I consider them truly works of art, the design & detail is bar none, for me mid-century modern was the pinnacle of fine design. has some of the best prices around – & all pieces sold come with a certificate of authenticity from herman miller.


Greg Huntoon says:

December 30, 2008 at 8:44 am

I’m not your momma, but I’m not splurging on anything right now. The economy is just way too hectic right now.

That said, I completely agree with buying furniture that will last you a lifetime. Stuff from Herman Miller (DWR goods probably fall into this category as well) are going to last you a good long time.

However, I used to share office space with someone who designed for HM in the past, and said that they overprice their goods. While they are often fantastically beautiful and functional, you have to wonder whether the prices are too bloated.


John D. says:

December 30, 2008 at 8:52 am

I’ve been in the same boat recently, looking at a lot of nice modern furniture and trying to decide whether or not to spend on it. I came to the conclusion that, for me, spending over $1,000 is just too much right now. Currently I’m looking into building a few (non-upholstered) pieces on my own. The piece you’re pining after is very cool looking, though, and doesn’t look like something you could DIY.


Gareth says:

December 30, 2008 at 9:25 am

well the only things in my flat that have not fallen apart or rusted are made by vitra or herman miller. I now always save up and wait a while before i buy anything. Its really worth saving for one great piece of furniture when you can afford it.

that said ikea etc.. do do some great basics, its easy to become snobbish!


Gareth says:

December 30, 2008 at 9:27 am

oh and i do think its sad that for example the iconic eames chairs were designed to be mass produced affordable chairs for everyone and now its the preserve of the quite rich.


Anonymous says:

December 30, 2008 at 10:04 am

Fabulous. Herman Miller is considered “iconic” for obvious reasons…their quality is matchless…I know, I’ve been around office furniture for a while and all I know is the Aeron is one of the best and this site always is having big sales around this time for Herman Miller stuff.


michael j. says:

December 30, 2008 at 10:51 am

i’m definitely for the argument of buying sustainable goods rather than things you have to replace year after year. but what’s tough for designers/artists/musicians is that you always want to spend your money on more tools to create new work rather than invest in things that might only get used in the wake of comfort/entertainment/home decor. what’s also tough is to think that this stuff was designed to be mass produced and available to everyone yet it’s too expensive to be ‘within reach’ for many of our budgets.


Gabriel Perez says:

December 30, 2008 at 2:18 pm

Although i love these and want so many different ones, if you buy one of these… You have way to much money, or your priorities are all fucked… Especially in a time like now.


asango says:

December 31, 2008 at 10:26 am

A couple of points regarding buying quality “at a time like this”

The most expensive piece of furniture is one which you have to replace constantly because of its poor quality.

Buying poorly made stuff is a double whammy, it doesn’t last and while you have it, its horrible to use.

If you can’t afford it, save up. If you can’t save any money, then it is just out of your reach.

It is smart to spend within your means, regardless of macro-economic issues.
Its always been important to me to save money for tough times…if you are spending more than you make “your priorities are fucked”

Be smart with your money, but support quality, the Wal-Mart low price priority is part of what has severely lessened the overall quality of products.


Brian says:

January 2, 2009 at 10:16 am

I hate to get off topic here, but I wanted to post a reply in regards to Asango’s Walmart comments. I agree with your comments to buying poorly made stuff, and whenever possible I buy high quality furniture, or even vintage finds.

However, Walmart is not really to blame for anything. As a designer, trust me, I try to avoid that place like avoiding the flu. However, since I design products that go to retail, I have come to terms with the fact that a large, very large percentage of people who buy things are upper-lower class to lower-middle class, and are buying things based on affordability.

Being involved with those retailers, I can tell you that Walmart takes a much lower margin on their goods than pretty much every other retailer out there. There are many products in their stores that would last you a lifetime.

People need to understand, that we need low quality affordable goods made in other countries, otherwise no one in the lower class could afford a damn thing.


Ed says:

January 3, 2009 at 5:56 pm

a couple of comments regarding style clashes between HM and Ikea stuff:

You’d be surprised at how well these two sources will play well together. I have a Nelson bench and it fits in perfectly with my ikea shelves and sam’s club $200 red foldable couch/bed, which took the place of last red foldable couch/bed which cost quite a bit more (had to give it away in a move). And my Noguchi lamp fits right in with my Ikea lamps.

There’s a whole design thought that says you shouldn’t just go all high-brow expensive. You should mix it up. A few choice pieces of expensive gear mixed with ikea, vintage pieces bought at garage sales and the odd piece of junk that transcends junk (example: I have a totally busted work bench made of 2x4s that I scavenged from a mexican construction site. It’s priceless).

If you just bought a bunch of expensive crap, you’re house would start looking ugly and you’d have to hire a maid to clean the furniture daily. warm funky modernism is where it’s at.


jonathan says:

January 4, 2009 at 2:44 am

i agreed with ed. yeah, you might not find a barcelona chair, a wassily chair, a nelson marshmallow sofa, among a few other iconic pieces in ikea anytime soon, but ikea does mass produce a lot of other iconic furinture at affordable prices.

of course your probably thinking, yeah but the quality’s not the same. i understand. but if you want quality you’re just gonna have to save up. with ikea, at least you can afford the design. the only real problem i’ve had with ikea has been with there screws. the screws always strip when i’m put the furniture together. is frustrating but i learned and i use better screws whenever i have the right size. and i’m sure some of you would say that the wood looking veneer scratches up on you, but i haven’t had that problem yet (i take good care of the furniture).

as far as indulging on pricier stuff, i say if its a piece you really like and you know there’s no chance of finding another like it, then splurge (if its within your means). especially, if its a design you know will stand the test of time (modernism, minimalism, and international style all the way! i love clean lines). if the piece is timeless, then i think it’s definitely worth it. i personally think the Cognita is a good investment. also, there’s a lot of great affordable vintage furniture out there. you just gotta look.

like ed said, mix it up. it makes rooms a lot more interesting when furniture is not all matchy matchy. i’ve yet to buy furniture thats a set. i like exploring all my options, then buying what i like here and there and piecing them together. the important thing to remember when spending is that it’s all cohesive and complementary of each other in the end.


Peter says:

July 1, 2010 at 8:57 pm

I recently purchased the Nelson Miniature Chest of drawers and was very disappointed by the poor build quality. The laminate was poorly applied; edges were ragged; glue was smeared everywhere and the drawer fronts were different thicknesses. I returned it and found the same problems with two subsequent replacements. I ordered the piece through an online store but the shipments came directly from HM. When I went to the store in person to discuss the quality issues, I took a look at the lifework stuff. While it is beautifully designed, like the Nelson Chest, it is poorly constructed. I am not exaggerating when I say that Ikea, while they use lower grade materials, achieve a better fit and finish.


quality office furniture says:

December 15, 2010 at 4:25 pm

I understand what you meant. There is one time when I saw a really beautiful piece of chair and I was really tempted to get it for my living room. But its theme doesn’t go well with my living room and it would mean HUGE expense if I were to remodel my living room.