Herman Miller’s OE1 furniture is back and even better for hybrid work

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When design studio Industrial Facility partnered with Herman Miller to launch the first iteration of its OE1 line in 2021, the debate over how COVID-19 would impact the future of work was alive and well. Now, two years later, we seem to have our answer: Most people who once commuted into the office five days a week have adapted to a hybrid lifestyle, where work can take place from anywhere.

This notion is apparent in OE1’s new product offerings, which debuted today and include seven new products such as a height-adjustable table (powered by a foot pedal), a transportable power box, and free-floating curtains.

[Photo: Fabian Frinzel/courtesy Industrial Facility]

While the initial OE1 line was designed for a moment of uncertainty, these additions prioritize agility and flexibility. Sam Hecht, who runs Industrial Facility with Kim Colin and has worked with Herman Miller for nearly 20 years, says that in a post-COVID working world, “furniture just wasn’t really meeting the expectations of either individuals or organizations.” 

Hecht says that even before the pandemic, office furniture never had a long shelf life. Inevitably, offices downsized, moved locations, or adjusted their layouts, with furniture quickly made obsolete by these changes. COVID only accelerated this process, and the need for adaptation resonated with customers. 

[Photo: Fabian Frinzel/courtesy Industrial Facility]

So Hecht was inspired to build on the success of OE1’s earlier offerings. “They’re not necessarily tied to a place, and that’s very much what work is now,” he says. “Working is not really a place; it’s an activity.”

The “sit-stand,” height-adjustable table was born out of Hecht’s observation that he, like many of his friends and colleagues, was working from home but constantly switching his environment, moving from standing to sitting or from room to room. 

[Photo: Fabian Frinzel/courtesy Industrial Facility]

“We’re human, and we’re elastic and we need to move, and that’s how we’re made,” he says. The table is designed to accommodate those tendencies.

Made from five parts, the sit-stand table weighs less than an office chair, according to Hecht. Instead of having to manually and clumsily adjust the table’s height, a foot pedal makes the device easy to maneuver, which is enhanced by the fact that the table rests on a single column. The small size also makes it simple to move around and plays into a common theme for OE1 furniture—that while aesthetically pleasing, it should never be the statement piece in a room. 

[Photo: Fabian Frinzel/courtesy Industrial Facility]

OE1 further expanded its easily transportable products with the “Powerbox,” a device made entirely from post-consumer plastic that houses four batteries with enough energy to charge multiple devices for an entire workday. 

[Image: courtesy Industrial Facility]

“We made this promise of not just un-systematizing the office, but we also made the promise of agility so that you could adapt and move your working environment,” Hecht says. “You can adjust it as you want it and as your organization or company changes.” 

The problem, however, is that outlets and power sources can’t move with people. Hecht saw how this limited the possibilities of remote work and felt compelled to design the Powerbox as a solution—a new feat for Herman Miller, which does not typically dabble in the electronics industry. 

[Photo: Fabian Frinzel/courtesy Industrial Facility]

The sturdy device is designed to feel “like a piece of power,” he says. While compact, the batteries hold about 1,000 watt-hours in them, which, according to Hecht, is essentially the equivalent of “allowing you to run a big 60-inch LED TV for about eight hours.”

Another highlight from the collection is the freestanding curtain, which “softly divides” the space in a room. Detached from the ceiling, the curtains can be moved easily and repositioned to offer privacy, sound barriers, and space from others—all while maintaining a certain aesthetic appeal. 

[Photo: Fabian Frinzel/courtesy Industrial Facility]

Other products include a work box that can hold office supplies ranging from pens to keyboards, a laptop “hoodie” that users can place around their devices to bring privacy into public spaces, a curved screen that offers a slightly more sturdy alternative to the freestanding curtains—but serves the same purpose—as well as a larger version of OE1’s versatile easel

[Image: courtesy Industrial Facility]

“We’re very conscious of the atmosphere of people’s homes and workplaces and that [these products] should be very simple and very graceful and almost slightly in the background aesthetically,” Hecht says. “That way, they just stick around for a lot longer, because people don’t get tired of them.”



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