How artisans are keeping Michigan’s legacy of furniture design alive

Alan Kaniarz of möbel link

Alan Kaniarz of möbel link

Before Detroit put America on wheels, on the other side of the state Grand Rapids had already earned a reputation as a manufacturing powerhouse in its own right. Thanks to its Lake Michigan location, the city became a lumber hub in the 1800s; this soon gave rise to enough quality furniture makers to earn Grand Rapids the moniker "Furniture City." Meanwhile, in Detroit, the Murphy Chair Co. would at one point become the world's largest chair manufacturer.

Eventually, the industry migrated south, but the region still maintained a strong presence in furniture design. Companies like Grand Rapids' Steelcase, Zeeland's Herman Miller, and Holland's Haworth — Michigan's other "Big Three" — became giants of office furniture design. In fact, today's offices would look very different if not for Herman Miller's Aeron chairs and a notable innovation called the cubicle.

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