As an architect, Neil Logan looks for inherent qualities of a space he’s been hired to renovate or of a site he’s been hired to build upon in order to create something that feels, in his words, “tuned to what is around it.” With Lispenard Sofa Group, his first furniture collection for Herman Miller, he achieves something similar—subtlety, discretion, and an ability to complement its surroundings.
“I think that too often, when someone designs a new sofa, there’s pressure to give it a novel form or some kind of something that makes it new,” Logan says. “But in fact, a piece of furniture like a sofa is almost always less about being new and more about fitting in, being comfortable, and working well with other pieces of furniture.”
Logan’s interest in designing furniture began as a natural outgrowth of his interior architecture projects. He established his architecture practice in New York City in 1992 after moving there a decade earlier and working for the likes of Toshiko Mori (not once, but twice) and Edward Larrabee Barnes. In the pre-internet days of the early 1990s, even well-connected architects found their options within the New York furniture markets limiting. To supplement what was commercially available, Logan began returning from his annual trips to Scandinavia with furniture purchased for various projects. He also started designing more built-ins and custom pieces.
While architect-designed furniture has a tendency to emphasize balance and proportion, Logan prototypes his seating at scale to ensure another quality: comfort. “It’s something that’s not really possible to understand in a drawing or even a model,” he says. “It’s really about testing how it feels, the pitch of the back and the height of the seat.”