The Custom Furniture Business: Creating Beautiful and Timeless Designs
Small businesses are the soul of America

More people are interested in buying locally made products than ever before. You can capitalize on many consumers’ return to local shopping by emphasizing that all components of your furniture are made in the United States, or in your town or area. The same applies to handmade goods. Individuals who are tired of mass-produced goods are often the same people who are interested in buying locally. Given this climate, it is a good time to start a handmade furniture business.

Herman Miller acquires stake in Danish furniture brand Hay

Hay was founded in Copenhagen in 2002 by Rolf and Mette Hay.

Herman Miller has acquired a 33 percent interest in Hay

Herman Miller, the furniture manufacturer based in Zeeland, Michigan, has announced that it has acquired an interest in Hay, the Danish brand known for its contemporary home and office furnishings and accessories. Founded in 2002 by Rolf and Mette Hay with business partner Troels Holch Povlsen, Hay has quickly grown into a global empire with $155 million in projected revenue.

Herman Miller, whose portfolio includes iconic pieces like the Aeron chair, Eames Lounge Chair, and the Noguchi table, acquired a 33 percent equity interest in Hay for $66 million. The company, which operates Design Within Reach as its retail leg, also acquired the North American brand rights to Hay for $5 million.

“Hay fills a void in our product assortment, both for what we call the living office and also for our consumer business,” John McPhee, president of Herman Miller consumer, told Curbed. “Hay is a more affordable price point than we currently offer, and it reaches a broader consumer base—in some ways a younger, more aspirational demographic. It’s great design that’s highly accessible to a broad base of people, a [priority] that’s been...


Hay was founded in Copenhagen in 2002 by Rolf and Mette Hay.

Herman Miller has acquired a 33 percent interest in Hay

Herman Miller, the furniture manufacturer based in Zeeland, Michigan, has announced that it has acquired an interest in Hay, the Danish brand known for its contemporary home and office furnishings and accessories. Founded in 2002 by Rolf and Mette Hay with business partner Troels Holch Povlsen, Hay has quickly grown into a global empire with $155 million in projected revenue.

Herman Miller, whose portfolio includes iconic pieces like the Aeron chair, Eames Lounge Chair, and the Noguchi table, acquired a 33 percent equity interest in Hay for $66 million. The company, which operates Design Within Reach as its retail leg, also acquired the North American brand rights to Hay for $5 million.

“Hay fills a void in our product assortment, both for what we call the living office and also for our consumer business,” John McPhee, president of Herman Miller consumer, told Curbed. “Hay is a more affordable price point than we currently offer, and it reaches a broader consumer base—in some ways a younger, more aspirational demographic. It’s great design that’s highly accessible to a broad base of people, a [priority] that’s been part of Herman Miller since the beginning.”

Hay works with designers all over the world to create products—currently offering 180 furniture pieces and over 350 accessories—that are thoughtfully designed and manufactured for modern living. The goods feature clean lines and a muted color palette inspired by Scandinavian and midcentury design, features that make Hay particularly suited to both homes and the changing office environment.

Founders Mette and Rolf Hay.

One of Hay’s most popular products is the About a Chair suite of seating characterized by a rounded shell. “Just as we’ve been selling the Eames molded plastic and molded fiberglass chairs for 50 or 60 years, we expect About a Chair to be similarly iconic,” McPhee said.

The mission of bringing good design to the people is part and parcel to the DNA of Herman Miller, Design Within Reach, and Hay. “As inflation has taken place over time, some of our products have of course become more expensive,” McPhee said. “[Bringing on Hay] is a way of democratizing design, and that’s really important to Rolf and Mette, who are truly visionaries in our industry. They would much rather design something that could be appreciated by a broader group of people.”

As for what the acquisition means in practical terms, Herman Miller will be rolling out Hay’s products to the entire fleet of Design Within Reach stores, and, by the end of the year, launch an online store and open four Hay retail stores—three in California and one in New York.

“With more workplaces and commercial spaces adopting a residential feel, the opportunity to offer quality designs at an attainable price point is only expanding,” Herman Miller CEO Brian Walker said in a press release. “Adding Hay’s considerable stable of products to our ancillary offer further cements Herman Miller’s ability to deliver excellent design to customers regardless of budget or what kind of space they’re outfitting.”

“There’s real agreement on aesthetics and business ethics between the three firms,” McPhee said. “We’re huge believers in authenticity and doing things that are original design.”

The About A Chair family of chairs.
Hay was founded in Copenhagen in 2002 by Rolf and Mette Hay.

Herman Miller has acquired a 33 percent interest in Hay

Herman Miller, the furniture manufacturer based in Zeeland, Michigan, has announced that it has acquired an interest in Hay, the Danish brand known for its contemporary home and office furnishings and accessories. Founded in 2002 by Rolf and Mette Hay with business partner Troels Holch Povlsen, Hay has quickly grown into a global empire with $155 million in projected revenue.

Herman Miller, whose portfolio includes iconic pieces like the Aeron chair, Eames Lounge Chair, and the Noguchi table, acquired a 33 percent equity interest in Hay for $66 million. The company, which operates Design Within Reach as its retail leg, also acquired the North American brand rights to Hay for $5 million.

“Hay fills a void in our product assortment, both for what we call the living office and also for our consumer business,” John McPhee, president of Herman Miller consumer, told Curbed. “Hay is a more affordable price point than we currently offer, and it reaches a broader consumer base—in some ways a younger, more aspirational demographic. It’s great design that’s highly accessible to a broad base of people, a [priority] that’s been part of Herman Miller since the beginning.”

Hay works with designers all over the world to create products—currently offering 180 furniture pieces and over 350 accessories—that are thoughtfully designed and manufactured for modern living. The goods feature clean lines and a muted color palette inspired by Scandinavian and midcentury design, features that make Hay particularly suited to both homes and the changing office environment.

Founders Mette and Rolf Hay.

One of Hay’s most popular products is the About a Chair suite of seating characterized by a rounded shell. “Just as we’ve been selling the Eames molded plastic and molded fiberglass chairs for 50 or 60 years, we expect About a Chair to be similarly iconic,” McPhee said.

The mission of bringing good design to the people is part and parcel to the DNA of Herman Miller, Design Within Reach, and Hay. “As inflation has taken place over time, some of our products have of course become more expensive,” McPhee said. “[Bringing on Hay] is a way of democratizing design, and that’s really important to Rolf and Mette, who are truly visionaries in our industry. They would much rather design something that could be appreciated by a broader group of people.”

As for what the acquisition means in practical terms, Herman Miller will be rolling out Hay’s products to the entire fleet of Design Within Reach stores, and, by the end of the year, launch an online store and open four Hay retail stores—three in California and one in New York.

“With more workplaces and commercial spaces adopting a residential feel, the opportunity to offer quality designs at an attainable price point is only expanding,” Herman Miller CEO Brian Walker said in a press release. “Adding Hay’s considerable stable of products to our ancillary offer further cements Herman Miller’s ability to deliver excellent design to customers regardless of budget or what kind of space they’re outfitting.”

“There’s real agreement on aesthetics and business ethics between the three firms,” McPhee said. “We’re huge believers in authenticity and doing things that are original design.”

The About A Chair family of chairs.

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Give your business a name. Name your business something that indicates what you sell. This will come in handy later on, when you are marketing your business and want people to associate your business name with handmade furniture.
File a DBA, which stands for “doing business as,” at your local county clerk’s office. You may want to do a search to ensure that no other business in your town is operating under the same name. If you live in a large metropolitan area, a search is a necessity.
Create a line of furniture. You’ll need to have models of each piece of furniture that you intend to sell, so that customers can easily visualize what you have to offer. Add to your furniture line each year so that your stock stays fresh and on-trend.