Furniture for a better world.
Josh Miller, president and founder of J.L. Miller Company, was born to make cabinetry and furniture, except he thought he was supposed to be an architect. Two weeks before graduate school Josh looked his wife in the eye and said “Honey, let’s start a furniture company.” While hiking and fly-fishing in Wyoming, the summer before school, he had the realization that if he was going to make the world a better place furniture and cabinetry might be a better solution than architecture.
As Miller explains “Conservation and sustainability are what are important to me. I want to consider the needs of the client and the needs of the planet. I realized that furniture and cabinetry are usually replaced far more frequently than buildings but that well made furniture can last for generations. In commercial interiors and college dormitories the furniture inside the buildings is replaced an average of every fifteen to twenty years. This translates into thousands of sheets of plywood that is, in the end, just thrown out.”
“DURABILITY IS SUSTAINABILITY. Our intention is to design and build things that will last longer than our lifetime.” says Miller. This thinking, along with material selection, informs their design process. “My designs incorporate things that will endure. Your average kitchen table has wood legs and a wood support structure. Wood joinery is not going to stand the test of time in this application so we build our tables with recycled steel bases. Our residential table tops are solid wood so if there is damage the surface can be sanded without having to be replaced. And if a top must be switched, it’s designed to be easily separated from the base it can be easily removed. Mixing materials is a strategy.”
The designs are simple and clean. This is also intentional: classic designs will have a longer appreciation value than trendier styles which will fade from favor more quickly.
For the J.L. Miller Company material selection is a critical aspect of their business. “We have developed a vernacular of fundamental materials.” Miller explains “Michael Pollan (the famous food critic) writes that your food should not have more than 5 ingredients and we feel the same way about furniture. We make wood tops and recycled steel bases. We use only certified North American hardwoods – no wood shipped in from overseas. And for commercial projects we use Columbia Forest Products UV pre-finished plywood because of the durable no VOC finish. This finish really holds up against college kids who are rough customers!”
“I learned about PureBond® no added formaldehyde plywood from a magazine ad in 2004.” continues Miller. “I already had health concerns about formaldehyde and was searching for alternatives. We called our supplier in Green Bay right away. In the last 3 – 4 years I have spent a lot of time researching lumber products and Columbia is the only manufacturer I have found that keeps formaldehyde out of the process all together.”
J.L. Miller Company is located in the northeast corner of Iowa near Wisconsin and Minnesota. They occupy a historic four story building that has undergone a year and a half long renovation held to the highest LEED standard for a commercial renovation. Says Miller, “we salvaged and refinished the original Douglas fir floors and the tin ceilings and even added a garden on the roof. We want to continue to build a business that does the right thing.”
The J.L. Miller Company is proud to be a member of “One Percent for the Planet,” an organization that encourages businesses to give back to programs that preserve and restore the natural environment around the world. Miller’s company pledges at least 1% of sales to promote and preserve North American forestland and other environmental causes. For more information go to http://onepercentfortheplanet.org