Maharam Design Studio
Founded in 1902 by Louis Maharam in New York City, Maharam today is a fourth-generation, family-run business. First renowned as a supplier of theatrical textiles, in the 1960s Maharam pioneered the contract textile concept, developing engineered textiles for commercial application. In 1984, Maharam introduced Tek-Wall, the contract furniture industry's first high-performance textile wallcovering.
Today, the Maharam Design Studio, under the direction of Mary Murphy, offers extensive textile collections for seating, walls, window covering, systems, and healthcare applications.
Murphy, the studio's vice president of design, believes that much of the company's innovation and success comes from being family-owned. "We're able to set our own priorities and aim for the long-term, to take risks and invest in venues that may not provide monetary reward but allow us to promote our point of view," she explains.
"Each generation has been able to create its own path and run the company in an entrepreneurial way," she continues. "For example, Donald Maharam was very interested in the technical aspects of textiles, whereas his sons, (current owners) Stephen and Michael, are focused on the interdisciplinary approach to design."
This multidisciplinary philosophy gives the company a unique edge. "We purposely collaborate with designers from outside the textile industry—architectural, graphic, fashion, industrial—to get fresh perspectives and create potential for cross-fertilization," says Murphy.
Collaboration goes on internally as well, she adds. "We have an R&D department and textile engineers on staff, and we all work very much as a team, exploring new materials or using existing materials in new ways."
For the three proprietary textiles created for Herman Miller, the Maharam team brought out "the industrial beauty of what textiles can be," combining a lustrous flat tape yarn and a lofty high sheen yarn that accentuate Herman Miller's neutral and metallic palette. "We really wanted to emphasize clean lines and a crisp aesthetic, something that would be enduring, not just 'in fashion,'" says Murphy.
Endurance is something Maharam knows well. After more than a century of creativity, its textiles enhance the beauty of buildings all over the world, and are included in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
When asked what she's proudest of about the company, Murphy says, "The fact that we're considered a design leader. We know it's not just about looking pretty; it's about engineering textiles that are made to last and perform."
Maharam Design Studio
New York, New York
Design Patron Award, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, 2007
Finalist, Product Design Category, National Design Awards, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, 2001