A post-modern classic that’s spirited and approachable

The brilliantly simple design and bold colours of Wilkes Modular Sofa Group have made it a darling of post-modernism. It’s also extremely versatile, with six configurations, from armchair to six-seater, and square tabletops that can be specified anywhere along the run of seating.

Two Wilkes Modular Sofa Group Chairs facing each other at an angle. The chair on the left is dark yellow and the chair on the right is blue.
An exposed view of the internal foam and structure of a seat and back from a Wilkes Modular Sofa Group sofa.

Originally introduced in 1976, Wilkes Modular Sofa Group’s success wasn’t a foregone conclusion at the time Wilkes was designing it. Getting traction for it inside Herman Miller was a challenge, owing to the sudden prominence of Action Office and the overwhelming popularity of its workspace systems.


But then Wilkes encountered a new foam injection machine in the manufacturing area of the plant. It produced the clean lines and smooth, contoured shapes he had envisioned – and it did so reliably, every time. Every cushion came out perfectly square with rounded edges, like Chiclet gum, which lent the seating collection its widely known nickname. It was a shape that previously hadn’t been possible to make.

Wilkes Modular Sofa Group came out of experimentation with what was then an innovation in manufacturing – in the same way that the iconic Eames moulded plywood chairs were a result of manufacturing technology. For Wilkes, “Minimalism isn’t just straight lines. The most important thing is the form and the simplicity of making it.”

And the memorable colour palette? Credit for that goes to Alexander Girard, who had applied the saturated rainbow hues to the company’s first two-way-stretch upholstery fabric. The combination of Wilkes’s straightforward design thinking with Girard’s famously colourful palette made the so-called “Chiclet” a viable, sellable collection.

A Stephen Frykholm poster for Wilkes Modular Sofa Group which shows successive sofa sizes staring from the chair in a rainbow of colours.
Front view of a Wilkes Modular Sofa Group 2-Seat Sofa in red.

We’ve updated the design with power and upholstery options, making it more functional and more accessible to people with a broader range of aesthetic preferences. Beyond that, we know to leave well enough alone. While the 1970s may once again be in fashion, it's the honesty of Wilkes’s design and its straightforward construction that make Wilkes Modular Sofa Group an enduring classic.

“The fact is I like total simplicity; it's the philosophy of my life.”

More about Ray Wilkes

A black and white headshot of designer Ray Wilkes. Viewed at a three-quarter front angle.