|Dennis Miller with the Wendell Chair at the AD Loves NYDC event in June|
I was thrilled when design pro Dennis Miller agreed to a personal interview. Miller’s name is one that New York designers and architects widely recognize. Since 1984, he’s brought contemporary, innovative furniture and accessories to the NYC market, furnishing luxuriant design projects and doing so in style.
His namesake showroom –– Dennis Miller Associates –– is located in the New York Design Center at 200 Lexington. The 5,000-square-foot space showcases high-end furniture, lighting, and accoutrements from more than a dozen artists and designers, and is an essential resource for many well-known names in New York’s interior design world.
Miller is an architect and designer himself, and beyond daily life at his elegant Murray Hill showroom, he stays busy with residential design projects. Currently on the books are a Manhattan apartment and an oceanside vacation home in Florida.
Where did you grow up and how did your upbringing influence your career?
I grew up in Long Island in a perfect suburban modern house. My parents’ decision to build a new house when I was 14 encouraged me to draw plan after plan of houses they would want, because I was convinced they would choose one of my designs. They didn’t. But what they did get was a fantastic modern Frank Lloyd Wright-influenced design, which perfectly addressed their wishes. I was very impressed. It probably cemented my desire to become an architect. I went to school there, and then the College of Architecture, Art and Planning at Cornell University.
When did you move to New York City and why?
I was born in NYC and moved to Long Island at one year old. I moved back to NYC after getting my Masters Degree [in Architecture] and living in Switzerland for a year. New York was obviously the place to start a career in architecture, and family was here. Everyone wanted to live in New York in the ’70s!
Where did you live when you arrived in the 1970s?
I moved to Irving Place, having become familiar with the Union Square/Gramercy area after a semester in New York during architecture school. It was the best gift Cornell gave its students – classes in the city, and meeting artists (Robert Indiana, Andy Warhol), architects, and hanging out (at Max’s Kansas City).
|Irving Place in the Gramercy neighborhood–credit|
How did Dennis Miller showroom happen?
In 1984, after having worked in architecture offices and a bit on my own, I thought I should try something different. Since I had become familiar with craft design of furniture and also with art furniture, I started with a show of “art” furniture for the trade. Artists and craftspeople would take commissions from interior designers and architects – it was a great synergistic combination of creative talents. Eventually this launched the need for a permanent showroom space, and the inclusion of many more designers and fabricators, with full product lines.
It’s all by other designers. I collaborate from time to time with them on the type of product, or the materials, or the aesthetics, and always the price. I like living and dead artists, (sometimes the dead ones are harder to deal with).
|One of many contemporary vignettes in Dennis Miller Associates|
Which furniture designers have you worked with?
We work to create products with licensing arrangements (Morris Lapidus, Clodagh, TH Robsjohn-Gibbings, David Rockwell), and also with national brands for distribution for the local market (Jiun Ho, Wendell Castle, Altura, Antoine Proulx, Fuse Lighting among others). Of particular interest is to foster the career of emerging furniture artists such as Peter Sandback and Matthew Fairbank.
How would you describe the style of furniture in Dennis Miller Associates?
|The furnishings sold through Dennis Miller Associates’ are contemporary, but mix well with antiques and modern pieces.|
I was schooled in the influence of Le Corbusier, but of course was familiar with Mies, [van der Rohe] [Louis] Kahn, [Eero] Saarinen. All of them were heroes. In furniture, theirs was superior, but I admire Florence Knoll, Charles Pfister, Ward Bennett, Hans Wegner, Vladimir Kagan.
|The ground floor of Lever House–credit|
|The Seagram Building–credit|
Can you offer a tip or two for living small in a New York apartment?
Stop bringing things home! Make the most of storage areas; be creative about how furniture pieces are used – multi-functioning is good. Decide if you want to be formal or creatively haphazard; either can work, but be true to your path. It should still look like you live there.
The crowds. I can always be inspired by people-watching. The colors, the patterns, the movements are exhilarating. And there is an energy in the intensity of the bustling.
What do you like least?
Try several jobs or even careers until you find what’s rewarding. You’ll probably be doing one for a long time, so find a career that fulfills, and is fun!
|“Take advantage of what’s here and who’s here. In New York, there are masters of whatever profession you want to follow.” –Dennis Miller|