In a recent conversation with a fellow SLC transplant, we each excitedly announced that some of our very favorite people in the world live in this fair city. I’ve grown entirely accustomed to the fact that--despite the opinion of those not in the know--this place has some really great things going on, be it in the caliber of locals, architecture, music, retail, or design. The list of 'noteworthy' is quite long (just look at the many pages of this blog). Thus, it was in this vein of things-that-were-surprising-but-are-no-more that I discovered Henriksen Butler, a mecca of design housed in a 124-year-old synagogue right in downtown Salt Lake City.
The incredible structure, based on an actual German synagogue, is replete with original stained glass. It has undergone a few incarnations: it was a synagogue until the 70s, then a restaurant. At some point, during a spell of vacancy, a few squatters borrowed the space, and Henriksen Butler finally took it over in 1987. Story goes, while some parts of the building were misused by its homeless tenants, the stained glass remained completely intact...a blatant testament, we think, to the power of design. Today, the building stands in fine form as 'home' to Henriksen Butler's SLC branch and its 140 designers, salesmen/women, accountants, and managers. HB is the exclusive, certified Herman Miller dealer for all of Utah, Nevada, and Idaho, and if that's your gig--to be quite frank--you'd better fill your space with the kind of stuff that inspires good work and begets happy employees. This particular branch is firing on all cylinders. The sacred shell and modern interior make for a quirky blend of spiritual and efficient…a killer place to work, in essence.
The walls are lined with desks and a few gorgeous, glass offices, and two-story ceilings enable the stained-glass windows to do what they do best: a patchwork of green, blue, and purple is cast onto the carpet, enhancing the already-divine vibe inside. Maharam wall graphics offer touches of bright, clean color. Modular pieces of furniture from S.F. brand, Fuse, as well as pieces by Herman Miller allow for flexible meeting spaces and accommodate a shifting organization of teams. And, in one of our favorite details, walls are daubed with inspiring messages from the lexicon of Herman Miller: “We feel before we think," “The next big thing isn’t for you.”
In other words, this is the sort of space wherein emotion stands firmly behind design.
A space that embodies the notion that thoughtful design creates healthy minds and bodies, and ultimately, happiness. It's the concept nearest and dearest to our COLLECTIVE hearts, so we took our design team for a full tour of Henriksen Butler to take in the rightness first-hand and have a chat with their head of marketing, Andrea Barlow...
Why is the restoration of historic buildings so important to Henriksen Butler? Henriksen/Butler’s main office is in a 124-year-old former Jewish synagogue. Having been run down and neglected for many years, the founders of the company knew this Salt Lake historic gem was in jeopardy of being lost forever. With a little daring, a lot of vision and tons of TLC, the synagogue and its original stained glass windows were restored. That passion for preserving historically significant buildings is still a core value of H/B. Our Las Vegas office is housed in a former bread factory, one of the oldest restorations ever completed in Las Vegas. In Boise we’re in the former American Legion Hall, a social club for veterans built in 1939. In Reno, a 79 year old apothecary. And as we grow, we continue to seek buildings that are part of the fabric of the architecture of the community.
In your own words, why is the phrase “we feel before we think,” so important to Herman Miller? And design in general, for that matter? Instincts are powerful. The human brain is constantly reacting to and processing input/information beyond our conscious perception. Purposeful design can accommodate and harness this human operating system. In a workplace, people will immediately grasp what they can do, where they can go, what things are for, and why they are the way they are. Productivity and pleasure will come naturally. It will just feel right.
Efficiency is of utmost importance to Henriksen Butler, both in terms of the environment and keeping costs down. Speak to this a bit. Sustainable business practices lead to better financial performance, attract talented and committed employees, and leave a better world in place for future generations. Herman Miller’s lean manufacturing, along with Henriksen/Butler’s detailed ordering and install processes, means shorter lead times, minimal errors, and less waste. That translates into lower costs for higher quality products.
Herman Miller, as well as the other brands you carry, are obviously in a different league than many of the chain furniture brands out there. Why would you encourage a consumer to purchase a Herman Miller piece? Herman Miller believes problems are best solved through design. This belief is rooted in decades of experience. Herman Miller’s view of design is research based, human centered, and problem solving. In its early years, Herman Miller partnered with design greats including George Nelson, Charles and Ray Eames, and Alexander Girard who passed along this crucial value system to future Herman Miller employees and designers; this remains a driving force today.
We agree that good design can create happiness in the workplace and in life. How so? Design goes way beyond aesthetics. It’s a way of thinking, of asking questions and seeking answers. It is a driving force for positive change. It is a spirit of collaboration. It’s our connection to the world. When we design a great workspace for people and give them ergonomic tools that support the body, we’re contributing to the happiness of individuals. And hopefully in turn, that means more positive work environments, better communities, and a better collective whole. It’s a lofty goal, but it starts with the simple act of design.
Henriksen Butler | 249 South 400 East | 801.363.5881