The Marshmallow Sofa: How George Nelson and Irving Harper Brought Their Impractical Design to Life

Jul 25, 2022

n 1954, designers Irving Harper and George Nelson were approached by an inventor who promoted his injection plastic disks. He claimed that these disks could be manufactured inexpensively and long-lasting. Immediately, Harper and Nelson began collaborating on the project. Thus, the Marshmallow Sofa was born.

Harper and Nelson arranged 18 disks and supported them with a simple steel frame. They explored “atomistic” design, where the individual disks represented an atom-like structure. The design proved to be impractical, but that did not stop Harper and Nelson.

Due to the simplicity of the design, Herman Miller moved forward with manufacturing the Marshmallow Sofa. This designed embarked the transition into the pop art style during the 1960s. The original sofa consisted dark red, orange, green, purple and blue cushion covers. Its vibrant colors resting against the steel frame embodied the idea of pop art.

Herman Miller described the design as “The first of a series of pieces that embody a new concept of soft seating.”

To this day, the Marshmallow Sofa’s design style is like no other. Additional cushions can be mounted to the original piece, allowing consumers to connect as many sofas as wanted. In addition, Herman Miller manufactures the sofa in a wide variety of color options, including customization.

Here at Workscape, the Marshmallow Sofa is a key element within the showroom. The original color scheme gives clients a glimpse into Nelson’s most historic designs. The sofa currently resides in CEO Ginny Rothschild’s office.

With having a live showroom, clients can test out the Marshmallow Sofa upon arrival if they so choose. Workscape wants each space to feel functional yet comfortable at the same time while including unique design elements. The Marshmallow sofa is a perfect furniture example that follows each of those principles.

The Nelson Marshmallow Sofa creates a bold statement in any space whether it be an office, living room or lounge area. Today, Herman Miller expanded its design to include a variety of fabrics and leather finishes. Each individual cushion can be removed, cleaned and reattached which allows for a longer life span.

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