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Anatomy of a Classic

USM Haller

USM Haller modular furniture history USM Haller modular furniture history

Anatomy of a Classic

USM Haller

USM Haller

The iconic modular furniture born from architecture

It’s furniture inspired by the framing of a building. Truly customizable pieces that can be configured in countless ways depending on your space, your needs and your style. And because of that, USM Haller's signature modular designs have been able to adapt to changing times, evolving design trends and cultural shifts.

Built from the start as furniture meant to last for generations, USM was emphasizing sustainability before it was fashionable, and USM Haller pieces bought five decades ago can be paired with those purchased today. That's because the pieces have virtually remained unchanged since their debut in the early 1960s.

But the brand never set out to create an icon. Originally a hardware and lock business, USM was founded in 1885 when Ulrich Schaerer set up shop in Münsingen, Switzerland (hence the abbreviated USM name), where the family business remains today. They eventually began specializing in window fittings, ornamental hinges and precision-machined sheet metal. Then, in 1961, Ulrich's grandson, Paul Schaerer, commissioned architect Fritz Haller to build a new factory and office building for the company. Once the new USM factory opened, Schaerer realized that the only furniture available was traditional wooden pieces—far from the new headquarters' functionalist aesthetic. So the two men, inspired by Haller's steel construction system, worked together to create modular furniture for the new space.

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The furniture was built around a system of structural chrome-plated steel tubes and powder-coated panels that could be reconfigured to meet the diverse needs of the company's factory and offices. The cornerstone of the system, of course, was the ingenious ball joint—an elegant and effective solution that ensures structural integrity and ultimate adaptability. Literally, any piece of the frame (available in 11 different lengths) can link with the connecting ball's threaded holes in six directions. That tiny ball joint was so vital that the company patented the design in 1965 and it now serves as a logo for the brand.

1970s USM Haller office furniture
2000s USM Haller office furniture

Then

Now

Despite the original design dating back half a century, its streamlined proportions, modernist details and general functionality have ensured that it feels as relevant today as it did back then. In fact, the handsome, colorful furniture system has arguably never been as popular as it is right now. It's minimalist and masculine styling has made it an interior design grail for fashionable men outfitting their place. And thanks to a series of well-placed collaborations, the brand has developed a cult-following of devotees that are buying up pieces new and old.

Thanks to its endless workability, the USM Haller pieces—everything from media consoles and bookcases to desks and bar carts—can now be found in all sorts of places. You'll see them in stylish homes and the kind of offices you actually want to work in; they're found in design studios, high-end shops and galleries. These days, the brand is also doing some impressive collaborations, from art and fashion to street and skate industries that have helped the brand mint a new generation of design enthusiasts. From Supreme's credenza (complete with logo emblazoned across the lower doors) and a one-off Rimowa edition (with corrugated panels akin to the famed luggage) to Ghetto Gastro's kitchen cart and a nature-inspired range with loungewear brand Comme Si—the limited-edition pieces showcase USM's ability to evolve, while also retaining the core DNA that serves as the line's blueprint.

Your USM
Options Today

The
Console Table

Crafted from durable steel in Switzerland, the table features two drop-down doors that lock and open with the twist of the coin-shaped handles.

Console table, $3,195

The
Bar Cart

A durable spot to build out your liquor collection, the powder-coated metal and chrome can easily take spills, while the handle and casters make for easy mobility.

Bar cart, $1,345

The
Bookshelf

Constructed from perforated steel, this handsome bookshelf can support the heaviest collection of art books and makes an ideal spot for a turntable, too.

Bookshelf, $2,795

The
Vintage Cabinet

This particular piece dates back to the early 1980s—two units wide and three units high. The top two sections feature drop-down doors, making this an ideal cabinet for an office or even as a media console.

Vintage cabinet,
$2,746.36

FYI

Truly an icon of modernist design, USM Haller furniture has been a part of the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection in New York since 2001. “This is a classic,” says USM’s chief executive officer, Alex Schaerer (Paul Schaerer Jr.’s son). “I think it’s comparable to other products in MoMA like the chairs of Le Corbusier, for example, and it’s one of the peculiarities of classics that they are so touching to everybody that the more you leave the original alone, the better it stays.”

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