Furniture for a better world.
Josh Miller, president and founder of J.L. Miller Company, was born to make cabinetry
and furniture, except he thought he was supposed to be an architect. Two weeks before
graduate school Josh looked his wife in the eye and said "Honey, let's start a furniture
company." While hiking and fly-fishing in Wyoming, the summer before school, he
had the realization that if he was going to make the world a better place furniture
and cabinetry might be a better solution than architecture.
As Miller explains "Conservation and sustainability are what are important to me.
I want to consider the needs of the client and the needs of the planet. I realized
that furniture and cabinetry are usually replaced far more frequently than buildings
but that well made furniture can last for generations. In commercial interiors and
college dormitories the furniture inside the buildings is replaced an average of
every fifteen to twenty years. This translates into thousands of sheets of plywood
that is, in the end, just thrown out."
"DURABILITY IS SUSTAINABILITY. Our intention is to design and build things that
will last longer than our lifetime." says Miller. This thinking, along with material
selection, informs their design process. "My designs incorporate things that will
endure. Your average kitchen table has wood legs and a wood support structure. Wood
joinery is not going to stand the test of time in this application so we build our
tables with recycled steel bases. Our residential table tops are solid wood so if
there is damage the surface can be sanded without having to be replaced. And if
a top must be switched, it's designed to be easily separated from the base it can
be easily removed. Mixing materials is a strategy."
The designs are simple and clean. This is also intentional: classic designs will
have a longer appreciation value than trendier styles which will fade from favor
For the J.L. Miller Company material selection is a critical aspect of their business.
"We have developed a vernacular of fundamental materials." Miller explains "Michael
Pollan (the famous food critic) writes that your food should not have more than
5 ingredients and we feel the same way about furniture. We make wood tops and recycled
steel bases. We use only certified North American hardwoods - no wood shipped in
from overseas. And for commercial projects we use Columbia Forest Products UV pre-finished
plywood because of the durable no VOC finish. This finish really holds up against
college kids who are rough customers!"
"I learned about PureBond® no added formaldehyde plywood from a magazine ad
in 2004." continues Miller. "I already had health concerns about formaldehyde and
was searching for alternatives. We called our supplier in Green Bay right away.
In the last 3 - 4 years I have spent a lot of time researching lumber products and
Columbia is the only manufacturer I have found that keeps formaldehyde out of the
process all together."
J.L. Miller Company is located in the northeast corner of Iowa near Wisconsin and
Minnesota. They occupy a historic four story building that has undergone a year
and a half long renovation held to the highest LEED standard for a commercial renovation.
Says Miller, "we salvaged and refinished the original Douglas fir floors and the
tin ceilings and even added a garden on the roof. We want to continue to build a
business that does the right thing."
The J.L. Miller Company is proud to be a member of "One Percent for the Planet,"
an organization that encourages businesses to give back to programs that preserve
and restore the natural environment around the world. Miller's company pledges at
least 1% of sales to promote and preserve North American forestland and other environmental
causes. For more information go to www.onepercentfortheplanet.org.