Almost toasted: how the Marshmallow Sofa was saved.

In 1956, Irving Harper was working at George Nelson’s design firm when the two of them were approached by a Long Island company that had invented self-skinned injected plastic cushions. The inventors believed that the plastic discs could be produced inexpensively and saw the potential for creating something interesting with them. Harper and Nelson were intrigued and spent a weekend designing possible ways to use the discs. A model of a sofa was made (using checkers arranged on a small frame), which led to the design of the Marshmallow Sofa (above). Unfortunately, the plastic discs were not inexpensive to produce after all, and the Long Island company could not deliver the product they’d promised. Herman Miller still agreed to manufacture the sofa, even though it required 18 specially designed, hand-made cushions. This drove up the cost and production time, which is why fewer than 200 Marshmallow Sofas were made between 1956 and 1965. (The first Marshmallow to come off the assembly line is part of the “Good Design” traveling exhibit.) In 1999, Herman Miller brought the Nelson™ Marshmallow Sofa back into production, now available with leather, crepe or vinyl cushions (and included in the Herman Miller Sale).