It’s been almost six years since Gregory Herman opened a San Francisco showroom under his 33Sixty business banner specializing in the Flexform brand. He added a Los Angeles venture four years later, further immersing himself in California and the West Coast’s market and design culture. The Chicago native studied product design in college, and has worked with some of the most prestigious European design companies, including serving as national sales director for B&B Italia. (Herman’s business name refers to his 360-degree, complete design philosophy, as well as the numbers of the address associated with his favorite Chicago building: S.R. Crown Hall at the Illinois Institute of Technology designed by Mies van der Rohe in 1956.)
Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Herman also makes weekly visits to the L.A. showroom on Robertson Boulevard located in heart of the West Hollywood Design District to develop these markets’ affinity for and understanding of Flexform‘s history, approach, and distinctive products.
How did you begin your career in the design business?
I started by getting involved with Luminaire in Chicago. With Nasir [Kassamali] it was an incredible training ground, being in Chicago and Miami. I really think he pioneered these modern European furniture stores and has done an exceptional job. I got the bug of European furniture, and it hasn’t left.
So, why bring Flexform to California?
I had worked at all these incredible places in New York and L.A., and Dallas and Miami. If I’m going to do my own store, I wanted to do it in a significant place. I wanted to go big. San Francisco and California were destinations I always wanted to live in. I identified that there was an opening. For the management of its worldwide showrooms, Flexform aims to find great partners in the world who have specialization and expertise in that market: this kind of collaboration led us to open two stores in this State.
What about this brand appeals to you?
The beauty of Flexform for me is that it’s incredibly well made, and incredibly comfortable. It’s casual, and a little understated. It’s not meant to be the star in the room but it’s meant to be used. California is such a casual market. I get so many designers and architects who come back and say, “Our clients just love their Flexform sofa. If they ever need another one, they’ll get a Flexform.” I’ve owned a Flexform sofa for 11 years. It’s that well made, and super timeless.
Our key architect is Antonio Citterio. He’s designed for Flexform for almost 50 years, and ninety percent of the collection is Citterio. He’s that prolific, and his designs are always the one people go to. He’s the designer people lean toward. Mine is a Citterio.
How have you used your spaces for events and to build community among designers?
I always felt like that was something I was missing at other stores, was that sense of community. We do two things. We do a dinner series; we invite a group designers and architects, and have them do something as simple as breaking bread and getting to know each other. We do a wine paired meal to give them a further taste of the level of experience and service that we are as Flexform, and the same level that our clients would get by purchasing Flexform.
And we’re doing this talk series. The restaurant design talk in San Francisco had the biggest attendance we’ve ever had. People are into food, and the connection of food and design. What better place that has that than San Francisco? We had Olle Lundberg who did the Slanted Door and we had people who were aficionados of the Slanted Door who had never even heard of Flexform. That’s us bringing something of value to the community. That makes me feel good that I’ve done this in California. I love that we’re not just a furniture store.
You have some great neighbors, too.
With more flagship stores opening it was important for us to get a jump on opening. The Knoll Home Design Shop is the perfect neighbor for us. They’re all about integrity and design. Leica Camera has been so great. We’ve been doing our lectures and gallery talks in their gallery space. That’s felt cool, too. Clearly it’s a like brand that’s all about quality.