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USM Modular Furniture – the story of a family company

USM was founded in 1885 by Ulrich Schaerer. It started off as a locksmith workshop that specialised in accessories for windows, hinges and steel plates. The factory was established in Munsingen , Switzerland, where it is still located today. When Paul Schaerer entered the family business in 1961 everything changed. Paul studied engineering at the Swiss Institute of Technology in Zurich and he was determined to modernise the factory’s facilities, along with its headquarters. He thus decided to hire architect Fritz Haller to design the new buildings, using a modular system that incorporated flexible steel that could be adapted to several industrial production processes. 

Subsequently in 1963, Haller and Paul developed a new type of furniture that could be adapted to the modularity and versatility of the company’s new buildings. All the furniture was developed on the basis of an elegant and ingenious sphere that was subsequently patented in 1965. The furniture, which was only created for USM offices and spaces, quickly caught the eye of the design world because of fits versatility, durability and style. As a result, the company began to concentrate exclusively on producing the furniture with its first order for 600 workstations for the Rothchild Bank in Paris, France.

Today we can say that USM is a world leader in the entire sustainability and design process.

Sustainability – USM furniture was the first European product to receive Greenguard certification, despite the rigorous standards that this required; in 2018 USM also became Cradle to Cradle certified pertaining to the requirements for meeting ecological targets to prevent earth overshoot day in terms of resources, a situation that takes place when humanity consumes and emits more than the Earth is capable of supporting. This year, earth overshoot day took place on August 1st.

Design – USM’s status solidified in 2001 when its furniture was included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in Nova York.

Rui e Tiago Vilaça