F5: John Edelman Takes Us on a Journey, from Edelman Leather to Heller

11.18.22 | By
F5: John Edelman Takes Us on a Journey, from Edelman Leather to Heller

John Edelman purchased the company of his dreams – Heller – in May 2022, serving as President and CEO while steering the future of this iconic furnishings brand. But that’s not where his story began. He spent 14 years at Edelman Leather, including six as President and CEO. John’s leadership approach was defined by his family’s principles of authenticity and “doing well by doing good.” Along with John McPhee, he re-envisioned the company. Soon after, he turned his family’s namesake brand into a global trademark by expanding into four luxury lifestyle categories – private aviation, hospitality, corporate interiors, and residential interiors – before helping facilitate the sale to Knoll, Inc. in 2007.

In 2010, John purchased Design Within Reach with McPhee. He revitalized the retailer, turning it into the world leader in authentic modern design by eliminating knockoffs, repairing vendor relationships, and re-training sales teams. Then, adding Trade and Contract divisions, expanding Product Development, and opening new DWR Studios. In 2014, Herman Miller, Inc. purchased the renewed DWR and John stayed on as CEO of both DWR and Herman Miller Consumer Group before departing in 2019.

John is highly regarded by the design community. He sits on the Chilewich Board of Directors as well as being the Executive Chairman of Crypton Fabrics. In the past, he has served on the Board of Trustees for DIFFA, and currently serves on the Board of Design Leadership Network and the Be Original Americas Board of Directors. John is also the Co-Founder of beverage brand Fourth & Pride vodka, which donates 5% of their profits to LGBTQ+ organizations, fully integrating his business acumen with lifelong advocacy work. At the end of May, 2022, he was bestowed an honorary doctorate from the New York School of Interior Design.

Today, John Edelman is joining us for Friday Five!

light-skinned man with grey hair and facial hair wearing a blue blazer and blue checked button-up shirt

John Edelman

front and side profile views of a modern red armchair on white background

1. Organic Chair from Vitra

I love the Organic Chair because it’s an incredibly comfortable piece of furniture and rests in a very small footprint. It’s the only chair that was co-designed by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen. I think the chair is under appreciated and deserves more prominence in the American marketplace.

mid-century modern round black and white radio

2. The Model 2001 Weltron radio

I love this radio as it epitomizes 1970’s design. It’s futuristic, functional, and beautiful. You can actually plug it in, run it from a lighter in a car, or use batteries. It was way ahead of its time.

two light-skinned hands holding a gold watch

3. The Rolex Daytona

The Rolex Daytona is arguably one of the best timepieces ever created. It epitomizes what every sport watch should be. Every generation of the watch is a little different, but I actually love them all.

black sports car on a road

4. The Porsche 911

There are very few cars that have kept the same design language for decades. Whether you see one from the 70s, 80s, 90s, or today you know which car it is. They are all fun to use and beautiful to look at.

plate with an illustrated snake filled with text

5. Fornasetti

I grew up with Fornasetti plates and items that my parents brought back from Italy. Since then, my family has fallen in love with the charm, beauty, and consistency of the Fornasetti collections. It’s hard not to fall in love with a piece by Fornasetti and smile.


Work by Heller:

grey dining chair on white background

The Bellini Chair has become a modern classic. In 2001, it received the Compasso d’Oro ADI, Italy’s most prestigious design award. The Bellini Chair is in the design collection of museums around the world, and the perfect chair for nearly every purpose.

abstract grey sofa on white background

The Gehry Sofa.  Frank Gehry is certainly the world’s most celebrated architect, and creates the most innovative furniture. Beautiful and functional, this piece, along with the rest of the Gehry Collection, creates a stunning group indoors and outdoors.

Kelly Beall is Director of Branded Content at Design Milk. The Pittsburgh-based writer and designer has had a deep love of art and design for as long as she can remember, from Fashion Plates to MoMA and far beyond. When not searching out the visual arts, she's likely sharing her favorite finds with others. Kelly can also be found tracking down new music, teaching herself to play the ukulele, or on the couch with her three pets – Bebe, Rainey, and Remy. Find her @designcrush on social.