Unique in that it has no adjustments (that is, no levers or knobs), the Herman Miller Cosm is one of the most unorthodox office chairs I’ve ever laid my eyes on. It’s one of the most highly sought-after ergonomic chairs and, consequently, one of the most expensive – retailing at around $2,500.
The gearhead part of my personality wants to say an emphatic “yes” to all of the above. The more measured part wants to buy a cheap office chair and spend the balance of funds on a romantic getaway with my partner instead.
Let’s see which is right – and whether the Cosm the obvious successor to the critically acclaimed Herman Miller Aeron.
Herman Miller Cosm At A Glance.
|Visually Impressive. The Cosm is gorgeous to look at. It’s classy, sophisticaed, loud and yet … restrained at the same time.||Quite Expensive. Spending $2,200 – $2,700 on an office chair during (totally not) a recession is out of reach for many.|
|Solid Ergonomic Chops. Weight-sensitive recline mechanism is excellent at figuring out what you need – and giving it to you.||Not For Control Freaks. People who feel incomplete without knobs, dials and levers will be disappointed.|
If someone had asked office chair users what we wanted, we’d have emphatically declared ‘more knobs’.
This would be all too reminiscent of Henry Ford’s famous anecdote, where customers said ‘faster horses’ when asked about improvements to personal transport.
If you’re hell-bent on buying an office chair with adjustable lumbar support, fully adjustable arms, and fiddly seat angle adjustments, you may click away now.
How Good Is Cosm’s Reclining Mechanism?
The Cosm leverages something called ‘sitting force’, so when you’re finished moving, it reaches a fulcrum point, and the chair catches you and locks you in that position.
You feel like you’re floating, and the seat locks when you find your most natural sitting position. At all times, it’s adapting to you and the pressure you subject it to.
This is a much-improved version of a weight-sensitive mechanism first pioneered by Humanscale Freedom in 1999, and it works very well.
One minor annoyance worth mentioning, however, is if you want to recline all the way back, you’ll need to exert more effort with your legs and plant your feet firmly.
How Comfortable Are Cosm’s Armrests?
Cosm’s armrests are available in three variants:
- Suspension leaf.
While I love that the leaf arms allow you to push your chair all the way under your desk, that’s where my enthusiasm for them ends.
They have a hard plastic edge, and the mesh is the same as the seat, so it’s a little rough and abrasive on the skin. Worst of all, your arms will be elevated in an unnatural position, and that takes some getting used to.
Since they’re not adjustable, the jury is out on this one, and I’m not convinced. But even so, just because something is tagged as ergonomic doesn’t automatically mean it’s well-optimised.
Above: Cosm’s fixed armrests look great and at the right height for me. Try them on in the showroom before you buy – your mileage may vary.
What Sizes Is The Cosm Available In?
The Cosm is available in three sizes:
- Low back.
- Mid back.
- High back.
For most, I recommend you go for a high back (anyone above 5’ 3”). You’re going to love the extra back and head support when reclining. If you’re shorter than 160 cm, I recommend a mid back for the very same reason.
This will be a sticking point for many, as the chair retails for over $2,500, depending on the model.
That’s not dissimilar to the Herman Miller Aeron, and this is head and shoulders above (couldn’t resist a pun, sorry!).
- The higher the back, the more you’ll pay.
But I simply wouldn’t entertain the idea of the low back; it just doesn’t have that same sophisticated appeal as the mid and high back.
There’s something about an office chair with a higher back; maybe it’s that they’re throne-like or that they’re reminiscent of a Bond villain spinning around and saying ‘I’ve been expecting you.’
Boss mode activated.
3. Build Quality.
The quality of the Cosm can’t be disputed. It’s an office chair that’s been designed by Studio 7.5, based in Berlin, Germany – and it’s made in the USA.
Need I say more? Okay, maybe a little… It’s no surprise that Studio 7.5 spent several years extensively designing and refining the Cosm to get to the final version we see today.
It both looks and feels as solid as a static chair.
The super flexible frame is made from a combination of polymid and polypropylene materials, and the backrest features suspension mesh material which is composed of elastomeric and polyester.
Smart engineering is at the core of the Cosm.
- I particularly like how a single, uncut layer of mesh was used to construct the entire chair, running from the front of the seat to the tip of the backrest.
- Herman Miller has gone to painstaking lengths to ensure there’s no gap between the seat and backrest support, which is both an aesthetic and ergonomic advantage.
It’s a statement piece for your office, and it’ll stand out.
The colours that the Cosm is available in further add to the sophistication: canyon, glacier, nightfall, studio, carbon, and graphite. Thy are bold … and yet, strangely, not boastful.
When it comes to the shape, I can’t help but think there’s some subliminal engineering going on here that has connotations with feminine curves.
Whether or not that’s deliberate, only the engineers can say, but it has a visually striking profile – sexy, even.
Now, as for the casters, you’ve probably never given them much thought when buying an office chair, but it’s the attention to detail on things like this that really set the Cosm apart from the competition.
You’ve got two options:
- Carpet castors that are black and suitable for medium- to low-pile carpets.
- Hard floor castors that feature a soft tread and give the chair more traction, perfect for quiet rolling.
The Cosm can comfortably recline to around 150 degrees, and it feels sensational on your back – especially if you’re upgrading from a chair with poor ergonomic credentials.
That said, there is a noticeable difference in how taut the seat mesh is when compared to the backrest.
It doesn’t give you the greatest lumbar support, and it seems as though they’ve not quite caught the sweet spot between the firmness/softness of the back support.
My spine demands something a little firmer.
But I like how it feels overall. There aren’t many office chairs out there where the seat and backrest merge into one like the Cosm; most are separate pieces.
With the Cosm, you can feel the support all the way through your thighs, buttocks, lower back, and upper back.
(Related: 7 Best Home Office Chairs).
6. Ease Of Assembly.
If you’re lazy or just hate assembling furniture, you’re in luck.
The Herman Miller Cosm arrives pre-assembled. The hardest part is opening the box and rolling it out.
Whilst that might sound great, you should remember that you’re paying for that luxury.
In reality, the chair could probably be hundreds of dollars cheaper if it was packed more efficiently for transportation and if Herman Miller didn’t have to pay someone to assemble it.
7. Warranty & Returns.
A 12-year warranty is impressive. In fact, Herman Miller’s is one of the best in the industry.
Office chairs warranties often cover you for one eight-hour shift per day. But in Herman Miller’s case, the only caveat is that the warranty is valid if your body weighs less than 159 kg.
If you need replacement parts, they’ll send them free of charge if they’re covered by the warranty; and any repairs to the product will be made by an HM technician in the field.
Policy of Herman Miller’s main Australian stockist, Living Edge, suggests they don’t provide refunds once the chair has been delivered to you.
They may allow a return at their discretion, but I wouldn’t count on it. My advice would be to only commit if you’ve seen the Cosm in the flesh first.
Is The Herman Miller Cosm Chair Worth It?
Depends on your budget. You might be telling yourself that productivity is your motive and the Cosm will help you work harder.
You can find more affordable options, more suitable for long work stints.
Get it to add a touch of sophistication or a splash of colour to your home office.
Your second best option is to use the Cosm in boardrooms or hot-desking environments. The last thing you want is to have people without assigned seating fiddling with knobs for 5 minutes prior to a 30-minute meeting.