The story of a family business – from a product for company use to an icon

Today, USM is synonymous with timeless, sustainable design that can be tailored to requirements at any time – across generations, in offices and in private residences. The company’s story begins in 1885, as an ironmongery and metalworking company.


USM is founded in 1885 as an ironmongery and metalworking company. The name “USM” combines the initials of its founder, Ulrich Schärer, and the place in which it was founded, Münsingen. In the early decades of the twentieth century, USM begins to specialise in window fittings before moving on to ornamental hinges and precision ironware.


Becoming a furniture business

Paul Schärer joins the family company in 1961, the third generation to do so. Having studied engineering at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, he is determined to modernise the company – starting with a dedicated USM factory and headquarters. He commissions the Swiss architect Fritz Haller to design a new factory and an office pavilion. In keeping with his client’s philosophy, Haller uses a modular steel-framed construction system with the flexibility required for various production processes and options to expand the structure.

In 1962, Haller and Schärer begin to develop a modular furniture system system to match the modularity and versatility of the new building. This furniture, like the building, is based not on individual pieces, but on a system of adaptable steel modules that can be reconfigured to fulfil the various requirements of the company’s factory and office rooms, both today and in the future. The heart of the system is the elegant and ingenious ball joint, patented in 1965.

Initially intended only for USM’s own offices, the visionary combination of a unique aesthetic, versatility and durability soon attracts great attention. The commercial production and sale of the USM Haller system begins in 1969 with an order for 600 workstations for the Rothschild bank in Paris. The furniture system quickly becomes a fixture in administration departments and offices around the world.

1970 – 2000

A global company

In 1988, USM Haller is recognised as a work of applied art due to its visionary pairing of technical finesse and outstanding design quality.

In the final decades of the twentieth century, USM spreads its wings around the world, opening subsidiaries in Germany, France and the USA. The first USM showroom opens in Hamburg in 1998.

In 1993, Alexander Schärer becomes the fourth generation of the family to join the company, and is appointed CEO in 2000.

2001 – present

World leader in sustainable design

Today, USM is synonymous with timeless, sustainable design that can be tailored to requirements at any time – across generations, in offices and in private residences. Its status as an icon of modern design is solidified in 2001 when it is included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.

The system is sustainable by nature. USM furniture is extremely long-lasting and is handed down from generation to generation. Steel is a highly recyclable material. The coating does not contain any solvents or heavy metals. USM is awarded Greenguard environmental certification in 2008 and receives the Cradle-to-Cradle® environmental label in 2018. Its vision is to become a fully circular company by 2030.

Alexander Schärer becomes the head of the family business, now in its fourth generation, in 2000. Its products are still manufactured in Münsingen. USM employs 450 people between its headquarters in Switzerland and its subsidiaries in the USA, France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan and China. The modular furniture systems are sold in around 40 countries worldwide by 430 dealers.

In a world in motion, USM Haller is also changing, integrating innovation while staying true to its iconic aesthetic. With light and energy embedded in its structure, USM Haller E is completely wireless, marking a revolutionary step into a new era. Then we have USM Haller lock C, an electromechanical locking system operated via app.

USM is evolving, its system is open – while remaining true to itself.
And it invites users to continually challenge their own creativity.


The Bauhaus School opens in Weimar, Germany.


Le Corbusier designs the Pavilion of the New Spirit in Paris.


Volkswagen launches the Beetle.


The firm starts manufacturing ornamental hinges for the construction industry and machining sheet steel.

1965 – 1968

Mies van der Rohe, who had emigrated to the United States in 1938, designs the glass and concrete Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin.


Mass-production of the USM Haller system begins. The Rothschild Bank in Paris places the first large order. Schärer, an admirer of both Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, commissions Haller to build a private house on the steep slope above the company headquarters. This is considered a key work in Haller’s oeuvre and a prototype of modern living in steel and glass.


Paul Schärer Jr’s son Alexander Schärer, who joined the firm in 1993, becomes Managing Director and Chairman of the Board of USM.


The USM Haller system is added to the permanent design collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. The offices in Yoshio Taniguchi's new MoMa building will be equipped with USM Haller.


The Gherkin designed by Foster + Partners opens in London. USM supplies 15 floors of furniture for Swiss Re.


USM installs 10 floors of furniture in the Bank of America Tower designed by CookFox Architects.


The USM Haller and USM Kitos systems are awarded Greenguard Environmental Institute certificates.


Opening of Frank Gehry’s Louis Vuitton Foundation building in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris.


The USM Haller system celebrates its 50th anniversary.


The USM Haller and USM Kitos M ranges are certified Cradle to Cradle®.


Opening of the new “future offices” at company headquarters in Münsingen – a conceptual, future-oriented and hybrid work environment.


Our vision is to become a fully circular company. We want to extend the principles of the circular economy beyond our products and apply them throughout the company – from product development to manufacturing and new business models, from our communications to our supply chain, our processes and the expertise of our employees and partners.

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