USM history & origin

The History & Origin of
a Family Business

1885 —
A family business is born

Ulrich Schärer sets up a metal-working workshop in the Swiss village of Münsingen, just outside Bern.

USM was founded in 1885 as a metalworking and locksmith’s business by Ulrich Schaerer. The factory and headquarters were built in Munsingen, Switzerland, where they remain to this day.

In the early decades of the twentieth century, USM began specialising in window fittings then ornamental hinges and precision-machined sheet steel.

USM Furniture History
USM Furniture History
1920 —
The firm begins to manufacture espagnolette window fittings.
USM Furniture History
1946 —
The firm begins to manufacture ornamental hinges for the construction industry and to machine sheet steel.
USM Furniture History
1961 —
Paul Schärer, Jr., joins the firm as an engineer and commissions Fritz Haller to design a new factory.
USM Furniture History
USM Furniture History
Evolving into a world-class furniture business

Paul Schaerer joined the company in 1961, marking three generations of the Schaerer family’s stewardship of USM. Having studied engineering at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, he was determined to update the business - starting with USM’s own factory and headquarters. He commissioned architect Fritz Haller to design a new factory and office pavilion utilising a steel modular construction system that was flexible, so it could easily be adapted to various manufacturing processes and industry changes.

In 1962, Haller and Schaerer began to develop furniture to match the new buildings’ modularity and versatility. The furniture, like the buildings, was built not around individual pieces but a system of steel modules that could be adapted and reconfigured to meet the diverse needs of the company’s factory and offices. The cornerstone of the system was the elegant and ingenious ball joint, for which they sought a patent for in 1965.

VIDEO - USM Furniture History
1970 —
Becoming a global company

Throughout the last decades of the twentieth century, USM spread its wings throughout the world, opening subsidiaries in Buehl (Germany), Charnay-lès-Mâcon (France) and New York (USA). The first USM showroom opened in Hamburg (Germany) in 1998.

In 1989, USM launched the USM Kitos, a range of customisable and height-adjustable desks and tables. Soon after, the fourth generation of the family joined the company, in the form of current CEO Alexander Schaerer.

1988 —
The USM Haller system is declared a “work of applied art”.
2000 —
Paul Schärer, Jr.’s son Alexander Schärer, who had joined the firm in 1993, becomes Managing Director and Chairman of the Board of USM.
World-leaders in design and environmentalism

The USM Haller’s status as an icon of modern design was solidified in 2001 when it was included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York.

USM continues to develop its environmental leadership. In 2007, the company was awarded Greenguard accreditation, certifying that its products have low chemical and particle emissions and therefore help to reduce indoor air pollution. USM furnishings were the first European products to meet Greenguard’s rigorous standards.

USM also continues to spread its presence throughout the world. Showrooms have recently been opened in Paris (France), Tokyo (Japan), London (England), and Dusseldorf, Munich and Stuttgart (Germany). A new USA headquarters opened in New York in 2002 and a subsidiary was opened in Tokyo in 2008; a full UK subsidiary was opened in 2015.

In 2015, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the USM Haller modular furniture system’s creation.

In 2018, the USM Haller and USM Kitos M ranges are certified Cradle to Cradle®