Born in Paris in 1891, René Herbst studied architecture in London and Frankfurt from 1908. After finishing his studies, René Herbst traveled extensively in Russia and Italy but by 1919 René Herbst was again in Paris, where he started working as a furniture designer and interior decorator. He founded Établissements René Herbst to produce the pieces he designed.
In 1925 René Herbst designed several exhibition stalls for the Paris "Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes". In 1927 René Herbst designed the revolutionary and functional "Chaise Sandows" seat furniture. The frames were nickel-plated tubular steel, the seat and back was made of rubber strips stretched taut and fastened to the frame by hooks at the end. René Herbst first showed his "Chaise Sandows" at the 1929 Salon d'Automne, where Le Corbusier also presented furniture with tubular steel frames.
In 1930 René Herbst joined Robert Mallet-Stevens, Francis Jourdain, and others in founding the Union des Artistes Modernes (UAM); a large group of artists and designers committed to Modernism joined the co-founders. The UAM was founded as a countermovement to Art déco, which the UAM artists repudiated because they found ot overloaded with decoration and too ornamental.
In 1945 René Herbst was elected chairman of the UAM gewählt. The UAM mounted exhibitions in Paris under the heading of "Les Formes Utiles" (Utilitarian Forms).