While the extent of her influence on twentieth-century furniture design and office planning is now a widely accepted truth, Florence Knoll Bassett would be the last one to admit it.
“ People ask me if I am a furniture designer ? I am not. I never really sat down and designed furniture. I designed the fill-in pieces that no one else was doing. I designed sofas because no one was designing sofas.” ………………… Florence Knoll
Often denying the status of decorator or designer in favor of simply being a holistic arbiter and executor of good taste, the young Florence Knoll took on a variety of projects in her years with the Knoll Planning Unit.
In the process, she made a great deal of furniture. And while her sofas, cabinets, and tables were always intended as supporting actors to the starring works of Eero Saarinen, Harry Bertoia, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe—she would refer to her own furniture as the “meat and potatoes” that had to be provided—they have since become icons in their own right.
Often denying the status of decorator or designer in favor of simply being an executor of good taste, the young Florence Knoll took on a variety of projects in her years with the Planning Unit, a division of Knoll that she founded in 1946
As Vincent Cafiero, an early member of the Planning Unit, recalled of their projects, “ the spaces suggest the furniture, and sometimes that furniture was not in our catalog.”
In the process, she designed a great deal of furniture that, while intended simply as “fill-ins” for commercial projects, have since become standalone icons of modern furniture design that suit workplaces and residences alike.
With her natural eye for design and her famous refusal to compromise on perfection, Florence Knoll devised solutions to office problems that had never been recognized or addressed before.
By 1950, over a third of the 63 products offered in the Knoll Associates price list had been designed by Florence Knoll.
Introducing new products inspired by the Florence Knoll archive
Introducing New Designs to the Florence Knoll Collection
Inspired by a century of the acclaimed designer Florence Knoll Bassett, who turns 100 this year, a range of new products will be added to the Florence Knoll Collection.
These additions include the Florence Knoll Relaxed Lounge Seating, Dining Tables, Mini Desk, and Hairpin™ Stacking Table.
Florence Knoll Relaxed Lounge
In celebration of the legacy of the Florence Knoll Lounge Collection, Knoll will present a new set of residential designs inspired by the seminal products.
The new Florence Knoll Relaxed furniture introduces a deeper, homier version of the classic collection that Florence Knoll had specified for commercial clients.
The Florence Knoll Relaxed Lounge Seating will introduce softer, deeper cousins to the classic Sofa, Settee, and Lounge Chair, their generous cushioning to meet the needs of comfort and calm in the modern home.
While they were initially conceived as fill-ins for executive offices and reception areas, the Lounge Collection began to seep into residential spaces in the decades that followed.
Florence Knoll preferred the challenges of larger institutional projects, but she worked on the designs of several private homes as well—including that of Princess Fatima of Iran and the prominent biophysicist Dr. Detlev Bronk.
With a roster of influential clients, the Florence Knoll Lounge Collection piqued the interest of the design-driven public and was soon established as a singular classic of mid-century modern design—one that favored the timelessness of rectilinear order over the tempting trends of curvilinear forms.
The structured solidity of the lounge designs was designed to complement the more sculptural offerings of the Knoll product line—and they still do so beautifully.
Popular for her refined aesthetic, Florence Knoll’s sofa designs quickly found favor in residential spaces
Her Lounge Collection, first introduced in 1954, testifies to this understated commitment to quality.
Designed to meet the changing needs of the modern office, the Florence Knoll Lounge Collection has become a classic
Poised on sleek metal frames, the Lounge Chair, Settee, Sofa all bear clear geometric profiles that celebrate the Bauhaus tenets of rational design, principles that Florence Knoll undoubtedly imbued from her mentor, Mies van der Rohe, during her studies at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Architectural in form, the rhythm and proportions of the collection echo those of the International Style that was at its zenith in the 1950s—structures that would inevitably be furnished and organized under the guidance of Florence Knoll herself.
Still, she always spoke of her products only as practical solutions to the spatial problems of the office, rather than as standalone poster children of modern design.
Florence Knoll viewed designs like her 1954 Settee as the ” meat and potatoes ” of the office.
When Vogue USA tracked her down in South Florida in 1998 and told her that her 1954 sofa was back in the spotlight again, Florence Knoll replied, “ Why shouldn’t it be? It’s good design.”
In the 1998 feature, Vogue praised the Florence Knoll Sofa and its transcendence from the confines of a “midtown-Manhattan bank president’s office with beige wall-to-wall carpeting and a slightly dusty philodendron” to “high-profile” realms like the Paris apartment of fashion designer Tom Ford: “The trim little tufted sofa with its polished-chrome base and elegant proportions serves as a welcome reminder that there was more to design in the fifties than boomerang-shaped coffee tables, kidney-shaped pools, and molded-fibreglass chairs perched on Erector Set legs.”
2017 Updated Florence Knoll Models
Florence Knoll Tables
When Florence started out with the Knoll Planning Unit, she quickly upended the conventions of postwar American offices, using a scaled-down translation of the lines, gestures and materials of modern architecture to reflect a fresh corporate ethos.
Among these designs were a series of End Tables that, in their slim frames, extended the aesthetic of modernism to every corner of a room
Further additions now introduced to the Florence Knoll line include a series of Dining Tables and a Mini Desk that will similarly echo the successful form and proportion of her past designs of Side and End Tables.
The new products, although designed for the home, encourage the same paring down of function, clear in their visual clarity and honest structural framework that Shu championed with her corporate commissions.
The Dining Tables and Mini Desk will be available in a range of marbles, while the Mini Desk will additionally be offered in glass, lending the pieces enough range to be adapted to the tone of any environment.
The world continues to celebrate the achievements of Florence Knoll in every area of design she touched.
The Florence Knoll Dining Tables brings Shu’s keen eye for modernist proportion to the tranquil enclosures of the private home.
Florence Knoll Hairpin Stacking Table
While less widely recognized than her classic lounge collection or parallel bar furniture, Florence Knoll’s early design for a wire base stool has become an equally legendary example of sleek, Bauhaus-inspired American furniture since its introduction in 1947.
In celebration of the 100th year of the legendary designer, Planning Unit founder, and former Knoll President, the design will be revived from the Knoll archive and reintroduced as the Florence Knoll Hairpin™ Stacking Table.
First prototyped in the early 1940s, the Model 75 stacking stool became an instantly popular addition to what was then still a small catalog of furnishings from Knoll Associates, with its ingeniously simple three-pronged wire base granting it its “hairpin” moniker.
True to the modest disposition of its maker, the stool ceded the spotlight to contemporaneous Knoll designs like Eero Saarinen’s Womb Chair and Jens Risom’s 650 Line Lounge Chair.
Still, the popularity of the inexpensive stool, a piece of sculpture in its own right, was hard to deny.
This was confirmed in its very first year on the market, when it received an honorable mention in the International Design Competition sponsored by the American Institute of Decorators
While Florence Knoll based the compact design on earlier studies using steel rods during her time at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, other reports cite the iconic 1933 wooden stacking stool designed by Finnish modernist Alvar Aalto as an equal influence.
Whatever the stimulus, the final result was an exquisite composition of birch and enameled metal, its proportions calibrated by Florence Knoll’s exacting eye, remaining in production until 1966 and was only briefly reproduced in 1981 for the Innovative Furniture in America exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York.
By the bed, in the library, next to the pool, or in the nursery, the Hairpin Stacking Table demonstrates good design not simply in the succinctness of its form, but the sheer versatility of its uses.
As Florence Knoll always intended, the Stacking Table does not just hold its own as a timeless piece of design—it proves its true value in its ability to round out the composition of any inhabited space
The Hairpin stackable table is constructed of a painted steel base and a laminate top and can stack up to five high.
This timeless design is available with either a black or white top and a range of powder coat paint finish leg colors: black, white, blue, red, yellow and green.
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Knoll is the founding sponsor of the World Monuments Fund Modernism at Risk program
It’s interesting that you’ve mentioned how Alvar Aalto’s work on the 1933 wooden stacking tool has an influence in Florence Knoll’s designs. That’s amusing since the design on Florence is quite a shout out to the older ages too. As of the moment, my wife and I are looking for designs based on Florence’s works since we are planning to make her furniture the main centerpiece of our new home. Thanks for the entertaining read about the history of Florence Knoll!