Design 101: The Best of Florence Knoll

published Apr 6, 2017
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(Image credit: Lindsey Kay Averill)

There are just some designers that you need to know to get a better understanding of the field, especially those that have maintained relevance into the modern era. While Knoll as a firm is known for producing the works of classic designers like Marcel Breuer, Harry Bertoia and their modern counterparts, Florence Knoll had a design style distinctly her own.

Born in Michigan in 1917, Florence Schust demonstrated the power of overcoming unfortunate beginnings: despite being orphaned at 12, she followed her interest in architecture all the way to the Cranbrook Academy of Art. While there studying under Eliel Saarinen, the two became so close that she eventually met his son, noted designer Eero Saarinen. This definitely speaks to the power of strategic networking, since it was connections like these that led to even more time studying under influential designers of the era.

She met Hans Knoll in 1941, and became an integral part of the management and direction of his company. Her background in architecture proved hugely beneficial when she suggested expanding the furniture company into the interior design world by working with architects. This (among other successes) led to Florence becoming a full partner in the late 1940’s. And when Hans died, she took over (and thrived as) head of the company.

While she reportedly didn’t think much of her work compared to the products of her fellow designers, Florence’s modern aesthetic was celebrated nonetheless. Each piece is sleek and clean, finding the right balance between form (beautiful chrome legs) and function (plush and comfortable seating). While it might be simple to follow Florence’s lead and write the designs off as “simple,” there’s something to be said about conquering the less is more aesthetic so successfully.

But like with any other beloved furniture brand, you’re going to be dealing with a lot of knockoffs and cheap imitators. Things like quality constructed corners and Knoll labels are just some of the signs of the real deal, so be sure to do a little research before you buy.

Apartment Therapy Marketplace is lucky to have a ton of beautiful Knoll furniture in general, but these listings represent the some of the best work of Florence herself. Vintage furniture can have a higher price tag, especially when you’re dealing with well-known designers. Florence Knoll’s work is no exception, but isn’t it well worth it to invest in something that’s stayed relevant for over 60 years?