Classic Brands: Knoll

Classic Brands: Knoll

At the age of 24, Hans Knoll, the son of a German furniture designer, made the move from his home country to New York City with the dream of establishing himself by founding a furniture manufacturing company of his own. In 1938 he established the Hans Knoll Furniture Company. In doing so, he would not only create a company that is synonymous with modern classic designs, but also meet the love of his life, a woman driven by the same passion for furniture and innovation as himself.

In 1943, when Knoll met Florence Schust, an architect who had studied under Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Eliel Saarinen, the Hans Knoll Furniture Company was primarily in the business of producing office systems, including seating, files and storage, tables and desks, textiles, and accessories. Despite Knoll's good sense for business, the war had taken a toll on his company. Schust convinced Knoll that by expanding into interior design and working with architects, the company would flourish. The pair fell in love and by 1946 were married. To reflect their partnership, the company was now known as Knoll Associates.

Together, the Knolls remained focused on modern design while maintaining the core values of the Bauhaus: "design excellence, technological innovation and mass production." Sadly, Hans met an untimely demise at the age of 41 when he was involved in a car accident. After his death in 1955, Florence Knoll took over as head of the company and continued the tradition of working with architects to bring sophisticated design to the world of furniture.

Shown above, From Left to Right:

  • Womb Chair: Eero Saarinen's 1948 Womb Chair was made exclusively for Knoll. The chair was designed to provide emotional and well as physical support and comfort.

  • George Nakashima Tray: From wood craftsman and poet George Nakashima, this George Nakashima Tray, designed for Knoll in the 1940s, combines the timelessness of wood with sleek, modern lines. Its design and versatility (it has a special set of legs which allows it to stand on its own) is a great example of the work of the designer as well as the philosophy behind Knoll.

  • Saarinen Arm Chair: Designer Eero Saarinen was the first to construct a chair shell from a pliable material, in this case fiberglass, that would be responsive to body weight. In addition to his work in furniture, Eero, who was trained in sculpture and architecture, also designed many buildings. He is especially known for the Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C., and the TWA terminal at Kennedy International Airport in New York.

  • Platner Dining Table: After having worked with designers such as I.M. Pei and Eero Saarinen, in the 1960s, Warren Platner turned steel wire into a sculptural furniture in the form of the Platner Dining Table. Platner wanted to combine modern design with the past "for the kind of decorative, gentle, graceful design that appeared in a period style like Louis XV."

  • Bertoia Chair: An Italian sculptor, university lecturer and furniture designer, Harry Bertoia designed his famous bent metal chair in 1952. It has been in continuous production since. In Bertoia's own words, "If you look at these chairs, they are mainly made of air, like sculpture. Space passes right through them."

  • Wassily Chair: Designed by Marcel Breuer, the Model B3 chair was given the nickname "Wassily" decades after it went into production as a nod to one of its first fans: painter Wassily Kandinsky. The bent metal chair, inspired by the frame of a bicycle, has has been produced by Knoll since the company gained rights to the design in 1968.

(Images: From Knoll Studio. 1. Womb Chair 2. George Nakashima Tray 3. Saarinen Arm Chair 4. Platner Dining Table 5. Bertoia Chair 6. Wassily Chair)

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