Design visionaries Hans and Florence Knoll left a lasting imprint in the furniture design arena and paved the way for the thriving success of their longtime namesake furniture company.
- Written byJennie Nunn
Images courtesy of Knoll Furniture Company
For many decades since the inception of the Hans G. Knoll Furniture Company in 1938 in New York, Knoll (knoll.com) has remained a mainstay in modern furniture and design. The publicly-held company created by Hans and his wife, Florence, has now amassed 15 showrooms throughout the country and internationally, employing 3,800 people and carrying items in categories such as office, residential and commercial textiles (KnollTextiles) and even totes.
“Florence Knoll used to say, ‘Good design is good business,’” says Patty Niedermeyer, a sales representative for KnollStudio who has worked for the company in Los Angeles for 31 years. “Knoll has always been a pioneer of modern furniture design. We work with new, exciting designers who make an impact internationally. Our current collaborations include David Adjaye, Jonathan Olivares, Marc Krusin and most recent, David Rockwell.”
A Los Angeles–based designer, Jonathan created the Olivares Aluminum Chair for Knoll’s outdoor collection in 2012. “It’s really meant as a collective in numbers around a table,” he says. The chair, which was partly inspired by nylon skateboard rails, is available in eight hues spanning plum, orange and white.
Throughout history, a long list of notable names such as Harry Bertoia, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Eero Saarinen, Richard Schultz, Warren Planter, Jens Risom and Frank Gehry have become part of the everyday modern design vernacular at Knoll. “Many of our earlier designed pieces are finding new popularity, and we often reintroduce archival items,” says Patty. “The most iconic pieces for Knoll are the Mie, Saarinen and Bertoia collections. I think that the sleek designs and use of material were groundbreaking at the time they were introduced.”
Iconic pieces in Southern California include Bertoia’s beloved wire Side Chair, Diamond Chair and Barstool (designed in 1952), now available in a variety of customizable finishes and upholstery options. (The Diamond Chair has just launched in two-tone finishes and 18k gold plate)
“I think that Bertoia is probably one of the most interesting pieces for me … the majority of Harry’s pieces have the opportunity to really move between interior and exterior environments, either in their permanency or in their transition,” says Benjamin Pardo, design director at Knoll.
He continues: “I think those pieces for me are really the embodiment of the California lifestyle and a freedom. Those chairs are activated by light, most specifically the sun and shadow. So the chairs exist in an ethereal wire form, but they take on a very interesting life during the day in terms of the long and the shortness of the shadow based on the time of year. I think that California is a very, very special place for that.”
Next year Knoll will debut a 14,000-square-foot showroom in Downtown Los Angeles designed by New York–based firm Architecture Research Office, which has designed a number of spaces for the company.
“Florence Knoll spent a lot of time in terms of … how spaces in our individual showrooms were put together early on—for the people to be able to understand what the objects were for and how they were used,” adds Benjamin. “As we do these spaces, the vernacular of the location is very much important to what is taking place—not just what we make but the way in which we show stuff and what the overall interior spaces are. I think Southern California is an influencer of lots of other places internationally, and it is part and parcel to what we do.”