Brand Focus: Knoll

Since the 1860s, the Knoll family has built a reputation for quality through furniture. When the American company Knoll was founded in the early 20th century, German art movements of the time were essential to its philosophy. Let’s explore the company’s history and popular pieces.

Basis in art history

The foundation of Knoll is within two different worlds, those of art and of family business. The design principles that brought the company to an international renown status reach back to the beginning of the 20th century.

Some of the artistic and cultural inspiration for Knoll is found in the Deutscher Werkbund, formed in 1907 and also known as the German Association of Craftsmen. This professional group was important in building a community of craftspeople and artisans dedicated to delivering strong design and durability through mass production. Essentially the goal of the group was to set standards for architects, artisans, and other creatives working within industry.

The Bauhaus School was another important cultural project that came soon after the Deutscher Werkbund. That institution was organized by Walter Gropius, a German architect. “Its core objective was a radical concept: to reimagine the material world to reflect the unity of all the arts,” explains the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Gropius developed a craft-based curriculum that would turn out artisans and designers capable of creating useful and beautiful objects appropriate to this new system of living.”

These two organizations were both important inspirations for the Knoll company that drove its central mission of beauty and quality within manufacturing.

A family reputation for quality furniture

The Knoll family had been making furniture since all the way back in 1865. Under Wilhelm Knoll’s original direction, the family business started becoming known as synonymous with furniture quality 150 years ago. The business passed from Wilhelm to his son Walter Knoll – but Hans G. Knoll, Walter’s second son, decided to move to the United States and start his own company.

Hans Knoll moved to New York City in 1938 with a strong knowledge of furniture making, based on learning from his own father. Three years after his arrival in the United States (1941), Hans joined with Jen Risom to create the Hans Knoll Furniture Company – the company that would eventually become Knoll.

The Knoll family doesn’t just have a long history of credibility; the company’s timeline is also complete with a love story. Hans Knoll was approached by architect Florence Schust, who convinced Knoll that she could help his business grow by branching out more into the worlds of interior design and architecture. That new focus was immensely successful, and so was the couple’s romantic connection: they married in 1946.

Popular pieces from then & now

To understand the power of Knoll’s pieces, it again helps to look back at the Bauhaus. This school was founded “as an institution dedicated to uniting the fields of art, design and industry in order to elevate the quality of mass production and advance social order in post-war Germany,” notes Knoll. In other words, the pieces Knoll produces are an attempt to really fuse artistry with mass production. Here are a few popular pieces from the early days and today:

  • Wassily chair – This chair, designed by Marcel Breuer in 1925, was based off the design of bicycles and incorporated a strategy used by plumbers at the time.
  • Cesca chair – Continuing to work with tubular steel, Breuer came up with the Cesca chair in 1928. It became an icon of furniture modernism.
  • Krusin guest seating – These chairs, introduced in 2011, take the wooden side chair and give it an industrial feel.
  • Remix – This 2015 line brings together upholstery with a technology called Flex Net Matrix to enhance your comfort throughout the day.

Your source for Knoll & design expertise

Are you in need of furniture, space planning, or interior design? At Beaux-Arts Group, we are the exclusive Knoll dealer for west, southwest and central Florida. What’s more, like Knoll, our approach is holistic. Created by architects, our integrated approach to furnishings creates a productive synergy between the building and the areas within. Contact a design specialist.