Florence Knoll Sofa
Florence Knoll Sofa
With its clean lines and uncompromising geometric shape, the Florence Knoll Sofa is a timeless design that has inspired thousands of imitations since its launch in 1954, and continues to be manufactured today. The simple, boxy three-seater sofa with exposed metal frame raised on tubular steel legs is softened with (often colourful) button-backed upholstery. It demonstrates Knoll’s pragmatic architectural-yet-humanistic approach to furniture design, which revolutionised the working office space and set the bar for the modern interiors of post-war America.
Born Florence Schust in 1917, Knoll went on to study under some of the 20th Century’s greatest architects, including Marcel Breuer, Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. After meeting Hans Knoll, heir to a Stuttgart-based furniture company, the pair married in 1946 and set about bringing their European design aesthetic to the American market via Knoll Associates. The same year, the Knoll Planning Unit was launched, where Florence went on to set the template for the open-plan office we recognise today. Outdated heavy and antiquated styles were replaced with sleek, contemporary configurations and zoned areas to create a more efficient, spacious and comfortable working environment. The concept worked well in home’s too, with variations on the Sofa, such as the Settee and Lounge Chair, allowing for a multitude of configurations to suit domestic interiors.
It was this human-centred approach that saw her integrate considered design touches, such as oval conference tables, to better accommodate group discussions. She often approached furniture design with larger spaces in mind, creating pieces to fit into one of her planning schemes. She humbly referred to these as the ‘meat and potatoes’ filler designs in the Knoll catalogue. In 1961, Knoll’s talent and foresight were rewarded and she became the first woman to receive the Gold Medal for Industrial Design from the American Institute of Architects.