THE SUNDAY CLASSICS: FLORENCE KNOLL
This week an incredibly inspiring and talented women Florence Knoll.
Born Florence Schust, the American architect and furniture designer is still alive and kicking at 100 years old. Florence, or "Shu" as she is known to some, may be well known for her simple, stylish and timeless furniture but this is not what she wants or ever wanted. Florence Knoll designed and crafted furniture that has inspired those who are following her but she never wanted her furniture to be seen as standalone pieces or for what she was. Knoll believed her furniture, as classic and elegant as it is in its own way, should be seen in context of holistic interior design and décor for its true beauty to be seen.
The story of Florence Knoll is something that should inspire any interior designer or furniture designer today. It was in the war years in 1943 that the then Florence Schust convinced furniture company owner, and soon to be husband, Hans Knoll that she could find business success, even in the very tough times, by working with architects. Her tenacity, flair and passion for not just interior design but architecture provided to be the winning recipe and the rest, as they say, is history.
Hans Knoll was killed in a car accident in 1955 but this did not stop Florence from doing what she loved most. It was here clear and rational thinking and humanise modernism ideas that saw Florence Knoll create some of the most innovative and highly fashionable designs for furniture and interior design that made her, and her furniture, as iconic as it is. Replacing the heavy mahogany and oak desks for old with lighter, steel and glass framed furniture in offices became a trademark and a design that forward thinking, minimalists thrive on today.
Heavily influenced by the Bauhaus School and modern, it was modern in 1940 and still is today, steel tube furniture of Marcel Breuer, a Florence Knoll piece of furniture is easily identifiable as is furniture inspired by her design. Couches, tables, desks and multitude of simple, elegant designs all carried what became her signature built to Miles van der Rohe’s exceptional standards even today.
There is little 1940’s or 1950’s in Florence Knoll designs, the simplicity, fabrics, materials and clean lines are timeless. Yes, colours change, but a 1950’s Florence Knoll couch is not far different from a 2017 Florence Knoll couch. With sleekness and precise geometry, any room finds life with a Florence Knoll piece. It is not, as Florence wanted, though, its the piece itself that give creates the life but how the piece, or pieces, pulls the design of the room together. Yet, with this in mind, a truly minimalist design, with nothing but a simple couch or table in a room pulls the nothingness together to create something.
If someone had asked Florence Knoll if her designs would still be classics today she may have had some doubt, she knew and knows how tastes change. However, in her centennial year her furniture, her designs and her imagination is still as much in vogue today as it was when she created her first ever piece of furniture.