Florence Knoll humbly referred to her furniture designs as "meat and potatoes" - filler between the standout pieces of Bertoia, Miles, and Saarinen. 65 years later her furniture is anything but filler.
Florence Knoll humbly referred to her furniture designs as “meat and potatoes” — filler between the standout pieces of Bertoia, Mies, and Saarinen. 65 years later her furniture is anything but filler. Her attention to detail, eye for proportion, and command of the modern aesthetic resulted in some of the most celebrated furniture of the modern era.
Born to a baker, and orphaned at age 12, Florence Schust grew up in Saginaw, Michigan. Florence demonstrated an early interest in architecture and was enrolled at the Kingswood School for Girls, adjacent to the Cranbrook Academy of Art. While at Kingswood, Florence befriended Eilel Saarinen, whom she would later study under at Cranbrook. With recommendations from Eliel Saarinen and Alvar Aalto, Florence Schust studied under some of the greatest twentieth century architects, including Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
Florence Arrives to Knoll
In 1941 Florence met Hans Knoll who was establishing a furniture company. With Florence’s design skills and Hans’ business acumen and salesmanship, the pair, who married in 1946, grew the nascent company into an international arbiter of style and design. In creating the revolutionary Knoll Planning Unit, Florence Knoll defined the standard for the modern corporate interiors of post-war America. Drawing on her background in architecture, she introduced modern notions of efficiency, space planning, and comprehensive design to office planning.
After the tragic death of Hans Knoll in 1955, Florence Knoll led the company as president through uncertain times. In 1960 she resigned the presidency to focus on directing design and development. After pioneering an industry and defining the landscape and aesthetic of the corporate office, Florence Knoll retired from the company in 1965. Her contributions to Knoll, and to the rise of modernism in America, are immeasurable.
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