furnishing manufacturer (1938)
Knoll is a furniture production company, founded in New York in 1938 by Hans G. Knoll, a German furniture company that moved to the United States. The production creates chairs, tables, sofas, armchairs, fabrics, and a wide range of accessories. The original name was "The Hans G. Knoll Furniture Company".
Hans Knoll, known for his optimism and ambition, hangs a sign at his one-room office that read "Factory No. 1". His intention is to import furniture from Europe but, as the war progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to make safe shipments so, in parallel, Hans begins to search the domestic market for both pieces to add to his line and designers to whom may commission original pieces.
The company's birth is accompanied by the birth of the Bauhaus. Hans Knoll, born in Stuttgart in 1914, is the second son of Walter Knoll, a successful second-generation furniture manufacturer. His grandfather, Wilhelm Knoll, founded the family business in 1865 and has a reputation for high quality furniture. Walter and his brother, William II, have chosen to redirect the activity and create modern furniture on the wave of the birth of the Bauhaus movement.
In 1941 Hans Knoll meets Florence Schust who, after completing his studies in Chicago, works in a design studio in New York. Hans, recognizing his ambition, takes on Florence to develop internal projects for the company.
The first Knoll catalog was published in 1942. It mainly includes pieces designed specifically for Knoll by Jens Risom, products made of scrap wood and nylon weaving scraps from parachute factories, given the restrictions imposed on materials imposed by the war. . In 1943 Jens Risom must enlist and then leaves the company so Hans engages Florence full time to help in interior design.
In 1943, Florence convinced Hans to extend to the world of interior design and work with architects, in order to bring his company into the business world. In 1946, Florence and Hans Knoll married and also became business partners: together they founded Knoll Associates.
Among the names of the designers who contributed to the formation of the company fame with their collaborations are Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Harry Bertoia, Florence Knoll (Florence Schust), Frank Gehry, Maya Lin, Eero Saarinen, Charles Eames, Isamu Noguchi, whose works are icons of 20th century design.
In 1947 Knoll established a textile department led by Arundell Clarke. No longer limited by wartime restrictions, fabrics become an integral part of the Knoll company and a showroom entirely dedicated to textiles is opened on East 65th Street in New York.
In 1951 Knoll founded some branches in Germany and France, and in 1955 the furniture that Mies van der Rohe had designed before the war was included in the production programs. In the following years the company was able to make use of the collaboration of prestigious designers: Harry Bertoia and following the acquisition of the Italian company Gavina, Vico Magistretti, Tobia Scarpa and others.
In 2011, Knoll received the National Design Award for the corporate and institutional success of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.