With the sad news last week that female design giant, Florence Knoll Basset passed away at the age of 101, it seems a fitting opportunity to celebrate her incredibly influential work. She played a huge part in shaping the modern office as we know it today, with her streamlined furniture and uncluttered Modernist designs that epitomised the genre’s combination of art and functionality.
She led the design side of Knoll Associates, the company her and her husband were partners in, creating open-plan spaces with clean, functional furniture, much of which is still iconic today. She also commissioned leading designers of the day to create pieces for the company.
Her importance is evident by the fact that her designs are still for sale, and greatly sought after. She was also given numerous prestigious awards for her work, including becoming the first woman to receive the Gold Medal for Industrial Design from the American Institute of Architects in 1961. Here is some of the most iconic work that she designed and commissioned.
Designed in 1954, this armchair still feels modern with its geometric shape and measured proportions, and can be seen in both homes and offices around the world. It’s still sold by Knoll as part of a collection of Florence’s work.
Oval High Table
Dating from 1961, Florence said that this design was a ‘fill-in piece’: “I needed the piece for a job and it wasn’t there, so I designed it.” Its curved shape was a departure from the mostly rectangular tables that populated offices at the time, and created a more convivial atmosphere.
Bertoia Side Chair
One of the most iconic pieces of mid-century design, this chair was the product of Florence’s idea to give the renowned sculptor Harry Bertoia free reign, working in a studio barn for two years, to see what he could produce.
Credenza 4 Position
This sideboard is typical of Florence’s streamlined, functional designs, sleek enough to look at home in an office or a stylish dining room.
Hairpin Stacking Table
Originally called the Model 75 stacking stool, this was one of Florence’s earlier creations, introduced in 1948. It was an evolution of earlier designs she had made using steel rods while she studied at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, and was hugely popular.
Featured image: a collection of Florence Knoll’s furniture designs