The Unique Aesthetics of Florence Knoll

The Unique Aesthetics of Florence Knoll

By Alex Mikayelyan January 14, 2022

When working with interior design, it’s important to know some of the most notable faces in the industry, both past and present. The 20th century was rich with visionaries from all over the world who played their part in creating unique works of architecture and interior design. It was a time of diverse ideas and mindsets, as many experimented with their interiors and the various elements that existed in their homes.

Unfortunately, this diversity had not yet properly extended to the people that worked in the traditional architecture and interior design industry, crafts that were largely dominated by men at the time. Hence, it is even more important to pay tribute to the faces that stood out, one of which is that of Florence Knoll. Her unique designs were recognized back in the 20th century and to this day they have a major influence on our interiors.

Learning more about Florence Knoll and her work is not only beneficial to homeowners looking to hone in on their interior design skills but to also learn about some of the most influential individuals in the industry. Many will find a lot of useful information from Knoll’s aesthetic and approach to interior design. 

Who Is Florence Knoll

The Life and Work of Florence Knoll

The Life and Work of Florence Knoll

Growing up in Saginaw, Michigan was not easy for 12-year-old Florence Knoll, who was born in 1917, as she was growing up in an orphanage. Born Florence Schust, her father was a baker who passed away when she was 5, and her mother at 12, thus leaving Knoll orphaned. Being orphaned at such a young age, however, did not stop Knoll from growing up with a keen interest in architecture. This interest was built upon after she was enrolled at the Kingswood School for Girls.

In Kingswood, Knoll became friends with a Finnish-American architect by the name of Eliel Saarinen, who came from the famous Saarinen family. Her close relationship with the Saarinen family as well as her studies at the Cranbrook Academy of Art created the basis of her career as an architect and designer. Thanks to her love for the craft, her unique set of skills, as well as the connections she made at Cranbrook, Knoll continued her education in Cambridge, studying under several of the biggest geniuses in architecture and design at the time.

She later moved to New York in 1941, where she met an already established furniture company owner, Hanz Knoll. His great skills as a salesperson and her keen eye for design made them a powerful duo, especially after their marriage. In 1946, Florence created the Knoll Planning Unit, a branch of the H.G. Knoll Associates, which was owned by her husband. This planning unit worked on countless design projects with some of the biggest companies in America. Thanks to the work of the Knoll Planning Unit, to this day, we have some of the most unique Mid-Century Modern designs from the 20th century that are very unique and carry with them an old-school vibe that is hard to replicate. 


The Geometry of Mid-Century Modern Design

The Geometry of Mid-Century Modern Design

Something you’ll find common in many Mid-Century Modern interiors is a lot of emphasis on geometry. While geometry is one of the most important elements of interior design in just about any style or aesthetic out there, it is especially prevalent in mid-century modern interiors. The geometry you’ll find in mid-century modern interiors usually involves straight lines with unique shapes. Some of the furniture may be obtuse in certain ways, such as sofas with outward-facing armrests.

The geometry also comes through the decor, as the paintings and artwork are usually geometric to fit the other elements in the room. The decor is usually eclectic in nature, making use of a variety of painting techniques, sculptures, and other designs. This sense of geometry can quite easily be seen in many elements of Florence knoll furniture and decor. 

Total Design

Understanding the Rationale Behind Knoll’s Designs

Understanding the Rationale Behind Knoll’s Designs

Florence Knoll was one of the first designers to follow the Total Design movement. A very layman description of the Total Design movement is that each and every aspect of an interior serves a larger purpose, creating a wholesome atmosphere in a particular space. Every piece of furniture and every bit of decor has its place, and it all echoes some unanimous design philosophy.

You’ll notice in Knoll’s interiors that, as with most mid-century modern designs, there is a lot of detail. From the varying colors to wall decor and furniture, there is a lot to take in when it comes to this style of interior design. And all of it serves the purpose of bringing everything together to create a wholesome interior that, despite seeming chaotic at first, comes together and creates a sleek interior. By simply looking at various works of Knoll architecture and interior design, you will see the Total Design movement in action.

Famous Florence Knoll Designs

While Florence Knoll and her team of professionals worked on countless designs with a myriad of companies, there are some works that are more recognizable all across the world. Do keep in mind that this is only a small snippet of her work, as Knoll has plenty more under her belt. Her designs are still widely sold and the Knoll company is very much active to this very day. 

The Knoll Sofa

The Unique Style of Knoll Furniture

The Unique Style of Knoll Furniture

If there is anything you’ve seen that is an easily recognizable piece of Mid-Century Modern design, it has to be the Florence Knoll relaxed sofa. Designed in the mid-20th century, the Knoll sofa oozes the mid-century modern aesthetic of the time. The Knoll sofa comes in a variety of vibrant colors. What is quite common among all models of the Knoll sofa is their geometry.

The Florence Knoll sofa frame itself is usually rectangular, including the armrests and the cushions. This sharp and symmetrical geography is quite indicative of the mid-century modern design. Another element of the time is the polished metal frame of the Knoll couch. The Florence Knoll style sofa can still be purchased from the Knoll company itself, which still tout it as one of their most prized designs. 

Glass Coffee Table

Keeping details and ornamentation at an absolute minimum, the Knoll coffee table is another great example of Knoll’s designs. It emphasizes more on geometry and form, as opposed to any type of decorative detail. The polished metal frame goes well with many contemporary textures.

The glass and bright chrome metal frame of the table make it very reflective and create a brighter interior. Because natural light can go through the transparent glass, this means the interior, in general, is much brighter, especially as it gets reflected from the polished metal frame. 

Black Credenza

While mid-century modern interiors tend to be quite colorful — making use of a variety of hues and shades — the Knoll black credenza may be one of the rarer cases where a darker piece of furniture works in these kinds of interiors. Keeping the motif of geometry and straight lines, the black credenza is a wonderful addition to Mid-Century Modern interiors and is a very chic dark accent.

The credenza is one of Florence Knoll’s classical works dating back to 1954, as with the previous two pieces of furniture. It has aged wonderfully over the past seven decades as it can still be successfully used in contemporary interiors, thanks to its minimal ornamentation and sleek surfaces.


Written by
Alex Mikayelyan

Written by Alex Mikayelyan