Florence Knoll Bassett


Modern Furniture Designer
Florence Knoll Bassett

A pioneer of modern furniture design, Florence Schust was born in 1917 in Saginaw, Michigan. Florence studied at the Kingswood School on the campus of the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and in the 1930s, She became a protégée of Eero Saarinen while studying architecture at Cranbrook, the Architectural Association in London and the Armour Institute.

 

 

Florence Knoll Bench

Florence worked with other leading architects and designers, including Walter Gropius (founder of the Bauhaus movement), Marcel Breuer and Wallace K. Harrison.

In 1943, Florence began working for Hans Knoll Furniture in the company’s New York City-based office on Madison Avenue and was soon business and design partner for Hans Knoll. Florence was instrumental in the establishment of the Knoll Planning Unit, which works closely with clients to indentify their workspace needs to develop furnishing solutions to meet those needs. At the time, this model was forward-thinking and advanced for the existing design practices. Today, it is the model used by corporate designers. It was from this model that Florence coined Knoll’s motto: “Good design is good business.”

 

Florence Knoll Coffee & End Tables

In 1946, the young and talented Florence Schust married Hans Knoll and the two established Knoll Associates, Inc. In the same year, Knoll was commissioned to do the interiors of the Rockefeller family offices in Rockefeller Plaza. This would become the first of many projects for the Rockefellers.

In 1951, Florence Knoll designed the Madison Avenue Knoll showroom. Other Knoll showrooms designed by Florence were opened in Chicago in 1953 followed by Milan and San Francisco in 1956.

Florence Knoll revolutionized interior space planning. Her belief in “total design” — architecture, manufacturing, interior design, textiles, graphics, advertising and presentation — as well as her application of these principles was radically different than the standard practice in the 1950s. These practices have grown to be widely accepted practices today.

Florence Knoll Credenza

Other works on Florence Knoll’s résumé include designing the executive offices for CBS in 1954 and several other projects in the late 1950’s and early 1960s following her husband’s untimely death in an automobile accident in 1955. Three years later, Florence Knoll married Harry Hood Bassett, who was a banker. In 1960, she retired as President of Knoll to become Director of Design.  She fully resigned from Knoll in 1965.

 

Florence Knoll Lounge Seating

Florence Knoll Bassett has received many awards and accolades during her career including the American Institute of Architects’ Industrial Design Gold Medal, the American Society of Interior Designers’ Total Design Award and the National Medal of Arts, awarded by President George W. Bush.

Florence Knoll Bassett was the inspiration and driving force of Knoll design practices that serve as the foundation of Knoll’s mission and core design values today.