Remembering The Design Pioneer: Florence Knoll

by Sloane Middleton

Florence Knoll Bassett, the polymath designer and architect who transformed corporate interiors in America, passed away in late January of 2019 at the age of 101. As partner of Knoll Associates, Florence built a company that revolutionized the landscape of modern furniture design.

Photo by Ray Fisher, The LIFE Images Collection.

Noted in a 1964 New York Times profile - Florence Knoll was "the single most powerful figure in the field of mod­ern design.” Today in 2019, this statement rings true as her designs are consistently found in offices, homes, and museums around the world. 

Her peers and collaborators included the greats of modern design, such as her family friends Eliel, Loja and Eero Saarinen, classmates Charles and Ray Eames, teacher Mies van der Rohe, and colleagues Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer. As president of Knoll Associates, Florence enabled the designs of these Modernist masters accessible to all, bringing iconic furniture (like The Barcelona Chair by Meis van der Rohe and the Tulip Chair by Eero Saarinen) into mass production. When the design of her peers didn't meet a specific need, Florence designed her own - which amassed to over half of the furniture offered by Knoll Associates.

Table by Florence Knoll & chairs by Eero Saarinen. Courtesy of Knoll, Inc.

Florence Knoll Bassett's influence and creativity expanded the world's view of furniture design. TORTUGA is a women-run design company, and we honor and thank Florence Knoll Basset for her work as a one of the greatest entrepreneurs and minds of design history. 

Knoll Showroom in San Francisco, California, 1954. Courtesy of Knoll, Inc.