Eero Saarinen, Ludwig Mies vander Rohe…This are the common names we use to hear when we talk about Mid Century Modern, or Modernism. Certainly, those are among the greater names, but every movement has powerful forces, too, that make a great role pushing , creating and giving shape to that movement, and that is the case of Florence Knoll, a powerful force that was determinant for Mid Century Modern being like we all know today.
Florence Schust was born in Saginaw, Michigan in 1917, daughter of a baker. But she was orphan at 12, and had to study in a school for girls in her native Michigan, fortunately for her, she could made into the Kingswood School for Girls, a recently founded school, designed by a very prominent architect, Eliel Saarinen.
Always showing a great talent for arts, Eliel Saarinen took notice of it, and with time, the talented girl became part of the family circle of the Saarinen’s family. She developed a lifetime friendship with Eero, the son of Eliel. Eero Saarinen later would become one of the greatest American architects, and his association with Florence would create many of the classic elements of architecture and interior design on Mid Century Modern style.
Florence could enlist after in the Cranbrook Academy of Arts, directed by Eliel, and there she had a very intense formation in company of many students and teachers that will define the scene of architecture in America for the years to come: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Harry Bertoia, Alvar Alto, or Walter Gropius. She ended her core studies after returning from London due to the outbreak of the WWII, in the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago.
Looking for work in the Knew York of 1941, Florence meet a definitive person in her life: Hans Knoll. With a very stablished family business of furniture, Hans was looking to introduce in America the novelties of European architects and designers under the modernism movement. The chemistry and complement between the couple couldn’t be better, and after several years of work collaboration and engagement, they got married in 1946.
Since there, the name of Florence, now Florence Knoll, became inextricably attached to the destiny of the company. Florence developed her skills and vision to consolidate one of the most powerful forces in Architecture and Interior Design in America, even more when her husband died tragically in a car accident in 1955. Since then she remained as the only owner of the company.
A groundbreaking legacy
The work of Florence in Knoll was enormous: She managed the company, had her own line of design, made structural changes that are now the standard for most of the Interior Design companies, and demanded many of the classical pieces that now are all over the world of décor and design: The Tulip Chair and Table, the Womb Chair, the Barcelona Chair and the Barcelona Collection, among many others. Florence Schust Knoll had always a exceptional talent to connect with talent and create wonders in the world of architecture and Interior Design.