Florence Knoll Bassett 1917-2019.

Florence Knoll at the Knoll Office in 1946. Photo by Margaret Bourke-White, Courtesy of Knoll.

Today we fondly remember and celebrate Florence Knoll Bassett, who died on January 25 at the age of 101.

One of the most innovative architects and designers of our time, Florence had a profound influence on more than 50 years of interiors, especially the modern office. An early protégée of Eero Saarinen, whom she met while studying at the Kingswood School on the campus of the Cranbrook Academy of Art, Florence went on to study architecture at Cranbrook. From there, she earned degrees at the Architectural Association in London and the Armour Institute (Illinois Institute of Technology) in Chicago. While in Chicago, Florence studied with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, for what she called “a very valuable year.” She worked briefly in Boston for Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer, and while working in New York for Wallace K. Harrison, she met Hans Knoll, who asked her to design an office for former Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson. Additional jobs with Hans Knoll followed, and in 1946, Florence and Hans married and became the driving forces behind Knoll Associates, Inc.

Florence Knoll with her dog Cartree. “He enchanted everyone,” she said. “Especially Herbert Matter, who used him in our catalogues, brochures and advertisements. He also appeared in Vogue and The New Yorker.” Photo courtesy of Knoll.

Florence was famous for her philosophy of “total design,” and as the director of the Knoll Planning Unit, she revolutionized interior space planning. Her approach of embracing everything about a space – architecture, interior design, graphics, textiles and manufacturing – was not the standard practice in space planning, but it caught on and continues to be the standard today. Florence was also a furniture designer, as well as a great eye for talent. It was under her leadership that many of the modern masters created collections for Knoll. These legacies include Eero Saarinen’s Tulip™ chairs and pedestal tables and Harry Bertoia’s wire furniture.

Herbert Matter, Hans Knoll, Florence Knoll and Harry Bertoia, in 1952. Photo courtesy of Knoll.

In 2002, she was accorded the National Endowment for the Arts’ prestigious National Medal of Arts.

Related links

New York Times: Florence Knoll Bassett, 101, Designer of the Modern American Office, Dies
Washington Post: Florence Knoll Bassett, Designer Who Transformed Corporate Offices, Dies at 101
Knoll: Celebrating 100 Years of Florence Knoll Bassett