Knoll, Florence Schust (1917—)

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Knoll, Florence Schust (1917—)

American furniture and interior designer. Name variations: Florence Knoll Basset. Born Florence Schust in Saginaw, Michigan, on May 24, 1917; daughter of Frederick and M.H. (Haistings) Schust; trained at Cranbrook Academy; studied architecture at the Architectural Association in London; Illinois Institute of Technology,B.A., 1941; married Hans G. Knoll (a producer and distributor of modern furniture and founder of Knoll International), on July 1, 1946 (died October 1955); married Harry Hood Basset, on June 22, 1958.

One of America's leading designers of furniture and interiors, Florence Knoll trained at Michigan's Cranbrook Academy under Eliel and Eero Saarinen, and studied architecture in London and at the Illinois Institute of Technology under Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. In 1943, after working for both Marcel Breuer and Walter Gropius, she was employed by Knoll International in New York, a firm established by Hans Knoll in 1937 which was becoming a leading producer and distributor of modern furniture. In addition to adding to the product line with her own designs, Florence was put in charge of the Planning Unit, an interior design service that the firm offered to its furniture customers. The Unit quickly became a major asset to the firm, as many leading architects found that it offered interior design compatible with their work. Florence married Hans Knoll in 1946 and, after his death in 1955, took over as owner and chief designer of Knoll International. Under her management, the firm continued to prosper and grow, due in large part to the relationships she had already established with many noted architects of the time. Knoll International manufactured many classic furniture lines, including designs by Harry Bertola, Marcel Breuer, Ludwig Miles van der Rohe, and Eero Saarinen, whose sleek pedestal-based armchair became extremely popular. The firm was sold in 1959, and Knoll retired in 1965. Around that time, she also married Harry Hood Basset and went by the name Florence Knoll Basset.


Candee, Marjorie Dent, ed. Current Biography. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1955.