Design Classics #40: Florence Knoll Sofa

Florence Knoll sofa from which sells authorised pieces

As a pioneer of the Knoll Planning Unit, Florence Knoll created what she modestly referred to as the “fill-in pieces that no one else wants to do.” She referred to her own line of lounge seating as the equivalent of “meat and potatoes,”  adding, “I needed the piece of furniture for a job and it wasn’t there, so I designed it.”

this version has been seen in the lobby of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, otherwise known as Mad Men

Like so many of her groundbreaking designs that set the industry’s gold standard, the 1954 Lounge collection is a design classic that has inspired countless imitations over the years.


Knoll says: “Considered to be the Ferrari of furniture, The Florence Knoll Sofa is the ultimate statement piece. It is the epitome of good taste and design; exuding style and power.

“Like the rest of Florence Knoll’s groundbreaking designs, her sofa was inspired by the Bauhaus approach and reflects the objective perfectionism of modern design in the early 1960s. A timeless classic, Florence Knoll’s elegantly crafted seating can be passed on for generations without looking dated.”

Don Draper from Mad Men on a Florence Knoll sofa (or something very similar)

Knoll was founded in 1938 by Hans G. Knoll, a German immigrant to the US. During WWII, Hans Knoll hired a young space planner and designer named Florence Schust. Florence had a degree from the Cranbrook Academy in Michigan as well as an architecture  degree from the Architectural Association in London. She had also studied with Mies van der Rohe, according to The Couch Potato Company, which has visited the factory and the Company’s headquarters and has been Knoll stockists  since 2004.

Suede Florence Knoll sofa set and Wegner Cowhorn chairs in the Behnken residence in Sylt, Germany via

Hans and Florence were married in 1946, and they formed Knoll Associates. “Florence played a critical role in the development and direction of the company and together Hans and Florence searched for and nurtured talented designers; they believed strongly that designers should be credited by name and paid royalties for their work, a tradition which continues at Knoll today,” says the site.

Indeed it was Florence who brought Harry Bertoia to Knoll telling him simply: “Do what you do”.

florence knoll sofa comfortable and classic

For  more Mad Men-inspired interiors click here

Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.