We’re all aware of the January sales when you can pick up a sofa for a song or snag a bargain fridge freezer but every November there is another sale. One that only the diehards know about. Yet the prices can be reduced by up to 70 percent.
It is the Knoll annual sample sale where some of the most famous design classics such as Barcelona chairs, Saarinen tulip tables and Florence Knoll sofas will all be at knock down prices. There are also pieces by modern designers including Barber and Osgerby. It’s worth the inevitable queue round the block. A couple of years ago you could pick up a Barcelona for just under £2,000 instead of nearly £5,000 – so yes, still a lot of money but a lot less of a lot. Which has to be a good thing.
Pictured here is the Warren Platner side table, which Knoll sent to me so that I could photograph it in The Mad House. It has fitted in very happily as you can see. This is the bronze version but it also comes in chrome and brass and it creates the most beautiful shadows when you walk past, which I didn’t manage to capture at all in these pictures as it’s, well November, but you get the idea.
Like many of the greatest designers of mid century modern furniture, Warren Platner trained as an architect. He worked with Eero Saarinen (yes, he was too) as well as Raymond Loewy before opening his own practice. He worked on both the Georg Jensen Design Centre and the Windows on the World restaurant in the World Trade Center.
You can see his table and the matching chair in the restaurant in the picture below (I’m all over that light fitting as well).
But it was his furniture that brought him fame, if not fortune. First introduced by Knoll in 1966, the Platner Collection, as it is known, comprises a side table, a coffee table, a dining table and chairs as well as an armchair and ottoman. The designs were extremely complicated for the time and Platner came up with the manufacturing techniques – each chair required more than one thousand welds and more than 100 cylindrical steel rods.
Knoll was founded in New York in 1938 and if any of you ever watched Mad Men, many of its designs will be instantly recognisable to you. Indeed many of its designs are still influencing furniture today. A square sofa with a buttonback? Florence Knoll, any number of upholstered office chairs? Saarinen, Herman Miller. The simple shapes and clean lines seem familiar even if you don’t know the designer.
Hans Knoll moved to the US from Stuttgart with the aim of bringing the European ideas of form and design to a new audience. Aided by his wife Florence, their company soon read like a roll call of the most famous designers of the time; Harry Bertoia, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Frank Gehry, Alexander Girard, Piero Lissoni and Platner. In recent times the company has welcomed David Adjaye and Barber & Osgerby to the fold.
Their theory was that modern furniture should compliment the architectural space in which it was set not compete with it. Hans and Florence brought in the best creative minds, many of whom were graduates of the Bauhaus school in Germany and they became friends with many of them.
The great thing about these pieces of furniture is that they will fit into any interior as you can see from my sitting room below. They are, like the Prada handbag, which I was talking about yesterday, investment pieces that will stand the test of time and hold their value.
The annual Knoll Sample sale is on Saturday 19 November at their showroom at 19 Goswell Road, London, EC1v 7EX.