During a staff meeting here at the Human Solution, the Knoll furniture line was brought up in regards to their high-end designs. Being a modern art nerd, I was intrigued. I assumed that most people looking for ergonomic office furniture may not have interior design factors as a priority, but the idea that the two factors (ergonomic comfort and interior design aesthetics) might not be mutually exclusive is a really exciting possibility.
I have a background in fine art, and I love interior design. I know that crisp modern aesthetics offer a particular pop and point of view to a space. The price tag of a beautiful painting might be a little hefty, but the artistry, aura, and atmospheric effects of the piece frequently justified the price. When purchases are made from the position of identity – who we are, who we strive to be – they are investments that can stay relevant for decades.
In doing research on the history of Knoll’s brand, it became clear to me that this company has done just that. They have comfortably inhabited the world of industrial design and the art academy since the 1930s, which fascinates me, as typically mainstream commercial products reside in a completely separate world from what is exhibited in the halls of museums. And it’s no wonder, with iconic designers like Eero Saarinen, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Frank Gehry, Harry Bertoia, Maya Lin, and Florence Knoll creating the classic pieces in this brand, it makes sense that they’ve had success in the art world and commercial markets, respectively. The question, then, is whether Knoll’s products are competitive in the ergonomic world?
There are a handful of beautiful and ergonomic pieces that I love in our collection here at the Human Solution. These pieces are perfect for people who crave a high-end design aesthetic, but also value active wellness in the work environment. No matter how hip and cool a piece might be, if it’s going to be uncomfortable or hurt your health, there’s no point to it!
Here are a few choice pieces from this brand that balance mid-century modern design aesthetics with ergonomics and comfort:
Knoll Life Chair: Form and function are married seamlessly in this cool office chair. With a graceful silhouette and a flexible frame, the chair is super light weight and adjusts to seat a range of body sizes. The contour design of the back reminds me of a minimalist painting, but it has ergonomic function behind its beauty. The back intuitively moves with the body and is easy to adjust. Customer feedback has revealed that adding a seat topper is recommended for added comfort. Knoll also values sustainable design, check out the Life Chair’s LEED credits.
Knoll Generation Chair: This chair’s funky and playful design offers a really cool ergonomic experience. Its padded seat and high-performance elastomer back move with the body throughout the day. I love how this chair creates a very flexible experience; it bends as I turn around, lean back, and sit side-saddle. The elastomer material does not sag, and it bounces back to its original shape even after leaning on it from different angles. The general consensus around the office and from customer feedback is that the high performance arm feature is a smart added purchase, so you can keep every aspect of the chair customizable. Also cool about this chair is the fact that it’s made with minimal materials, 40% of which are recycled, and it has been manufactured using clean technology.
Knoll Barcelona Chair: This chair is absolutely stunning and luxurious. It’s called the Barcelona Chair because it was originally designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for the German pavilion in the International Exposition in 1929, and has been an icon ever since. The design has been imitated and emulated since its original inception, so Knoll stamps each chair’s frame with van der Rohe’s signature for authenticity. The width of the seat, the depth of the cushions, and the curved angle of the back give the chair comfort as well. However, compared to many other options, this chair is probably not well suited for 8 hour office work. Its customizability is very limited, and the level of the chair is very low to the ground; best suited for a lounge or reading nook.
Knoll Platner Coffee Table: The Knoll Platner Coffee Table is a fantastic second purchase to go with the Barcelona Chair. Absolutely striking in its style and stone cold in its modern aesthetic, this table is sure to up the ante of a space. Designed by Warren Platner (who was a contemporary of I.M. Pei and Eero Saarinen), the simple repetition of curved steel wiring turns a basic coffee table into a surprising sculpture. No need to decorate with art when you can kill two birds with one stone bringing this coffee table’s iconic design into your space. The table top is a sturdy 3/8” thick tempered clear or bronze glass, and the base is finished in bright nickel with clear lacquer safeguard. The piece is also Greenguard Certified. View the entire Knoll Platner Lounge Collection.
Knoll Chadwick Chair: Finally, the Knoll Chadwick Chair is a more affordable option in Knoll’s line of chairs, and it offers all day use. It has a really interesting magnetic lumbar support mechanism, and the suspension fabric conforms to the body while lending support. Fun fact: this chair was created by Don Chadwick, who is an ergonomic design pioneer. True to the brand, the chair offers super modern design, eco-friendly construction, and a really comfortable experience.
On the whole, I’m a fan of Knoll. Their line runs the gamut of historically iconic designs from the early 20th century to more contemporary constructions that compete with other ergonomic products. I think they are super cool, and are a fantastic option for people who love ultra modern design.