Designer Florence Knoll changed the way American

Designer Florence Knoll changed the way American office interiors look and function. Orphaned at age12, she started her architectural studies while at the Kingswood School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and was virtually adopted by the family of Eliel Saarinen. She continued her studies at Cranbrook Academy of Art, the Architectural Association in London, and the Illinois Institute of Technology under Mies van der Rohe. By 1946 she had met and married Hans Knoll. Together they developed Knoll Furniture, a firm that became internationally renowned for its modern furnishings and interior designs.

Florence Knoll often presented plans using actual textiles and materials. "It was an effective way to visualize the results," she noted. Her rough sketch for the design of her husband's 12 x 12 ft. office at 575 Madison Avenue has all the hallmarks of the "Knoll look" - spare clean lines, touches of bright color, innovative space planning - an uncluttered elegance. As a salesroom, it persuaded many reluctant clients. After Hans Knoll died in an automobile accident in 1955, Florence Knoll became president of company and later president of Knoll International. In 1958, she married Florida banker Harry Hood Bassett. Two of her most widely published projects were the Connecticut General Life Insurance Building in Bloomfield, Connecticut, and Eero Saarinen's general headquarters building for CBS in New York.

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