Florence Bassett studied at the Cranbrook Academy of Art together with designer Harry Bertoia and Ralph Rapson, and where the father of Eero Saarinen, Eliel Saarinen, was the school’s director.After graduation, Knoll got recommendations from both Eliel Saarinen and Alvar Aalto and continued her studies under Marcel Breuer and Bauhaus founder Walter Gropiues at Harvard’s Garduate School of Design, and later with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe at the Armour Institute of Technology in Chicago.
In 1941 Bassett moved to New York where she met Hans Knoll, who had already founded the Hans G. Knoll Furniture Company from which he had manufacturing his first range of modernist furniture. Florence Bassett began working for him as an interior designer and helped him move the company’s product line away from the Scandinavian look, towards a more international style. In 1946 Florence and Hans married and renamed the firm Knoll Associates.
Early on Knoll Associates found success with furniture designed by Eeroo Saarinen, Harry Bertoia and Isamu Noguchi. In 1948 the company acquired the production rights to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designs. During the 1950’s Florence Knoll oversaw all aspect of Knoll’s corporate projections, from showrooms and interior design to the design of graphics. In her interiors she often used the company’s furniture, creating a distinctive Knoll look.
In 1943 Florence Knoll founded the Knoll Planning Unit, an interior design service of Knoll Associates. The group, consisting of only a few designers, worked to refurnishing offices in a modernistic style, and that set the standard for modern corporate interiors as long as until 1971. As a furniture designer, Florence Knoll is responsible for several iconic pieces and collections such as the Lounge collection and the sideboard Credenza both from 1954.
Hans Knoll died in 1955, but the Knoll company continued to flourish under Florence Knoll’s direction. In 1960’s she resigned the presidency to continue as the head of the company’s design department. As an architect, Florence Knoll is most known for the Connecticut General Life Insurance building in Bloomfield, Conneticut and the CBS Building in New York.
Florence Knoll passed away at the age 102 in 2019. She is represented at museum all over the world and the firm that Florence and Hans built, is still producing her furniture.