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Rare Early Florence Knoll Maple Desk, Model 17 Completely Restored


Exceptional and very rare early Florence Knoll maple desk, Model 17. The desk has been newly refinished in Nov 2017 and is in exceptional vintage condition. The desk surface is framed with a massive maple edge, while the inner part of the surface is covered with a maple veneer. The restoration is limited on the veneer is limited, that's were there is a slight different coloration remaining from a place mat and one minor scratch, please refer to the detailed photos. In the early 1950s the Planning Unit took on a project for IBM that required a large number of desks. The different needs of each of the divisions of workers at IBM necessitated a desk that could be tailored to meet each set of requirements. Florence Knoll devised a simple method of addressing the individual requirements by altering the selection of three basic components of the desk: a frame of square-section metal tubing, in chrome or “black oxide”; a top of either walnut veneer or “walnut plastic laminate”; and pedestals—one or two—available in an assortment of configurations of drawers and cabinets with doors. As such, this was the very first Knoll furniture system. A second base option in wood—solid walnut with “dark lacquer finish”—was added as the Model 3500 desk series. Pedestals for both lines were walnut veneer. The desks, which first appeared in Knoll price lists in 1956, became a staple of Planning Unit interiors, and a widely specified Knoll product.


  • Date of manufacture
    circa 1950
  • Period
  • Materials and techniques
  • Condition
    Excellent. Excellent vintage condition, please refer to the detailed description and photos..
  • Wear
    Wear consistent with age and use. Minor fading.
  • Dimensions

    H 29 in. x W 50 in. x D 28 in.

    H 73.66 cm x W 127 cm x D 71.12 cm

  • Seller location
    Westport, CT
  • Reference number

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About Florence Knoll (Manufacturer)

Architect, furniture designer, interior designer, entrepreneur — Florence Knoll had a subtle but profound influence on the course of mid-century American modernism. Dedicated to functionality and organization, and never flamboyant, Knoll shaped the ethos of the post-war business world with her polished, efficient design and skillfully realized office plans.

     Knoll had perhaps the most thorough design education of any of her peers. Florence Schust was orphaned at age 12, and her guardian sent her to Kingswood, a girl’s boarding school that is part of the Cranbrook Educational Community in suburban Detroit. Her interest in design brought her to the attention of Eliel Saarinen, the Finnish architect and head of the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Saarinen and his wife took the talented child under their wing, and she became close to their son, the future architect Eero Saarinen. While a student at the Academy, Florence befriended artist-designer Harry Bertoia and Charles and Ray Eames. Later, she studied under three of the Bauhaus masters who emigrated to the United States. She worked as an apprentice in the Boston architectural offices of Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer; Ludwig Mies van der Rohe taught her at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

     In 1941, she met Hans Knoll, whose eponymous furniture company was just getting off the ground. They married in 1946, and her design sense and his business skills soon made Knoll Inc. a leading firm in its field. Florence signed up the younger Saarinen as a designer, and would develop pieces by Bertoia, Mies and the artist Isamu Noguchi. Her main work came as head of the Knoll Planning Group, designing custom office interiors for clients such as IBM and CBS. The furniture Florence created for these spaces reflects her Bauhaus training: the pieces are pure functional design, exactingly built; their only ornament from the materials, such as wood and marble. Her innovations — the oval conference table, for example, conceived as a way to ensure clear sightlines among all seated at a meeting — were always in the service of practicality.

     Since her retirement in 1965, Knoll received the National Medal of Arts, among other awards; in 2004 the Philadelphia Museum of Art mounted the exhibition “Florence Knoll: Defining Modern” — well deserved accolades for a strong, successful design and business pioneer. As demonstrated on these pages, the simplicity of Knoll’s furniture is her work’s great virtue: they fit into any interior design scheme.

Read more about Florence Knoll in Introspective Magazine.

About the Seller

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1stdibs seller since 2015
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Located in Westport, CT
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