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Made Right Here: Knoll

By Amy Unger, Reporter, AUnger@wfmz.com
Published On: Apr 10 2013 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 11 2013 06:40:56 PM CDT

Knoll has been marrying function and fashion in its furniture design for decades.

EAST GREENVILLE, Pa. -

Knoll has been marrying function and fashion in its furniture design for decades.

You may have seen its chairs and other signature pieces in your office or even on the silver screen!

Did you know, Knoll is "Made Right Here" in East Greenville, Montgomery County?
You might say that Knoll specializes in cranking out comfort.

"There are only a handful of truly global office furniture manufacturers, and we are one of those few," said company President and COO Lynn Utter.

"At every station we're trying to, start to finish, build a chair every minute," said Ryan Weller of the Knoll seating department.

But beyond the swift and diligent production lines you can be sure a lot of thought went into not just how the furniture feels but how it looks.

"Knoll is known for mid-century modern design," said Utter. "We're not very fussy.

You won't find lots of frilly, overly stuffed furniture. We have a very modern aesthetic."

The company's founders, Hans and Florence Knoll, were furniture makers in New York who set out for greener pastures in East Greenville, Montgomery County in 1941.

"I think generally they found a workforce that had a craftsmanship at its core but an innovation that extended beyond that," said Utter.

They also brought in a diverse group of designers from around the world to work their magic.

"Mies van der Rohe and Saarinen and Florence Knoll, literally the list goes on and on," said Utter.

Van der Rohe's iconic Barcelona chair is still a favorite today especially among "tough guys."

It was featured in Iron Man 2 and 007 himself took a load off his feet in "Casino Royale."

That's not to say Knoll doesn't know how to cater to the average office dweller.

"Think traditional cubicle systems, desking, task seating, that sort of thing," said Utter.

And Knoll's commitment to outfitting an ever-changing workplace hasn't gone unnoticed.

"We are the only furniture company to have won the Cooper Hewiit National Design Award. That's an award given to the likes of companies like Apple, Nike and Google," said Utter.

Although Knoll's reach extends well beyond its Pennsylvania headquarters the company hasn't forgotten where it came from.

"Knoll has six manufacturing facilities around the globe. We do business literally in almost every continent," said Utter.

Some of its best known creations are on display at a museum in East Greenville.

"The Barcelona chair, the womb chair, the Saarinen series, Florence Knoll series," said Utter.

And a timeline tells the tale of how it all began when a couple of partners-- in business and in life--- set out to build a different kind of furniture company right here in Montgomery County.