EAST GREENVILLE, Pa. – Knoll, the furniture company started by Florence and Shu Knoll is this year celebrating the 75th anniversary of their Womb Chair. Designed by architect Eero Saarinen in 1948 at the request of Florence Shust Knoll, the chair defied conventions at the time, both in its form and nonprescriptive function.
The chair was so well known that it appeared in a famous Norman Rockwell illustration on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. In the famous illustration, dad is sitting home with his giant Sunday newspaper, while his wife, and three well dressed children, head to church. Cara Greenberg, in her 1984 book Mid Century Modern, Furniture of the 1950s, said that the chair’s “commodious contours were perfect for the casual body language of the slouching, sprawling Fifties.”
Knoll was said to want a chair that one could curl up in, and set Eero Saarinen about designing it.
“I wanted a chair that was like a basket full of pillows,” she said. It has remained in production ever since.
In a letter written in 1949 to J. Irwin Miller, Saarinen explained that the Womb Chair was designed on the theory that a great number of people have never felt comfortable and secure since they left the womb. The chair’s design allows a person to settle into its shape, providing a sense of security and comfort.
Womb Chair is still manufactured to its original design and remains a top seller. It is made from molded fiberglass padded with foam. It also appeared in a couch version.
Saarinen, who is famous for his TWA Flight Center, Dulles Airport and the St. Louis Arch, said that a chair should, “not only look well as a piece of sculpture in a room when no one is in it, it should also be a flattering background when someone is in it.”
Still Made by Knoll
Founded in 1938, Knoll is a pioneer in modern design. They are the founding sponsor of the World Monuments Fund Modernism at Risk program.
Herman Miller purchased Knoll, Inc. on July 19, 2021, and renamed their company MillerKnoll. Herman Miller and Knoll continued as distinct brands as part of MillerKnoll.
Other brands in the portfolio include Colebrook Bosson Saunders, DatesWeiser, DWR, Edelman Leather, Fully, Geiger, HAY, Holly Hunt, KnollExtra, Knoll Office, KnollStudio, KnollTextiles, Maars Living Walls, Maharam, Muuto, naughtone, and Spinneybeck|FilzFelt.