150 years of furniture design: The history of Walter Knoll
The history of Walter Knoll begins in 1865 with a “leather business” in Stuttgart, Germany.

This business was run by Wilhelm Knoll, the father of the Knoll dynasty. He was also the supplier for leather at the Württemberg royal house. In 1906 sons Walter and Willy took over the business and founded a leather furniture factory for seating furniture. The first club chairs in British Chesterfield optics get produced there. In 1912 the “Nestra” chair followed, a wooden-frame upholstered chair with a half-backed backrest extending over armrests. A classic form that is currently undergoing a revival.

Walter Knoll founded Walter Knoll & Co. GmbH in 1926 and is increasingly producing upholstered furniture with a lounge character.

They corresponded to the time period of the 1920s, in which massive, extensively upholstered furniture disappeared and got replaced by low-lying upholstery furniture with filigree bases made of steel tube, aluminum and wood. The upright seating positions from the Biedermeier and Gründerzeit periods were replaced and more casual seating positions were trending. In addition, women’s rights movements and industrialization, with their enormous technical developments and inventions, played a role, as well as the newly emerging Bauhaus style.

“Prodomo” was one of the first aluminum tube chairs. Shortly afterwards, Wilhelm Knoll presented a design with new upholstery technology. An antimotal function and the belt tensioning technique, which was more favorable in production was already being used.

In 1937 Walter Knoll moved to Herrenberg for more production space. The war, however, brought the production of seating furniture to a standstill and by severe damage during the war, both Wilhelm Knoll and Walter Knoll had to start at zero again. In each case, the sons of the brothers succeeded in succession.

Walter Knoll and his sons Hans and Robert follow the style of modernism in the post-war period and bring the unpadded lounge chair “Vostra” to the market.

Walter Knoll receives international recognition with the leather-upholstered version. In the years to come follow first objects, such as student residences, hotels and airports. The bucket seat 369 is also a classic. In 1950, Wilhelm Knoll had a breakthrough with the furniture trade fair in Cologne.

His son Dieter takes over the business and moves his production to Austria. In the 70s, Walter Knoll gets the first real estate orders, full furniture for executive offices, business rooms and conference rooms gets designed. Tables and sofas also enter the product range. The modern and comfortable chair “FK” becomes the “executive chair” par excellence. This already happens under the new management Robert Knoll and Dr. Walter Combe.


In the 1980s, Walter Knoll took over the business of Wilhelm Knoll and continued his product range for some time. In 1993 the renowned furniture family Benz bought the company Walter Knoll. Markus Benz, the eldest son, has been doing business since then. Since early 2000, the company has been expanding continuously, for example in Australia.

Showrooms in London, Stockholm, Paris, Mumbai, and Zurich opened and a new production site gets built in Herrenberg-Mötzingen. 2015 celebrates the company 150 years anniversary. Walter Knoll stands for quality, for high-quality products and state-of-the-art manufacturing techniques. With over 150 years of experience and traditionally high standards of craftsmanship, selected materials, function and ergonomics, beautiful furniture pieces get created.

The company regularly receives awards for its exceptional design solutions. Such as the Red Dot Design Award, or the Wallpaper UK Award. In the new 2017 range, some of the timeless designs by Walter and Wilhelm Knoll can be found as a new edition due to the revival of the retro style. The “FK” armchair was added to the production at Imm Cologne 2017 on the occasion of its 50th anniversary.

50 years "FK" chair design
On the occasion of Imm Cologne 2017 the 50th anniversary of the "FK" design was celebrated.
On the occasion of Imm Cologne 2017 the 50th anniversary of the "FK" design was celebrated.

Walter Knoll has a special partnership with designers and architects. The success is based on long-standing connections, by the deepening and internalization of processes and the clear communication of the idea and the goal. On this basis, the search for the missing part begins, the gap for what has not yet been done. A process that draws on the synergy of marketing, product development and design. The ability to self-reflect is indispensable and an essential factor for the success of Walter Knoll.

Under the motto “Tribute to handicraft”, Walter Knoll presents products that tell a story in 2017.

They unobtrusively tell you something about craftsmanship in perfection, about the consistency of design, material and color selection and an incredible balance of design. In the digital age, a longing for authentic things and real experiences, grows within us. For 2017 Walter Knoll has set himself the task of creating furniture pieces for this longing. And they succeeded.

Sofa "Tama Living" by design team EOOS
A design that surprised us at the Imm Cologne 2017 by its unobtrusiveness. (Source: walterknoll.de)
A design that surprised us at the Imm Cologne 2017 by its unobtrusiveness. (Source: walterknoll.de)

The sofa “Tama Living” by design team EOOS is a clear image of symmetry, line and surface. The design rests on filigree runners made of solid wood. Despite its dimensions, it is unobtrusive and harmonious. One of the reasons for this is the openings on the backrest, the very flat but well-worked back upholstery, as well as the integration of useful items such as a solid wood tablet with a suitable, robust saddle seat. Here the cup of tea can be stored quickly and without great movements during a reading evening, or a glass of wine can be served for friends.

Also a novelty are the living room tables of marble and onyx marble, with the sounding name “Oki”.

Walter Knoll gives the table tops a filigree look through flat edges. Due to the fine, recessed black metal frame, an almost floating effect is created. In addition the light marble with its organic drawings, which for centuries developed deep inside a mountain.

Walter Knoll also offers the tables in Onyx marble, a black marble with fibrous, light inclusions, which seem almost translucent. This particular, crystalline marble is considered a true rarity among the natural stones. If these tables are too big in their dimensions, you can take a look at the “Joco Stone” coffee tables, also designed by EOOS for Walter Knoll. They are the counterpart in small and round to the large “Oki” tables in marble.

The Joco and Oki side tables out of metal are also new in the product range and convince not only through the design, but also through a perfected surface treatment. The new servers are made of brass with special craftsmanship. The products are refined by hand with great care and in several complex steps. Grinding, satin, grind, satin and varnish. Thus unique pieces are created – not one is equal to the other. The decorative incisions in the table top create a very light look. The interplay of several servers of different sizes and disk forms nevertheless gives a harmonious picture.

Classics of the season: furniture in retro style. The new bar chair from the 375 series by Walter Knoll is also very exciting.

The seat and back are softly padded and valuable solid wood is selected for the feet. Due to its unobtrusive design and the many color variations, the barstool fits harmoniously into almost any room. Another classic, which caught our attention at Imm Cologne 2017, was the bucket seat 369.

The series 375 by Walter Knoll
The bar chair was shown at Imm Cologne 2017. (Source: walterknoll.de)
The bar chair was shown at Imm Cologne 2017. (Source: walterknoll.de)

It will surely not only inspire retro fans, but also many others due to his invitingly comfortable design. Also the new edition of the “FK” office chair in many leather colors. An absolute alternative to conventional chairs on a large dining table – simply because of its convenience and the turning function.


The concept idea also plays a role at Walter Knoll and so the range also has sleeping furniture, dining room and office furniture.

The high-quality carpets also impressed us at Imm Cologne 2017. They fit with their seemingly random patterns and colors perfectly to the clear lines of the furniture design and set a harmonious counterpole.

The fascination for customers of Walter Knoll products are the harmonious designs, the available materials and colors as well as the very high demands on the processing methods. It is precisely the long-term experience in furniture manufacture and the lived craftsmanship tradition, which reminds the customer of the longing for stability and thus offers added value, which must first be found in a comparable company.

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