Walter Knoll – The Furniture Brand of Modernity

Business in the Wilhelminian period

Business in the Wilhelminian period

Wilhelm Knoll

Wilhelm Knoll (1839 – 1907)


Wilhelm Knoll, the founder of the Knoll dynasty, opens the doors of his “leather shop” in Stuttgart, Germany. Widely travelled expert in leather: in 1864, annual stay in Paris – the world centre of leather, fashion and luxury goods.

“Knoll leather” becomes the hallmark of quality, and the House of Württemberg names Wilhelm Knoll „supplier to the royal court“.


TV is invented. The first transatlantic cable is put into operation.TV is invented. The first transatlantic cable is put into operation.


The leather furnishings factory (Ledermöbelfabrik) becomes the leather seating factory (Ledersitzmöbelfabrik Wilhelm Knoll).


In 1907, Wilhelm’s sons Willy and Walter take over their father’s business and start producing seating. The company introduces the first club armchair to Germany.

„Top of the class.“
Willy Knoll (1878 – 1954).

„The active one.“
Walter Knoll (1876 – 1971).


Nestra models on a woodenframe basis go into series production.

Walter Gropius founds the Bauhaus in Weimar.

Advocating modernity

Advocating modernity

1925 - 1929

Advocating modernity: at the age of 50, the urbane gentleman Walter Knoll founds his own company, Walter Knoll & Co. GmbH.

The “Prodomo“ models developed by Walter Knoll are seen as the first modern upholstered furniture in history.

“The psychology of seating”:
the lightweight Prodomo armchairs perfectly reflect the spirit of the times of the twenties.

The world‘s first wide-bodied aircraft Do X is completely furnished with lightweight aluminium chairs from the Prodomo range.

At the same time, Wilhelm Knoll revolutionises the traditional upholstery technique with his “Antimott“ range.

Lounge at the Hindenburg airship.

The lightweight aluminium armchairs from the Antimott range are used to furnish the zeppelins.

The exhibition„Die Wohnung“ (The Apartment) under the direction of Mies van der Rohe 1927 at the Weissenhof Estate in Stuttgart sets standards for modern building and living all over the world.

Walter Knoll furnishes five apartments by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and nine apartments in total at the Weissenhof Estate.


In 1937, the flourishing company Walter Knoll moves to Herrenberg.

Hans Knoll (1914 – 1955), Florence Knoll (1917-2019)


Being equipped with the knowledge of the Bauhaus movement and the abilities of his family, Walter Knoll´s son Hans goes to the US in 1938 – in the beginning to sell the products of his father. In America, he meets the architects of modernity and opens his own business in 1939.


Expansion comes to a standstill at Walter and Wilhelm Knoll. Production has to concentrate on manufacturing articles important for the war.

Start of the Second World War. The German economy has to take second place to the war effort.

Serious bomb damage causes the Walter Knoll production to be closed. The company faces a new start.



Serious war damage at Wilhelm Knoll too. Production is also restarted in Stuttgart with the help of Dieter Knoll, Willy’s son.

End of the war.

Father with sons: Walter with Robert and Hans around 1947.

New direction in the post-war era

New direction in the post-war era

Wilhelm Knoll


Robert Knoll becomes a partner at Walter Knoll.


While Germany is still accustomed to classic furnishings after 1945, Walter Knoll is presenting a modern way of life. Hans Knoll supports his father in this time of reconstruction with the “Vostra“ model.

IBM makes the first mainframe computer.

Founding of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Konrad Adenauer becomes Chancellor.

Wilhelm Knoll


In 1949, the upholstered version of the armchair: the clean lines of Vostra perfectly reflect people’s attitudes in this time of awakening, and help Walter Knoll to regain international recognition.

Student hall of residence in Hamburg, in 1953, with Vostra armchairs.

Wilhelm Knoll

The bucket seat 369 at the Hilton Hotel in Berlin – still one of today‘s modern classics.


The Furniture Fair in Cologne is the breakthrough for furniture by Wilhelm Knoll.

Dieter Knoll takes over the running of the company Wilhelm Knoll after the death of his father, Willy.

The establishing of the HFG College of Design in Ulm. Foundation of the Design Council (Rat für Formgebung).

Bundesrat (Upper House of Parliament) passes a bill on the equality of men and women.

Building of the Berlin Wall.

Dieter Knoll founds the company “Dieter Knoll” in Austria.
Extension of the Walter Knoll company premises in Herrenberg.



Walter Knoll retires. The company is handed over to Robert Knoll and Dr. Walter Combe.

Frei Otto designs the tent-like roof construction

Moon landing; Neil Armstrong (USA) is the first man on the moon.

Office and Contract

Office and Contract


The Contract division is established in the seventies. Elegant executive offices, comfortable swivel chairs, fine conference facilities as well as elegant sofas for foyers and lobbies account for the success in furnishing business premises.

The furnishing of Berlin‘s Tegel Airport in 1975 is without doubt one of the highlights of the company‘s history. Together with architect Meinhard von Gerkan, the Berlin Chair is created for the airport‘s VIP lounge.


Stephan Combe and Michael Knoll become Managing Director of Walter Knoll.

First commercial mobile phone is launched onto the market (Motorola).

Discovery of the AIDS virus.


Walter Knoll takes over the company Wilhelm Knoll and continues to sell the products as the “Wilhelm Knoll Collection”.

True values

True values


The famous furnishing family Benz buys the Walter Knoll company. Markus Benz, the oldest son, has been running the business ever since with the experience of excellent upholstery craftsmanship and modern corporate culture.

German reunification.

The negotiated 35-hour week is introduced in Baden-Württemberg.

Herrenberg is connected to the Stuttgart suburban train network (S-Bahn).

Founding of the European Union (EU).


Growth. Additional production site in Mötzingen, near Herrenberg.

Introduction of the Euro.

The last Volkswagen Beetle is manufactured in Puebla/Mexico.

In Germany, the first woman is elected Federal Chancellor.


Inauguration of the multifunctional building in Herrenberg.


Walter Knoll founds subsidiary company „Walter Knoll Australia“.

Walter Knoll receives the Design Management Europe Award for their successful design management.

Apple introduces the first generation of the iPhone.


Opening of Walter Knoll showrooms in London and Paris.

The crash of the American bank Lehman Brothers marks the beginning of the global financial and economic crisis.


Inauguration of the new multifunctional building for assembly, production and logistics in Mötzingen.

Apple introduces the first generation of the iPad.


Walter Knoll celebrates its 150th anniversary.