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History

History

Business in the Wilhelminian period

Business in the Wilhelminian period

Wilhelm Knoll

Wilhelm Knoll (1839 – 1907)

1865

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“.

1866

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

1906

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

1907

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).

1912

Nestra models on a woodenframe basis go into series production.

1919
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.

1937

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

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

1938

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.

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.

1942

1945

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.

Vater mit Söhnen: Walter mit Robert und Hans um 1947.

New direction in the post-war era

New direction in the post-war era

Wilhelm Knoll

1946

Robert Knoll becomes a partner at Walter Knoll.

1947

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.

1948
IBM makes the first mainframe computer.

1949
Founding of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Konrad Adenauer becomes Chancellor.

Wilhelm Knoll

1949

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.

1950

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.

1953
The establishing of the HFG College of Design in Ulm. Foundation of the Design Council (Rat für Formgebung).

1957
Bundesrat (Upper House of Parliament) passes a bill on the equality of men and women.

1961
Building of the Berlin Wall.

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

1962

1964

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


1968
Frei Otto designs the tent-like roof construction

1969
Moon landing; Neil Armstrong (USA) is the first man on the moon.

Office and Contract

Office and Contract

1970s

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.

1982

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

1983
First commercial mobile phone is launched onto the market (Motorola).

1984
Discovery of the AIDS virus.

1985

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

True values

True values

1993

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.

1990
German reunification.

1990
The negotiated 35-hour week is introduced in Baden-Württemberg.

1992
Herrenberg is connected to the Stuttgart suburban train network (S-Bahn).

1993
Founding of the European Union (EU).


2001

Growth. Additional production site in Mötzingen, near Herrenberg.

2002
Introduction of the Euro.

2003
The last Volkswagen Beetle is manufactured in Puebla/Mexico.

2005
In Germany, the first woman is elected Federal Chancellor.


2006

Inauguration of the multifunctional building in Herrenberg.

2007

Walter Knoll founds subsidiary company „Walter Knoll Australia“.

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

2007
Apple introduces the first generation of the iPhone.

2009

Opening of Walter Knoll showrooms in London and Paris.

2008
The crash of the American bank Lehman Brothers marks the beginning of the global financial and economic crisis.

2012

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

2010
Apple introduces the first generation of the iPad.

2015

Walter Knoll celebrates its 150th anniversary.