Born to an architect father and interior designer mother, Marianne Strengell was surrounded by color, texture and design from a young age. She formalized her passion at the Central School of Industrial Design in Helsinki in 1929. For the next six years, she would work as a freelance textiles designer across Scandinavia, exploring the interplay of handwoven textiles and modern design.
In 1937, Eliel Saarinen invited Strengell, who was a close friend, to teach weaving and costume design at Cranbrook Academy of Art. Five years later, when Eliel’s wife, Loja, retired as head of the Weaving Department, Strengell assumed the position, which she held until 1961. Florence Knoll, recognizing Strengell’s ability to translate hand-woven patterns for mechanized production, recruited her as a consultant to the rapidly growing textiles division at Knoll.
In this new role, Strengell’s value was twofold: In addition to introducing her own designs, she was an invaluable resource for other designers, helping them to solve the technical problems that inevitably arose when preparing a pattern for mass production and industrial use. She also worked closely with the mills that ultimately produced the fabrics, ensuring that everything introduced under the Knoll brand upheld the company’s standard of quality.