While less widely recognized than her classic lounge collection or parallel bar furniture, Florence Knoll’s early design for a wire base stool has become an equally legendary example of sleek, Bauhaus-inspired American furniture since its introduction in 1947. In celebration of the 100th year of the legendary designer, Planning Unit founder, and former Knoll President, the design will be revived from the Knoll archive and reintroduced as the Florence Knoll Hairpin™ Stacking Table.
The Model 75 Stacking Stool paired with the equally popular Hardoy Chair. Both involved the structural support of bent wire frames. Image from the Knoll archive.
First prototyped in the early 1940s, the Model 75 stacking stool became an instantly popular addition to what was then still a small catalog of furnishings from Knoll Associates, with its ingeniously simple three-pronged wire base granting it its “hairpin” moniker.
The graphic shadows of the "Hairpin" Stacking Stool, with its ingenious three-pronged base. Image from the Knoll archive.
While Shu based the compact design on earlier studies using steel rods at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, other reports cite the iconic 1933 wooden stacking stool designed by Finnish modernist Alvar Aalto as an equal influence. Whatever the stimulus, the final result was an exquisite composition of birch and enameled metal, its proportions calibrated by Florence Knoll’s exacting eye. The design remained in production until 1966 and was only briefly reproduced in 1981 for the Innovative Furniture in America exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York.
Florence Knoll saw her furniture as supporting actors to the main Knoll designs. Here, the stacking stool appears next to the popular 1943 Lounge Chair by Jens Risom. Images from the Knoll Archive.
True to the modest disposition of its maker, the stool ceded the spotlight to contemporaneous Knoll designs like Eero Saarinen’s Womb Chair and Jens Risom’s 650 Line Lounge Chair. ("The chairs, sculptural, I left for people like Bertoia and Saarinen," Florence Knoll once commented.) Still, the popularity of the $18 stool, a piece of sculpture in its own right, was hard to deny. This was confirmed in its very first year on the market, when it received an honorable mention in the International Design Competition sponsored by the American Institute of Decorators.
Early scale drawing of the Model 75 Stacking Stool. Image from the Knoll Archive.
This year, the Model 75 stool will be reintroduced as the Hairpin™ Stacking Table, which will be made of a painted steel and laminate and can stack up to five tables. As Florence Knoll always intended, the Stacking Table does not just hold its own as a timeless piece of design—it proves its true value in its ability to round out the composition of any inhabited space.
“I feel grateful to you for doing such work in a world where mediocrity is the norm.”
letter to Florence Knoll
The steel legs of the Hairpin™ Stacking Table will be available in a range of powder coat paint finishes.
By the bed, in the library, next to the pool, or in the nursery, the Hairpin™ Stacking Table demonstrates Florence Knoll's knack for good design not simply in the succinctness of its form, but the sheer versatility of its uses.
But perhaps it was Charles Eames, a fellow classmate and designer from the Cranbrook Academy of Art, who said it best. "Each time I go East I see something you have done," he wrote to Florence Knoll in 1957. "It is always good, and I feel grateful to you for doing such work in a world where mediocrity is the norm."