Florence Knoll Model 17 Maple Desk

Item #VINT003


Date of design: 1952
Dates of manufacture: 1956 to 1974
Scaled for the home and office alike, Florence Knoll's Model 17 Maple Desk fuses gracious form and an elegant use of wood.

NOTE: This is an "as is" sale of a one of a kind item that is no longer manufactured by Knoll. Vintage items are pre-owned and are not returnable.


Construction and Details
  • Drawer fronts are angled to serve as integrated drawer pulls
  • Legs are tapered solid Maple
  • Piece is in excellent refinished condition


In the early 1950s the Planning Unit took on a project for IBM that required a large number of desks. The different needs of each of the divisions of workers at IBM necessitated a desk that could be tailored to meet each set of requirements.

Florence Knoll devised a simple method of addressing the individual requirements by altering the selection of three basic components of the desk: a frame of square-section metal tubing, in chrome or “black oxide”; a top of either walnut veneer or “walnut plastic laminate”; and pedestals—one or two—available in an assortment of configurations of drawers and cabinets with doors. As such, this was the very first Knoll furniture system. A second base option in wood—solid walnut with “dark lacquer finish”—was added as the Model 3500 desk series. Pedestals for both lines were walnut veneer.

The desks, which first appeared in Knoll price lists in 1956, became a staple of Planning Unit interiors, and a widely specified Knoll product.

Born to a baker, and orphaned at age twelve, Florence Schust grew up Saginaw, Michigan. Schust demonstrated an early interest in architecture and was enrolled at the Kingswood School for Girls, adjacent to the Cranbrook Academy of Art.

While at Kingswood, Florence befriended Eilel Saarinen, whom she would later study under at Cranbrook. Warmly embraced by the Saarinen family, Florence seeded in Michigan the foundations of her incredible design education and pioneering career. Florence went on to study under some of the greatest 20th century architects, including Gropius, Breuer, and Mies. In 1941 Florence moved to New York where she met Hans Knoll who was establishing his furniture company. With Florence’s design skills and Hans’ business acumen and salesmanship, the pair, who married in 1946, grew the nascent company into an international arbiter of style and design. In creating the revolutionary Knoll Planning Unit, Florence Knoll defined the standard for the modern corporate interiors of post-war America.

After the tragic death of Hans Knoll in 1955, Florence Knoll led the company as president through uncertain times. In 1960 she resigned the presidency to focus on directing design and development and, in 1965 after pioneering an industry and defining the landscape and aesthetic of the corporate office, Florence Knoll Bassett (she remarried in 1957) retired from the company. Her contributions to Knoll, and to the rise of modernism in America, are immeasurable.