Happy birthday Parker Knoll

A 1960s advert for Parker Knoll furniture
A 1960s advert for Parker Knoll furniture
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Parker Knoll’s 150 years in business is a rare achievment. Sharon Dale reports.

Parker Knoll celebrates 150 years in business this year and its sofas and chairs are still hugely popular.

A trend for buying well, buying once has helped the stalwart brand over the last few years. Quality furniture is firmly back in fashion due to a realisation that cheap and flimsy is a poor investment and is bad for the planet.

Parker Knoll has also benefited from the vintage and mid-century modern revival that has seen demand rise for its classic ranges.

Its Evolution Statesman swivel chair is especially sought-after. It was hailed as revolutionary when it was launched in 1969 and is now recognised as a design classic.

New ones range from about £2,000 and vintage versions in less than perfect condition regularly top £800 on eBay and in vintage stores.

The story of Parker Knoll is a thoroughly British tale. From humble beginnings in a workshop in London, the Parker Knoll business has grown and developed to establish itself as a leader in its field.

It was founded by Frederick Parker, the son of a Shoreditch born cabinet maker, in 1869.

He took pride in designing and developing the finest furniture, using the best of British craftsmanship and manufacturing techniques.

He soon established himself as a reputable supplier, creating furniture for the Victorian gentry and London’s leading retailers.

The Parker brand expanded with three of Frederick’s seven sons joining the business as innovators and inventors.

The firm’s first reclining chair, a push back ottoman recliner, was launched during the 1890s and was a design that shaped the direction of the business.

In 1921, Parker’s sons met Willi Knoll, who had served as a fighter pilot in WW1. Struck by the lack of comfort and support offered by his plane’s seat, he was inspired to develop a revolutionary coiled steel wire spring system that could be strung across the seat and the back of a chair to allow it to flex.

The Parkers and Willi Knoll joined forces to create Parker Knoll and the spring system remains present in many of company’s iconic chairs.

The 1960s and 1970s were defining decades for the firm as it responded to demand for bold colours and contemporary designs. Its Knoll Norton model, the first new generation recliner, became a mass market hit.

In 2016, Parker Knoll opened a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Nottinghamshire. The 100,000 sq ft facility is one of the most advanced upholstery factories in the UK and ensures that the brand remains at the forefront of design, development and innovation. www.parkerknoll.co.uk

*Parker Knoll has launched a new range to celebrate its 150th anniversary.

Collection 150 takes inspiration from the 1920s and 1930s as this was a defining era for the brand.

The Art Deco period is when Willi Knoll joined the firm and brought his revolutionary coiled steel wire spring system. it is also when Parker Knoll was commissioned by Cunard to furnish the rooms of its ocean liners.

The new collection features fresh colourways.