Workspace planner and furnishings designer Florence Knoll Bassett (known as "Shu" to her friends, for her maiden name Schust) was a design pioneer. At the pinnacle of her career in 1965, she withdrew from the design world after completing the interiors of the CBS headquarters.
Under her leadership, many modern masters created iconic pieces for Knoll, including Eero Saarinen's Tulip chairs and pedestal tables (his tables sit in front of a Knoll sofa in her Miami home), Isamu Noguchi's coffee table, Harry Bertoia's wire furniture and Richard Schultz's outdoor collection. She bucked tradition, attributing design credits and paying royalties to designers, an unusual practice in the furniture industry.
Knoll's distinctive furniture designs (her signature bench is among several of her designs still in production today) were marked by sleek silhouettes and geometries that reflected her architectural training. Knoll won four of the Museum of Modern Art's "Good Design" competitions, and the company's designs are still displayed today on MoMA's top floor.
Florence Schust was working at a New York architecture firm when Hans Knoll asked her to design an office for the U.S. Secretary of War. In 1943, Florence convinced Hans she could boost business by expanding into interior design and working with architects. After they married in 1946, she became a full business partner and together they founded Knoll Associates. When Hans died in a car accident in 1955, Florence took over the company and designed chairs, sofas, tables and casegoods. She founded Knoll textiles and designed the company's regional showrooms.
This Mad Men-esque image of a lone woman in a 1950s boardroom depicts Florence surrounded by insurance execs in dark suits scrutinizing her paste-ups. Her vision for the new office was clean and uncluttered, and the corporate boom of the 1960s provided an opportunity for her to change the way people looked at the workplace.
Florence's open-plan layouts were the ideal venue for her furniture. Because texture was a significant element in Knoll's designs, she placed swatches of fabrics on the paste-up board to reinforce her vision of stimulating, humanized interiors.
This 1961 marble-top credenza was influenced by Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building and Corbusian columns. Florence mixed woods and metals and incorporated laminates as they became more popular.
This 1954 Knoll showroom in San Francisco embodies the look she championed for modern office spaces: the lines are clean and spare, and textiles add life and vivid colour.
Outside of reception areas, Florence Knoll Bassett's classic sofa remains a staple of good design in homes, and still looks fresh despite being over 60 years old. Today, on May 24, the ground-breaking designer herself turns a magnificent 96.
For more timeless designs, see our gallery of Iconic Furniture A-Z.
1. The North Elevation blog
2. Florence Knoll Bench, Knoll
3. Suite 101
5. Miniature Chair Man blog
6. Knoll Low Filing Cupboard, ArchiExpo
8. All Roads Lead to Home blog
Yesterday I attended the 26th annual Through the Garden Gate Tour, hosted by the Toronto Botanical Garden. This year, the 19 privately owned gardens are scattered within Toronto's Forest Hill and South Hill neighbourhoods. As media, we had the opportunity to see five of the gardens ahead of the scheduled tour, which runs from June 8th to 9th. Visit the Toronto Botanical Garden website for advanced tickets.
The gardens were all stunning in their own way. I was particularly impressed with the mix of species within each garden. The peonies were absolutely gorgeous — some in full bloom and others ready to bloom any day. Irises were in full bloom too, and the Japanese maples added stunning spectrums of reds. The colours were endless!
I love the mix of tropical plants (Monstera) with more traditional plants, just like in this planter. The height of the Monstera plant and the jagged outline of the Coleus leaves gives the planter a edgy feel.
I also loved the walkway of Alliums in the same garden, mixed with grasses and Chinodoxa.
The garden with the greenhouse was exceptional. I didn't get a chance to speak to the owner, but I did overhear that it's not just for show — the owner is an avid gardener and starts all his plants with seeds. The greenhouse complemented the Arts & Crafts-styled house perfectly. It was obvious the owner took great pride in his garden — every aspect of the yard was attended to with care. I love that.
It must be my English roots, but I'm always drawn to Wisteria and Clematis. In the last garden we viewed, this Clematis was growing along the stone wall. It was beautifully pruned to trail along the wall just so. The soft pink was so delicate! Side note: If you're in Toronto, make a point of driving by the Korean Consulate at St. Clair and Avenue Road — the Wisteria along the iron fence is absolutely stunning.
If you don't already have plans for June 8th or 9th, call up a friend and spend a day touring these beautiful backyards. You will not be disappointed!
Browse our gallery of Gorgeous Gardens for more inspiration.
1-7. Sarah Hartill
The Aberfoyle antique market recently opened their gates for another delightful season of haggling. With 20 acres of booths and outdoor exhibitor space, the market is a gold mine for devoted collectors.
My countdown to the market's opening weekend begins shortly after Christmas — I'm not kidding. So when my future sister-in-law, Nadia, suggested her and I make a day of it a few Sundays ago, I was more than happy to oblige. We knew that leaving the boys with their trucks and power washers would give us hours of rummage time.
To those who do not share my enthusiasm for the hoary and musty, this may talk you into the idea of adding some aged charm to your decor. To those like me who gush over chipped teacups and rickety chairs, check out the amazing stuff I came across.
If you're looking to add some quirkiness to your kitchen, you're bound to find something on the heaped tables. I find the best stuff hidden in boxes, so be sure to dig around.
The booths can be overwhelming and it's easy to miss a lot. I keep reminding myself to look up!
The selection of china is endless.
I had to tear myself away from this vintage brass fire extinguisher. At $89 it would have exceeded the budget I had allotted myself for the day — maybe I'll find it there again next time.
Windows are easy to come by at antique markets, but a knockout like this is definitely a great find — I'm surprised it was still available.
Another reason to look up; the lighting is a never-ending array of crystal, brass wrought iron and porcelain.
This solid wood bench was only $80; an incredible deal for a piece that will last a lifetime. If only I had the space.
I had big dreams for this tub. A glossy coat of expensive paint and some refurbished hardware would have kept this $200 find way under the cost of a brand new one. Another piece I'll have to forgo for now.
If you're looking for great storage ideas, check out the vintage boxes on the lawn.
I love the look of a historic vignette.
I'm happy to say I went home with two sweet pieces of history. This aged industrial stool ...
... and a stunning vintage engagement ring from Cynthia Findlay my (now fiancé) Pablo surprised me with — just another magical moment in the world of antiquing!
1-14. Floriana Paonessa
My husband and I are expecting our first baby this August, so we're on the hunt for a simple white crib. Infants are usually in their bassinets for the first couple of months anyway, but first-time parents often feel the need to perfect the nursery long before baby even arrives, and we're no exception. We've been busying ourselves with preparations since the first trimester.
Our spare room is already quite traditional — plenty of antiques and old furniture that have been in my family for decades. Since this will become the nursery, we'd like to decorate it in the same style. There are already two old dressers in that room that we'll use for the baby, and my sister is giving us her vintage change table (also white), but we're struggling to find a crib and accents that aren't too modern. Here are some of the cribs we've rounded up so far:
The Dylan crib from Duc Duc has that simple look we're going for, but I would prefer an open base and spindles on all four sides.
The Savannah crib, also from Duc Duc, is more my style, but I'm not sure about the wood panelling below the mattress. You can customize it with one of seven different colours, but I'm not crazy about any of them.
Bloom's Alma Max crib is a top-seller, but I think it's a tad modern for our existing furniture.
Oeuf's Sparrow crib is clean and contemporary — a timeless choice that could work in any style of nursery.
This Liberty crib from Franklin & Ben is a fresh take on the antique spindle crib, and I love the detailing on the legs and spindles. Also, priced at around $400, it's much more affordable than the ones above.
The Barcelona classic crib from Natart Juvenile is just as beautiful, but is made here in Canada. Also reasonably priced at $430.
And then there's the Gulliver crib from Ikea. I always go back to this one. It's simple and fuss-free.
What do you think? Will any of these more modern shapes work with our vintage white dressers?
Check out Katie Hayden's blog for more great ideas for kids' rooms.
Seeing the inside of someone's house is a fun (and harmless) way to get a glimpse inside their life. The art on the walls, the care with which pillows are fluffed, even an expanse of snow-white rug — all are clues to how people live. This house in the Buenos Aires suburbs of Argentina is a bit different: it hints at how the owner thinks. Let's take a look.
From a distance, the house, known as Casa Molecule, isn't particularly thrilling: boxy, grey and symmetrical. On the front steps, though, you'll encounter the first of many aluminum structures that the listing calls "an exceptional socket system ... with an incredible strength so as to resist any kind of weight." That — plus the name — makes me think this is home to a scientist, inventor or engineer.
Even the kitchen tables have aluminum-tube bases which, paired with thick wood tops, make them look like workbenches. Exposed ductwork, open shelving and polished concrete floors add to the laboratory vibe. If the science of cooking isn't really your field, the restaurants of downtown Buenos Aires are less than an hour's drive away.
The dining room is a bit softer, with wood floors, cream walls and Louis XVI chairs. But with only two chairs and a computer open on the table, it seems like this room is meant for work, too. And apparently it's paid off: the listing proudly states that the aluminum tube system's creator won an award from the World Intellectual Property Organization in 2009.
The geodesic structures continue inside, both forming a geometric motif and doing the important job of holding up that second-storey walkway. A chessboard and easel tucked in the corner suggest that the occupant's interests extend beyond engineering, though I'm not sure what hobby the full-length mirror on casters points to.
You don't have to be scientifically or mathematically inclined to appreciate that this is a pretty nice bathroom. Plenty of light, plenty of handy under-sink storage, plenty of room in that deep blue bathtub. There are 1-1/2 other bathrooms, as well as three bedrooms, a spacious terrace and outdoor pool, plus a lawn with a geodesic jungle gym.
Could you work — and play — here? Or would you rather invent your own space?
1-5. Sotheby's Realty Argentina
Simultaneously spare but warm, the Belgian farmhouse look has been basking in the decor spotlight for quite some time. While interviewing a homeowner for an upcoming issue, she professed her love for the style, observing that her own swoon-worthy kitchen has no uppers, an authentic Belgian country kitchen detail. I wondered if Belgian designers themselves were tempted to buck tradition in an effort to contain all our modern kitchen conveniences.
Bluestone tile floor? Check. Raw wood and rough-hewn beams? Done. Serious black stove? Got it. The kitchen in this Belgian bed and breakfast is textbook.
Walda Pairon, a leading Belgian designer, skips uppers in favour of open storage in her own kitchen, which is designed for her husband, a chef. A black farmer's sink and French Lacanche stove are simpatico accents for a dark stone counter, and the rope drawer pulls are thrifty alternatives to hardware.
Another kitchen designed by Pairon, who incorporated shelving to show off the tiled walls. An impressive stove, copper pot collection and deep window wells add to the timeless feel: it doesn't get any more Euro than this.
In this kitchen designed by Brussels-based firm Baden Baden, putty cabinets (a warmer alternative to grey) and a wide-plank wood floor add a cosy feel. The low ceiling would make uppers look crammed in and obscure the exposed rafter detail, so better to do away with them anyway.
Uppers galore, but who is complaining? Glass-fronted cabinets are so airy, they almost seem invisible. A big island has multiple drawers and the corn crib-like detail above it adds to the essential rustic character of this kitchen.
Leave it to the granddaddy of the Belgian farmhouse look, Axel Vervoordt, to figure out a storage solution that still looks authentic. The kitchen of his 50-room castle near Anvers contains a soaring built-in unit with a teal blue interior that embodies the grandeur of an antique armoire.
See more French farmhouse style in this video tour of a Montreal home.