Story of Collaboration

Client: Walter Knoll

Sector: Furniture

Launch: 2001

In 1998, Walter Knoll’s recently appointed CEO and owner Markus Benz was looking to re-energise the German upholstery company, following a period of complacency, and bring innovation – both in terms of product ideas and production processes – back to the brand’s core.

To achieve this, Benz selected a small number of design studios that he felt shared his desire to experiment. Rather than produce just a few products with these studios, the CEO wanted to build long-term working relationships with them, and develop a collaborative work ethic. One of the studios he invested in was PearsonLloyd.

15 years later, PearsonLloyd maintains a very close relationship with Walter Knoll, and has designed a line of over 15 products for the brand. Its products are unified by a desire to work with processes outside of the furniture industry, and use material innovation to drive the aesthetic of the form. The studio successfully brought an international dynamic to the company’s portfolio, and as such helped it to expand its market beyond Germany.

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Morgan, 2001
Traditionally, WalterKnoll was a stout champion of square edges and cubic forms. For the Morgan sofa, PearsonLloyd paid homage to this formal language on the exterior surface, but brought a gentle aesthetic to the internal surfaces by rounding off the edges. Breaking from tradition, ski legs were used for the sofa legs, in keeping with the softer aesthetic.

Flow, 2001
PearsonLloyd was inspired by the car industry’s use of technology to develop smooth, fluid shapes. For the Flow chair, the studio used cold cured foam technology (used to make car seats); exploiting the sinuous shapes the technology enables to develop forms completely new to Walter Knoll. To cover the form, a new approach to upholstery was needed. Instead of using traditional pattern cutting, the fabric is wrapped around the chair, much like fabric around a tennis ball, giving the chair a gentle, seamless aesthetic.

Oscar, 2002
PearsonLloyd considers Oscar as Flow’s big brother; it has the same formal
language. Ten years after its launch, this design is selling better than ever.

Easy, 2002
The Easy sofa has a hidden mechanism: pull out the seat as you would a drawer, and the compact sofa turns into a standard-sized single bed. The design also helped to introduce a modern aesthetic to the brand’s range of domestic sofas, thanks to its singular form and the lack of cushions.

Kite, 2003
Kite breaks from the softer visual language the studio was developing for the brand: its form is inspired by stealth aircrafts. The sofa is built like a car, comprising sheets of steel folded into sections and spot welded together. The “chassis” holds the springs, so the upholstery can be super thin.

Happy Day, 2004
This product was a bit of an experiment for PearsonLloyd: how far could the design studio push the brand from its roots? The studio designed a sofa that was light in form and had slimmer proportions than the brand’s other couches. As a result, it was particularly popular in Scandinavia (where there is a history of light refined forms).

Ribbon Table, 2004
Made of leather pressed over a steel tray, these tables pushed the brand’s
craftsmen to experiment and try new production techniques – many of which are
now used regularly.

Turtle series, 2005
PearsonLloyd wanted to re-visit the plastic shell chair; an archetype it felt had been neglected, following the iconic Tulip Chair by Eero Saarinen, the Plastic Side Chair by Charles and Ray Eames and the Panton chair by Verner Panton. The Turtle chair’s design comprises a series of parts that are made and assembled in a way typical of car seat production: an inner shell is vacuum formed, and overmoulded with PU foam. Textile is stretched over the foam and stapled to the inner shell. This unit is then nestled into a vacuum formed high gloss acrylic shell with a lower back, revealing the textile on the inner shell and giving it a clean, faultless edge. The formal interplay between the soft upholstery and glossy shell gives the chair a very distinct graphic. With very low investment costs the studio has  produced a high quality product, which Walter Knoll considers to be one of its classics.

Lox barstool, 2008
PersonLloyd became increasingly interested in the possibilities offered by plastic; this time, it wanted to see how far it could push injection moulding mechanically. The studio produced a one-piece plastic moulding that is both decorative and structural, and simply slots into the swivel-base post. The seat of the barstool is made by a company that specialises in motorcycle seats: the leather is pressed and stretched around the upholstery like a shoe around a last, and clips into the frame for a completely seamless finish.

Lox chair, 2010
The fully injection moulded Lox chair took three years of fine-tuning. The curve along the edge of the chair isn’t just decorative; it serves a structural purpose, dissipating the stresses throughout the form. In order to control where the chair is and isn’t flexible, the design studio adjusted the extent of the curve. The result is a chair that enables a very comfortable posture, flexing where the user needs it. The plastic shell simply clips onto a metal post with a star base.

Kyo, 2012
The Kyo chair comprises an injection moulded inner shell, which is PU moulded and upholstered, before slotting into an injection moulded outer shell – rather like the assembly of the Turtle chair. All of the parts are push fit, and clip together. As such the assembly of the chair – from production through to the packaging – is super fast. The result is refined, and very cost effective.