Times have changed since Hans G. Knoll founded the textile and furniture company Knoll in 1938, and since he and his wife, Florence, established the company’s manufacturing facility and headquarters in East Greenville, Pennsylvania in the early 1960s. Yet, the legendary designers’ commitment to creating classic modern furnishings is as relevant today as it was in the early years of the company. So when Knoll recently undertook a renovation of the East Greenville offices, its management opted to merge the ideals of its past with contemporary space planning concepts and its new products to help transition the workplace into the future.
“The impetus for the renovation was a new business project that will require the efforts of cross-functional teams of manufacturing, sales, dealers, marketing, IT, planning, and supply-chain personnel to do collaborative work over the course of the next couple of years,” says Lynn Utter, Knoll’s president and chief operating officer. “We thought, ‘How better to house the teams than to create spaces using our own products to support different modes of work?’” Relying on best practices in change management as well as findings from its own research on collaborative work styles, Utter worked with Karen Stone, Knoll’s director of design, and Watkins Architect to reshape 10,000 square feet of the facility and make it user-friendly for the teams who will use the spaces in the years ahead.
Shaping spaces to suit work styles
“The idea was to provide spaces for both focused and shared work,” says Stone. “The anchor is what we call ‘the workroom,’ a glass-enclosed multifunctional conference room with a variety of tackable and writable surfaces that enable the teams to strategize and multitask.” The centerpiece of this room is a long, white table from Knoll’s Best of NeoCon® 2010 award–winning Antenna Workspaces collection, which simplifies the flow from individual to collaborative work with interchangeable desk, table, screen, and storage elements.
Adjacent to the workroom is an expanse of visually interconnected areas that support both teamwork as well as the focused work of team leaders. Several white-topped Antenna tables—divided down the center by low, movable panels and flanked by comfortable Generation chairs—allow for interactive shared work. A smaller chestnut veneer Antenna table—surrounded by yellow MultiGeneration chairs intended for shorter-term seating—distinguishes a zone in this area for casual small-group meetings. Bookending these shared workspaces, individual stations with Antenna desks and overhead and vertical storage provide semi-enclosed areas for focused work.
Mixing new and old to reinforce the brand
Beyond the open work areas and on a mezzanine level above, a mix of Knoll’s classic and contemporary office furnishings supports multiple modes of work within glass-enclosed private offices, too. In Utter’s office, for instance, a pair of Saarinen chairs sits in front of Florence Knoll’s Calacatta marble table desk for intimate meetings, while two Florence Knoll lounge chairs in one corner enable more casual conversations in the same room. A playful red-and-white wallcovering, created for Knoll by New York–based design studio 2x4, brightens other private offices that lack daylight with shots of color. “The splashes of red gave us the opportunity to set the stage for the Knoll brand experience with one of Knoll’s signature colors,” says Stone.
Since the renovation was completed, the feedback from those using the space has been resoundingly positive, says Utter, who appreciates the effect her own renovated office has had on her day-to-day work. “I’m in a fishbowl 24/7 and I love it—I can see what’s going on, coworkers stop by more readily now, plus I can shift from focused to shared work within the same space,” she says. “Our ability to update our space to reflect modern work styles within the legacy of our building is what we stand for,” she says. “It lets us walk the talk.”
Key Design Highlights
- An open area accommodates different work needs: individual workstations, a casual meeting table, and a row of tables with movable privacy panels.
- A punchy red-and-white wallcovering offers visual appeal in windowless offices.
- The conference room, designed to be multifunctional, is outfitted with various tackable and writable surfaces.
Architect Watkins Architect
Where East Greenville, Pennsylvania
What 10,000 square feet on one floor
Cost/sf Withheld at client’s request