written by:
April 10, 2014
Jens Risom's 1942 designs for Knoll were born out of wartime necessity but went on to become signature midcentury modern designs.
Modern living room with Jens Risom side chair

Jens Risom's side chair is the centerpiece of the spacious living room in this Austin residence. Photo by Dave Mead.

Photo by 
Originally appeared in Country Bunker
1 / 6
The Sub-Zero beverage chiller sits in easy proximity to the lounge area adjacent to the kitchen. Risom lounge chairs were rewoven with cat claw–proof leather strapping after the originals were shredded.

In this San Francisco home, Risom lounge chairs were rewoven with cat–proof leather strapping after the originals were shredded. Photo by Leslie Williamson.

Photo by 
Originally appeared in Project Runaway
2 / 6
The game room extends outside to the backyard but inside, Girst, Goldberg, and their guests lounge on the couple's Florence Knoll sofa from <a href="http://www.knoll.com">Knoll</a> and a Jens Risom chair.<br /><br />Photo by <a href="http://www.sharonrise

In this recently renovated San Francisco Victorian, a Florence Knoll sofa from Knoll is paired with the Jens Risom lounge chair. Photo by Sharon Risedorph.

Photo by 
Originally appeared in Noe Valley Renovation
3 / 6
Jens Risom’s 1941 lounge chair for Knoll sits alongside custom-made cabinets in the Wilson’s master bedroom. Ken’s father, an archaeologist, collected the pottery and wall hanging in the American southwest.
Risom’s red chair shines brightly in the master bedroom of this Virginia home. Photo by Eric Laignel.
 
Photo by 
Originally appeared in Community of Vision
4 / 6
risom chair knoll

Risom's chairs were cheap and easy to manufacture, making them an ideal wartime design. Photo courtesy of Knoll. 

5 / 6
The designer sitting in his iconic lounge chair.
 
Originally appeared in Jens Risom Furniture We Love
6 / 6
Modern living room with Jens Risom side chair

Jens Risom's side chair is the centerpiece of the spacious living room in this Austin residence. Photo by Dave Mead.

Photo by Dave Mead.

Jens Risom's furniture collection was the first designed for and manufactured by Knoll. Originally known as the 600 Series, it quickly put the new furniture company on the map, and remains one of its most popular designs to this day.

Born in Denmark, Risom left for the United States in 1938. Soon after settling in New York, he met Hans Knoll, who was a year older and had been in the United States a year longer than Risom. The two quickly bonded, aware of the gap in the American furniture market and ambitious to fill it with quality design. “There was no furniture, nothing to be had…everybody was anxious to buy everything they could get their hands on,” Risom recalls. 

The two embarked on a mission to create simple, inexpensive furniture for American consumers. The resulting collection made two of the few materials widely available during wartime—surplus army webbing and parachute straps—and wrapped them around a supple, curving wooden frame. Aided by Knoll's enterpreneurial prowess, the collection was quickly became a mainstream staple of office furnishing. But the lounges, armchairs and stools, which made up the collection, also proved immediately successful with broader American audiences eager for simple and functional design. 

Risom didn't have much time to enjoy his successes; drafted in 1943, he spent two and a half years in the army. When he returned, he found there was little room left for him at Knoll. In this time, Hans had married Florence Schust, who, according to Risom, “was a brilliant designer but was not as impressed with the Scandinavian wood furniture as she was the metal furniture from Mies and Saarinen.” Nevertheless, Knoll continued producing the collection without Risom's name attached to it. In the late 1990s the collection was reintroduced under his name, capturing the attention of a new generation of design enthusiasts. 

You May Also Like

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...