We’d just like to say - Happy 150th Birthday to Our Friends Parker Knoll!

 

 

The odd thing is 2019 would have been an important anniversary for Parker Knoll anyway. 50 years ago, in 1969, they launched the Statesman Chair. For some people it’s that particular model that defines Parker Knoll. The legendary swivel tilt chair has proved so popular, so timeless, that not only is it still in production, it’s an integral part of the company’s latest contemporary collection - ‘evolution’.

 

By 1969 though Parker Knoll had already been around for 100 years - which is why, in 2019, we’re saying Happy 150th Birthday!

 

Frederick Parker was born in Shoreditch, in 1845. He served an apprenticeship in his father’s furniture factory, and in 1869 started up in business for himself as a chair maker. His all embracing idea was to make high quality furniture, by hand.

 

He started in London but by 1898 Frederick had moved his growing business to High Wycombe, a town firmly established as a centre of furniture making.

 

Interestingly, some of the furniture he made at this time was for the spectacular lounges of the great ocean liners, including Cunard’s Aquitania. Frederick also made pieces for the Viceroy’s House in New Delhi and he carved a throne for the Emperor Haile Selassie no less!

 

By 1904 the business was incorporated as Frederick Parker and Sons Ltd.

 

Ten years later the world was at war. A German fighter pilot, Willi Knoll, survived the conflict, and took away from it an enduring memory of how uncomfortable the seat of his aircraft had been. He set about designing a coiled steel wire string system for use in comfortable, sprung furniture. In 1929 he travelled to London, determined to find a furniture manufacturer who would put his patented idea into practice.

 

Fate played a hand. By then Frederick’s son Tom was running the Parker business and, in 1929 he happened to visit legendary furniture store Heal & Son. Even then committed to promoting new design the store was displaying some chairs by Willi Knoll.

 

The two men moved quickly. A company was formed and the 1931 British Industries Fair saw the launch of Parker Knoll chairs.

 

The brand was immediately successful. Newspaper advertising promoted a range of ‘tension sprung’ chairs to consumers, whilst the BBC commissioned Parker Knoll furniture for Broadcasting House; and the seagoing business continued with the company providing chairs for Cunard’s RMS Queen Mary.

 

By 1935 they needed a new factory.

 

In 1939, at the outbreak of war,  the company, like many others, turned at least part of its production to meeting military needs. Parker Knoll not only repaired gliders, they built, among other things, the wings for the iconic de Havilland Mosquito combat aircraft.

 

When peace returned so did full on furniture production. Just five years later, in 1950, Parker Knoll was listed on the London Stock Exchange.

 

As the 1960s got into their stride the Parker Knoll recliner chair had become a signature piece. Soon, yet another factory, was needed. This time they built it in Chipping Norton.

 

The collection continued to grow. Now merged with Cornwell Norton the brand attracted an ever widening audience. 1970s style demands were met with upholstered suites, rocking chairs and and a dazzling choice of over 200 fabrics.

 

Where Parker Knoll led, others followed. The company’s achievements were recognised in 1996 when they were named as ‘The Number One Furniture Brand in the UK’.

 

The 21st century has brought changes. In 2005 the company became part of Sofa Brands International Group. Three years later the business moved to Reddings in Derbyshire.

 

2012 saw what was in effect a relaunch of the Parker Knoll brand. With increased retail distribution and new collections Parker Knoll has remained as innovative as ever. 2015’s ‘Maison Collection’ for example was a step change in design and appeal.

 

 

 

Whatever changes and developments have been incorporated into the brand over the years some things have remained a constant. The quality of design has never been anything other than exceptional. The comfort of the furniture has remained integral to its values. Today’s ‘evolution’ collection is a master class in clean contemporary design, but it’s in the same handwriting, of finish and engineering excellence, that has defined the brand’s signature since the very beginnings.

 

We’ve always been proud to associated with the brand. This year we’re delighted to say Happy 150th Birthday to our friends at Parker Knoll.

Posted by Holly Mason
19th March 2019

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