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Knoll’s 1st Designer Jens Risom Turns 100

This year marked the 100th birthday of Knoll‘s very first designer Jens Risom. Risom designed the first Knoll chair in 1941, which has left its mark on the design world 75 years later.

Knoll | Jens Risom |YLiving
Jens Risom via Knoll

The son of a prominent Danish architect, Jens Risom went into furniture design, rather than following in his father’s footsteps. Furniture design had a certain amount of creative control that architecture just didn’t provide. Design ensured Risom that every product he produced would leave the factory the way it was intended to.

Knoll | Jens Risom | YLiving
650 Line Lounge Chairs by Jens Risom, c. 1946. Image from the Knoll Archive, via Knoll

Risom began his studies in Copenhagen at the Krebs School, St. Anne Vester School, University of Copenhagen and Copenhagens Kunstandvaerkerskolen. After his education, Risom left for the United States to see what the American furniture industry had in store. Rather than finding a rich and prosperous industry, Risom discovered that there was barely a trace of furniture design stateside, which made finding work difficult.

Knoll | Jens Risom | YLiving
Jens Risom’s patent for a chair frame, c. 1943. Image from the Knoll Archive, via Knoll

After landing his first commissioned work for the Collier’s House of Ideas, Jens Risom became the design director of Dan Cooper, the fabric and interior designer at MoMA, in New York. There, he produced a few textile designs but then the war broke out in 1939 and cotton shortages posed new challenges for textile and furniture designers at the time. While others were experimenting with molded plywood and fiberglass, Risom began working with a textile that was a product of the time: parachute webbing.

Knoll | Jens Risom | YLiving
Risom Lounge Chair By Jens Risom, from Knoll

Risom and Hans Knoll connected in 1940, and Risom used the parachute webbing to produce the very first chair for Knoll in 1941. The Risom Lounge Chair is a masterpiece of design. With no screws or nails used, the natural materials are able to breathe organically. With a natural aesthetic characteristic of understated Scandinavian Modernism, the chair boasts streamlined curves and angles.

Knoll | Jens Risom | YLiving
Risom Side Chair with Webbed Back and Seat By Jens Risom, from Knoll

After returning from the war, Jens Risom parted ways with Knoll in 1946 to launch his own design firm, Jens Risom Design, which he then sold in the early 1970s. Jens Risom is now a trustee of the Rhode Island School of Design and was knighted by Queen Margrethe of Denmark in 1996.

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Rachel Kemp

Rachel Kemp

Rachel is one of the Merchandise Managers for YLiving with a long career in merchandising and is thrilled to finally be working through a channel that supports her passion for modern design. As a mother of two toddlers, she is practical, design driven in her decisions with furnishing her home and tempted daily with the endless options of home upgrades.

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