Florence Knoll Custom Oval Executive Table

Custom lounge height version of Knoll oval conference table.
Custom lounge height version of Knoll oval conference table.

I decided to post about a very interesting table we discovered a few years ago – unique version of an iconic design.  It’s also a rare opportunity to be able to provide some interesting personal history about the previous and first owner of this piece. If you are like me, and have furnished your home in vintage designs, you often wonder who owned them before you and what the home they were used in look like back in 1958.  In this instance, I can provide reams of information on the providence of this table and even have period photos of the home it came from.

Designed in 1961, the Knoll oval conference table (Model 2480) was one of the most iconic pieces designed by Florence Knoll. The standard table table measures 29″x78″x48′.  At the Knoll museum in Penn. there is a version of the table that is a inch lower, and it stands at 28 inches high.  However the table featured in this post is only 24″ high.

Here is a standard height Knoll table with a couch to provide contrast.
Here is a standard height Knoll table with a couch to provide contrast.

According to the Knoll Museum, Florence Knoll was willing to customize Knoll designs, at a premium, upon request from the architects and designers who used their furniture in their projects.  The table featured here is one of those custom tables.

Upon first glance, this table appears to be the standard dining/conference table but a closer look and you will observe that the chairs featured are not standard Eames dining chairs (DCMs), but Eames lounge chairs – both wood and metal versions.  (Known as LCW and LCMs)  If you are familiar with LCWs then this photo will give you an excellent concept of the size and scale of the custom table.

Below is a graphic where we feature a cut away of the standard conference table height on left side and the low conference table on the right.  Also you will see a standard dining chair and a Eames lounge chair at the tables to give you an idea of scale.

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Here is a contrast diagram showing the standard height on left contrasted with the low custom version on the right. Standard height dining and lounge chairs also shown.

The custom table came from the home of Henry Eldin (1914-2009).  Eldin was an architect in West Virginia who worked with contemporaries such as Eero Saarinen.  Elden also had close ties to  Knoll and Herman Miller in the 1950’s and 60’s, owing to using their furniture in numerous large scale office projects created by his architectural firm.

The office section of Top O Rock in 1967.
The office section of Top O Rock in 1967.

Mr. Eldin built an ultra modern home which also housed his architectural firm, a true home-office before such things were common.  Called Top-O-Rock, the home/office was completed in the early 1960’s.  The office section was built around a natural stone structure that served as a back wall of the circular two story office space and was part of the house’s foundation. The 2,500 square foot office space looked more like a beautiful atrium than a typical architects office. It housed his team of architects, draftsmen and secretaries.  The rock structure also had trees and plant life landscaped among it, truly bringing a piece of the outdoors into the structure.

The beautiful home still stands today as one of Charleston, West Virginia’s most famous & well known homes, though it is currently in need of restoration. As the owner of an architectural firm focused on modern designs, Mr. Eldin would have been among the first to receive catalogs and previews of new designs.  His home was scattered with many first editions from Herman Miller, Knoll, Gavina, Hans Wegner, many Danish designers, et al.

Eldin was known for brainstorming sessions and relaxed meetings with his clients.  He liked to discuss certain matters in a more casual environment, rather than a stuffy conference room. He would sit with his staff (or clients) in the firm’s lounge area which was situated in a mezzanine level overlooking the office space. If he wanted to roll out large building blueprints and plans he would need a large lounge table.  The lounge chairs in this area were far too low to use at a standard conference table, and the standard coffee tables were too small to display blueprints on and seat 5 to 10 people around it.  Sure, coffee tables and side tables existed – but these were all designed to be used on the side of the tables.

The solution was this table.  Eldin requested Knoll produce for him a special version of the 29″x78″x48″ conference/dining table that could be used with lounge height chairs. The result was

Top O Rock exterior, with glassed in office section in forefront
Top O Rock exterior, with glassed in office section in forefront

this table with a height of 24″, and not 29″. Now clients and staff could meet and work in the lounge environment, spread out their plans, and enjoy that cup of coffee without the need to resort to the formal conference area.

This is, to date, the only example of a Knoll oval conference table we have found that was designed and produced for the purpose of LCWs, LCMs or other lounge chairs. It’s speaks of a time when companies were willing to work with their customers to tailor their designs to their needs.  We know that the abbreviated stem was a unique request but as can be seen from the photographs, it worked brilliantly.

It’s also the first time we have seen a custom table from Knoll that was not featured as an option in their catalogs.

More photographs and information about the Knoll low conference table can be found here.  I hope to do a post about Top O Rock, both the amazing architecture and the extraordinary furnishings, in the next few weeks.

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