Furniture classics: the Knoll Barcelona chair

The phrase ‘fit for a king’ is a popular one, but when it comes to the Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed leather lounge chair it is entirely accurate.

The Knoll Barcelona chair – a brief history

The chair was designed for Alfonso XIII, the King of Spain, to coincide with his presence at the opening ceremony of the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition. The fair, which involved 20 European nations including Germany, Britain, France, Italy, and Switzerland was used to promote the city’s technological development and raise the profile of Catalan industry.

The event itself cost $25 million and the Barcelona Pavillion, also known as the German Pavillion, was used for the German section of the Expo. It aimed to reflect a new post-World War I Germany: democratic and progressive.

Mies wanted the building to be: “an ideal zone of tranquillity.” Inside, he included furniture that created a resting place for the King and Queen of Spain as he wanted to create a chair that was appropriate for royalty. His creation was the Barcelona chair, a low lounge chair with a metal frame and leather cushions.

The chair saw limited production in the following years until 1953 when Knoll acquired the rights to the design and its popularity grew. Today, it is probably the most imitated chair of all time and replicas are made by other manufacturers worldwide and marketed using different names. The genuine Knoll Barcelona chair is much sought after for homes and offices around the world and is a popular choice among K2 Space clients – particularly those from the financial services sector.

How the chair is made

The almost completely hand-laboured Knoll Barcelona chair is made with a chrome frame, which is hand-ground and hand-buffed to a mirror finish. The cushions are upholstered with 40 individual panels cut, hand-welted and hand-tufted from a single cowhide. The cushions are secured to the frame using 17 straps made from cowhide belting leather. As a finishing touch, the signature of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, coupled with the Knoll Studio logo is stamped into the chair leg.

“The name’s Studio, Knoll Studio”

The chair has certainly moved into popular culture over the years too. Daniel Craig sits on the chair as James Bond in Casino Royale. More recently, Knoll furniture has become a real feature of US legal drama Suits. Indeed, partner Harvey Specter, of the fictional law firm Pearson Specter Litt, seems to have turned his office into a mini Knoll showroom.

The K2 Team are trusted Knoll dealers, so if you are interested in acquiring a Barcelona Chair, please get in touch

Knoll Barcelona Chair PJT Partners London
The Knoll Barcelona Chair at the PJT Partners office in London

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