By  on July 25, 2008

LONDON — Knoll, the Pennsylvania-based design firm that’s known for commissioning and making iconic furniture such as Eero Saarinen’s Tulip chairs, has unveiled a 70-year retrospective at Liberty, the London department store celebrated for its part in the Arts and Crafts movement.

“We’re both grand old dames of our industries, but we both see ourselves more like Audrey Hepburn, as youthful, bright and glamorous,” said Justin Pratt, U.K. manager for Knoll Studio.

In 1938, company founders Hans and Florence Knoll started recruiting designers to create pieces for modern interiors. Frank Gehry, Robert Venturi and Ettore Sottsass are among the many who pitched in over the years. Florence Knoll, whose mentor was Mies van der Rohe, has set the tone for the company, according to Pratt. “We employ designers at the height of their powers.”

The “Past, Present and Future” exhibition highlights commissioned work as well as pieces the company bought the rights to, such as the steel and leather Wassily chair, designed by Marcel Breuer in 1925. Liberty’s exhibit runs through Sept. 4, and most of the pieces are for sale. Prices start at around $594 for a Florence Knoll-designed glass coffee table to about $16,500 for a Shelton Mindel naked leather sofa.

Later this year, Knoll-related exhibitions will be staged at the Kirkland Museum in Denver, the National Building Museum in Washington and the Virginia Center for Architecture in October.

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