Knoll / Olivares Chair

Every once in a while a chair comes along that is destined to become a classic and Jonathan Olivares’ new indoor/outdoor chair for Knoll is just that!  Although the end result is an ergonomic and organic streamlined chair that looks quite simple, the process and research that went into creating the piece required meticulous exploration and innovation. After nearly four years of development and experiments with hydro-forming, stamping and multiple means of manipulating metal Olivares’ studio was able to cast the chair out of a single piece of sculpted aluminum.  Working in die cast aluminum enabled the seat portion of the chair to be as slim and elegant as possible.  My personal interest in the design of the chair stems from finding out that Olivares’ inspiration for the design, weight and visual lightness came from three of furniture’s great chair design masters Harry Bertoia and the team of Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper.  Bertoia’s wire chairs are now iconic in Knoll’s collection and Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper designed the square faceted counterpart to Olivares’ rounded form in their handsome Lambda chair of which I am the proud owner.  The chair is part of both the Vitra Design Museum and MoMA’s permanent design collections.  Designed in 1959 this chair places high in my personal collection and the construction of the aluminum shell seat and connection to the legs is very similar to the further developments Olivares’ studio made to his new design for Knoll.



Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper Lambda chair from my collection
Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper Lambda chair from my collection
Prototype models of the Olivares chair in development
Prototype models of the Olivares chair in development


Prior to designing the new chair, Olivares researched the design, evolution and function of chairs in his book A Taxonomy of Office Chairs published in 2011.  The book is a thoughtful and astute look at the way we live with chairs and posed the questions that made him strive to design the perfect indoor/outdoor chair for today.  Weight was a critical concern and the Olivares’ chair clocks in at just under 15 lbs. making it not too heavy and but just heavy enough for both applications.  The way that the chair legs in extruded aluminum connect to the wavy seat is almost seamless and beautifully crafted.  Knoll’s design team and engineering experts partnering with Olivares’ studio have launched a chair that is both visually arresting, comfortable but certainly packs a powerful punch with color!



Pages from A Taxonomy of Office Chairs studying chair bases in Wood, aluminum and plastic from 1885-1984.
Pop colors of the Olivares chair
Pop colors of the Olivares chair




David Hockney’s paintings as well as Italian futurist artist Ennio Morlotti’s works inspired the color palette Benjamin Pardo helped develop.  They are vibrant, explosive colors that truly feel like light shooting through a prism as well as black, white and grey.  The chair can also be painted in a two tone finish with interior shell and outer portion of varying tones.  And finally because the chair is meant for both indoor and outdoor use the single hole placed in the center of the seat breaks up the surface of the chair and functionally allows for drainage.  But most importantly, it shows the thin gauge of the elegantly cast aluminum and how much time went into getting it “just right”!


detail of underside of seat with Knoll stamp
detail of underside of seat with Knoll stamp

Thank you to Caroline Mattar and Ryan Jacobs at Knoll!




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