Parker Knoll

Contemporary furniture from Parker Knoll, late 1950s

Parker Knoll furniture has always promoted values of quality and comfort. It was a brand people aspired to own. In the 50s and 60s, Parker Knoll embraced modern as well as traditional design. The firm specialised in chairs and sofas.

The history of the company goes back to Victorian times. Unlike most furniture manufacturers, which were started by cabinet makers, the founder of Parker Knoll, was an upholsterer. He began in the trade as an apprentice in 1862.

After several years in the furniture trade, Frederick Parker started his own business in 1889, manufacturing furniture from premises in Drummond Road, Hampstead, London. Frederick Parker then moved the business to High Wycombe, the centre of UK furniture manufacture in 1897, forming a limited company known as Parkers with his four sons in 1901.

Parkers specialised in the manufacture of sofas and chairs, sticking to Frederick Parker's roots in upholstery. The Parker-Knoll trade mark was introduced in 1931.

Parker Knoll Serino, 1950s

Like many firms, Parker-Knoll was involved in the manufacture of aircraft in the Second World War. After the War, it resumed furniture production, making Utility chairs. Once the Utility Scheme ended in the early 50s, Parker Knoll continued with the manufacture of traditional sofas and chairs, but like many other firms also experimented with contemporary style.

Their take on contemporary was always restrained and well proportioned. Parker Knoll aimed at a market where comfort and build quality were important, though the company was not afraid to embrace the contemporary style and mix and match approach to colour that was popular in the 50s.

At the same time, Parker Knoll continued with more traditional designs, such as the Company's famous wing chair, pictured left.


Parker Knoll Recliner, 1970s

The Recliner

The recliner was a new development in the 60s. Several manufacturers made a reclining arm chair suitable for relaxing after a hard day's work. The Parker Knoll recliner was one of the best. Their advertising, firmly rooted in the social mores of the day, suggested that the housewife could use it, but only whilst her husband was out at work. It could recline to an almost horizontal position.

The recliner became an instant hit and was a desirable object in homes of the sixties and seventies. A variation of this classic design is still made today.

Parker Knoll Statesman chair, 1960s

The Statesman

In the late sixties and early seventies a status symbol from the office found its way into the home: it was the black leather or vinyl office executive chair. Some people needed a desk and office chair at home; others thought what was good enough for the boardroom was good enough for the lounge.

Both Hille and Conran specialised in contract furniture. Some of their designs for office use also found their way into fashionable homes. The high backed swivel chair, suitable for the top executive's office, looked equally as good in the modern home. The swivel chair on pedestal base became a modern status symbol. It was seen as the chair of the man of the house. With its deep-buttoned, high back, swivel pedestal base, Parker Knoll's Statesman, right, looked the part.

Parker Knoll made good profits throughout the sixties. In 1961 it opened a furniture showroom in London. In 1962 the company bought new land at Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire and built a new factory as an additional production facility to its High Wycombe base. The new factory originally manufactured chairs and sofas under the Cornwell-Norton brand.

Parker Knoll sofas, 1970s

Parker Knoll in the 70s

Parker Knoll retained its status as a luxury aspirational brand in the 70s. The firm was able to work five days over the period of the three day week because its factories had their own generators.

This advertisement, left, from the early seventies tried to persuade people to make the extra sacrifice needed to own a Parker Knoll suite and emphasised that it need not be as expensive as they thought.

Parker Knoll fabrics, 1970s

The textiles business ran alongside the furniture business from the late 1940s onwards. Parker Knoll Textiles made furnishing fabric used in Parker Knoll and other upholstered furniture.

Parker Knoll continued to make profits in the early years of the 80s, when many other British furniture firms struggled. In 1981 it bought struggling cabinet makers Nathan for 650,000.

The Parker Knoll brand is still in business today, promoting similar values of quality and comfort that saw it become a respected household name in the past.

See www.parkerknoll.co.uk for more details.

Your comments

"Parker Knoll today is not the same company and no longer produce spares for the 'old range', the brand name was sold in 2005. I am looking for new rocker bushes for my Statesman chairs and they don't make them!!!!;" Michael Hawkesworth

"i remember going to vist my great grandfarther with the rest of the family and he was always sat in this rather lovely parker knoll chair! he was never out of it , that was his chair and no one else was aloud to sit in it! just shows that it must have been a gd chair!" Frances Keenan

"Hello, I wonder if you could help, i was left two small chairs which are very comfortable. The model is PK 1022-7. They need re-covering but i am interested to find out more about them as i have never seen this model anywhere before. Many thanks, " Mike Seaward

Hi Mike, A chair of similar model number sold on eBay recently. The seller dated it 1970, although I can't confirm it was the same design. Retrowow

"I have 2 Parker Knoll chairs that have Parker Knoll registered trademark on them but don't have a style number. They do have a small plaque that says 'Made in W.A. by Boans. European labour only' They have wooden arms and coil spring back and base. Could somebody please tell me something about them." lesley rasheed

"Hi,i have 6 Parker-knoll chairs stamped PARKER-KNOLL MODEL NO.P.K.751/2MK1 WOULD LIKE TO FIND OUT THEIR VALUE------We bought them second hand in the 1960's" stan burgess

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"i have 2 parker knoll chairs maked mpk1140 what are worth" dickerson

 
 

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