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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
"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]
"i have 2 parker knoll chairs maked mpk1140 what are worth" dickerson
It's very difficult to get an idea of value with out seeing the piece. Condition is everything.
The best way to value any piece of furniture is to look at eBay completed listings. That will give you an idea of how much similar pieces sell for." retrowow 22/04/2010
I would like to het it properly restored as it has sentimental value, but I can't even find any info about the model. Would you know how old it is?
thanks" Joanna Hannam 07/11/2010
I can not find anything about them : can you help? are they worth re covering etc. Debra" Debra Williams 25/06/2011
Do you have one on offer?
Thank you for any help that you can give me." meneca richardson 15/08/2011
they have since been recovered in brown and gold draylon. can anyone put a value on these.THANKS" bill smyth 24/10/2011
Many Thanks Anne-Marie xx" Anne-Marie McAleenan 22/03/2012
Thanks Linda." Linda Russell 15/04/2012
Thank you." keith oliver 04/06/2012
It's definitely Parker Knoll with a PK model number. I think 1959 might be a bit early for a fibre glass chair from Park Knoll. They went for conservative rather than cutting edge modern. Could it have been made in the mid sixties? Do you know the name of the designer?
best regards" Steven 05/06/2012
Thanks for the response, I know it suprised me. The date was given to me by Parker Knoll from the PK number before the company went belly up' a number of years ago. The date was further confirmed from a list of design awards from 1959 which referenced the model number. Unfortunately, after writing down the designer, I misplaced it and have not found either the name or original list. It was not someone I recognised through? I did see a sofa in the same style from a late 50's furniture exhibition, again I can't seem to find that again. A mystery indeed!
Keith" keith oliver 07/06/2012
sincerely and anxiously awaiting your response I am,
Shirley Ann Meyers Moore" Shirley Moore 12/09/2012
I renovate and buy and sell Parker Knoll chairs from my workshop,i always have a selection of finished and ready to renovate chair available to look at.
I also supply new foams,armcaps and headpillows as to Parker Knoll spec.
Thanks andrew bennett" Andrew Bennnett Upholstery(Chipping Norton) 19/01/2013
WHAT IS IT WORTH." Jayne Osborne 13/05/2013
Retro furniture, fashion and collectables