Stephen Knollenberg introduced his firm to the world in 2002 (the same year as Meade Design Group!). Stephen’s specialty is spaces that are comfortable yet elegant, classic yet contemporary, urban yet casual, and always timeless with a balance of the old and the new.
You have most likely seen Mr. Knollenberg’s work in publications such as Architectural Digest, Metropolitan Home or The New York Times. I particularly enjoy his architectural detailing and his ability to adapt his style to work in concert with a multitude of homes, varying from classic, metropolitan and even rustic-chic.
Please read on to learn more about this talented designer…
Iván Meade – What was your first experience with design?
Stephen Knollenberg – Like a lot of interior designers, I 'practiced' in my parents home growing up. This was initially an irritation for my mother, but when her house received accolades from her friends she started getting out of my way. We lived in an interesting, somewhat mid-century house and she collected primitive and early American antiques. I think the disparity between the two challenged me in many ways.
Iván Meade – Who or what has influenced your style?
Stephen Knollenberg – I traveled quite a bit growing up. Occasionally it was glamorous and most of the time it was not, but it seemed there was always a family trip somewhere happening. For a kid with his antennae up for design, this was a wonderful thing. I then went to college in Boston and spent a year living in London as well. I couldn't see enough fast enough, and I know that these exposures influenced me a great deal. Later in my twenties, I got my first job in the field with interior designer Brian Killian. He thought big and had great style. I think I grew my wings working for him. In addition to his mentoring, he also taught me about the field of interior design as a business. I learned that it takes more than just the ability to design to keep the lights on!
Iván Meade – How would you describe your style?
Stephen Knollenberg -- Generally, collected and edited. I think the best rooms, contemporary or traditional, incorporate a variety of furnishings not all of which can simply be found in a catalog. Since I enjoy 'the hunt', I always try to find unique and interesting pieces to make my clients' spaces feel individual.......acquired. For me, paring things down is the next step. I think there's a sweet spot in every room where a certain balance is struck. In my work, this balance probably reads fairly minimal.
Iván Meade – What designers of past and present do you admire most?
Stephen Knollenberg – Present day, I admire the work of Lee Mindel, John Saladino, Axel Vervoordt and Hugh Newell Jacobsen. Looking back, the work of Eliel Saarinen, David Adler, The Shakers and Robert Adam.
Iván Meade – What do you consider to be your greatest strength and your greatest weakness?
Stephen Knollenberg – Strength: I have a strong inclination to try and always to do things differently.....to be innovative. Weakness: Not everything needs to be re-thought! I catch myself going in circles with this at times. They say your greatest strength is often also your weakness.......
Iván Meade – What books are currently on your bedside or coffee table?
Stephen Knollenberg – Bedside: DV, Diana Vreeland's amazing autobiographical book ( I just re-read it...), and a John Steinbeck novel. Coffee table: books by Swedish architect Gunnar Asplund and Hugh Newell Jacobsen.
Iván Meade – What are you excited about right now in the world of design?
Stephen Knollenberg – That everyone today seems to be genuinely interested in design. I went to an Ikea store for the first time a few months ago and was struck. Prior to, I had always thought that the catalog was sufficient. The giant store was like a theme park with hundreds of people walking through it. There was something there for everyone at every level. I walked out with a great set of glass bar tumblers next to a college student who was buying things for her dorm room. I thought that was really fantastic.
Iván Meade – What would be your dream project?
Stephen Knollenberg – Something in the ballpark of adding a steel and glass box onto an 18th century castle. I love the excitement and tension that is created in juxtaposing opposites. Often for me that means placing something new next to something old.
Iván Meade – What project has given you the most satisfaction?
Stephen Knollenberg – I recently completed a project in Key West, Florida. The original 1950's beach house was saved, but almost everything throughout it was altered in some way. There was no formal architect involved and I became the go-to guy for every square inch of the place. My fingerprints are on everything from the structure itself, the landscaping, the furniture......right down to the little silver box on the coffee table. It was a very rewarding experience. I was also fortunate to be working with the greatest clients imaginable.
Iván Meade – What has been your favourite design find?
Stephen Knollenberg – I'm a bit of a collector, so that's a tough one. I have a weekend house in the woods a couple of blocks from Lake Michigan. Very little changes inside of it as many of the 'finds' are special to me, but occasionally something will be added. One acquisition is a large 19th century, French gold scale that I found in a tiny shop in Amsterdam. It's black iron, has ivory plaques for measuring the weight increments and stands about five feet tall. If I ever wanted to part with it, it's so heavy I think I'd need a crane.
Iván Meade – What is your next design venture?
Stephen Knollenberg – I enjoy designing homes for people very much and I really have yet to be seduced into what comes next. I think designing a product for the mass market would be interesting. I would be most excited about tackling something that hasn't been done before. We have many good designer lines of furniture, fabrics, tabletop and towels already. I'd like to identify and contribute to what could be next on the horizon.
Iván Meade – Lastly, you have already created a stunning body of work with many mediums and styles. What would you like your legacy to be?
Stephen Knollenberg – I just turned 42 so I haven't given a lot of thought to the legacy yet! I think it would be great however to be remembered for 'stepping out of the box' in some way(s). Someone once said, "There are no original ideas....". I don't believe this at all.
I invite you to visit Stephen Knollenberg’s website to learn more about him and his work.