Where I Work: Benjamin Pardo of Knoll

Back in 2005, Benjamin Pardo landed at legendary design brand Knoll where he’s the Senior Vice President and Design Director, which means he’s in charge of all product and showroom design around the globe. With more than 30 years in the design world and the last 15 with Knoll where he works closely with the likes of David Adjaye, Antenna Design, Formway Design, Marc Krusin, Piero Lissoni, Marc Newson and Rockwell Group, it’s no surprise that his workspace is just as impressive as his resume. Since the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Pardo is working from his home office in New York where he’s surrounded by a collection of design objects, most notably by Ettore Sottsass, that create a visually inspiring space to focus. In this month’s Where I Work, Benjamin Pardo shares his home workspace and how he uses it.

What’s your studio/work environment like?

From my home office, I’m lucky enough to draw from designs representing the evolution of our modern viewpoint – Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Eero Saarinen, Ettore Sottsass, David Adjaye, and, of course, the inimitable Florence Knoll herself. My home and workspace reflect this vision as a result, mainly when you think about the distinctly different approaches to Modern under one roof. But what I love the most about this space is its balance. Everything has its place. This is crucial when I’m working from home because it gives me the space to think and ideate, while surrounded by beautiful and functional pieces. Natural light is also very important, for me or for anyone. It’s one of the things our research finds can positively impact wellness while working from home.

How is your space organized/arranged?

I live in a modernist style New York City apartment, so my dining area also doubles as my “office.” I have a long D’Urso racetrack table on casters. Each morning, I create my workspace by positioning the D’Urso table perpendicular to my collection of design related objects, maximizing my surface area and creating a designated workspace. A suspended Alvar Aalto light provides extra visibility as the daylight fades away.

Once I’m done working for the day, I roll the D’Urso table to the center of the space, parallel to the wall, and it’s once again a dining table for six. This subtle spatial transition is important to delineate work and leisure hours.

How long have you been in this space? Where did you work before that?

Prior to the pandemic, I worked from our office in Midtown Manhattan and I am going back there for meetings as we begin to transition back to the workplace. I’ve adjusted to working from home, but I miss the social interaction and camaraderie of the office.

If you could change something about your workspace, that would it be?

I wouldn’t change a thing, I’m perfectly happy with my setup, and it addresses my creative needs. A home office can always improve over time, especially as your workflow evolves, but the important thing to keep in mind is that it should always suit your particular needs and space. To stay organized, I am partial to the Muuto’s playful Restore Basket using recycled plastic fibers; they’re great for document storage or to nest plants.

Is there an office pet?

My dog, Simon, is camera shy.

Do you require music in the background? If so, who are some favorites?

I listen to the New York City WQXR public radio classical music station all day long.

How do you record ideas?

I’m passionate about my collection of Smythson notebooks that I use to sketch, jot down ideas and take notes during telephone and Zoom calls. I use Prismacolor pencils.

Do you have an inspiration board? What’s on it right now?

I don’t have an inspiration board. I have a good eye and visual memory.

What is your typical work style?

Active and lively. I switch up my seating during the day and, sometimes, if I’m absorbed by one thing, I’ll end up standing over my desk, grabbing books or papers from the adjacent Muuto Around side table. If I’m in the mood to work and lounge at the same time, I find an armchair and use a Muuto Relate table, paired with a Saarinen side table, for my computer or a cup of tea.

What is your creative process and/or creative workflow like? Does it change every project or do you keep it the same?

Every project seems to have its own unique characteristics related to the problem I’m trying to solve. Typically, my projects share working with an international roster of designers with a range of modern perspectives. My job is to foster creativity, so being approachable and listening is key, but it also requires time to think and reflect.

What kind of art/design/objects might you have scattered about the space?

My New York apartment has a large collection of Ettore Sottsass objects of various media. I also always keep fresh flowers by the windowsill.

Let’s talk about how you’re wired. Tell us about your tech arsenal/devices.

No grand tech arsenal here, I’m afraid. Just my computer, all the latest software and collaboration tools as well as my iPhone. Things worked perfectly for our recent virtual Knoll Design Days, right down to end-of-day cocktail conversations with designers in Europe. You can see the replays on knoll.com.

What’s on your desk right now?

I keep scattered notes, pencils, a fountain pen and a Muuto Platform Tray for beverages on my desk. An added surface, my Muuto Around coffee table stays by my side throughout the day.

Is there a favorite project/piece you’ve worked on?

It’s no surprise that every project seems to have a backstory, but there are certainly some highlights. Last year, we debuted our new showroom in Chicago’s Fulton Market District. We designed the space, funny enough, just as Florence Knoll would have intended – from the inside out. We applied her notion of “total design” to every detail. Each aspect of the space really plays into the other in a fluid, vibrant way.

Tell us about a current project you’re working on. What was the inspiration behind it?

I’m currently working on a desk inspired by Marcel Breuer with two UK-based designers.

Do you have anything in your home that you’ve designed/created?

I designed my space as a comfortable setting to relax and socialize with family and friends and, in between, to serve as a backdrop to spark new ideas.

Photos by Joshua McHugh.

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