STYLE AT HOME: Tell us about your first memory of design.
Charles Pollock: I started painting, drawing and playing with mechanics in the basement of my family home from a young age – once, I built a motor out of odds and ends like nails, wires and magnets. I didn’t decide to become a designer until I went to the Pratt Institute, where the heads of the Industrial Design department talked me into switching from painting to industrial design. What’s interesting is that today companies want drawings, not three-dimensional models. So, my artistic ability really helps me design.
SAH: What were the major stages that lead to you working as a designer with the likes of George Nelson and Florence Knoll?
CP: George Nelson came to guest lecture when I was at Pratt, and I heard he admired a sculpture I had on display there. So I packed it up, brought it to his New York office – he had the fanciest office back then! – and presented it to him as a gift. That opened the door to working with him on the Swag Leg Collection, which started my career.
With that under my belt, I tried to meet with Florence Knoll, but couldn’t even get an appointment (she had important designers like Saarinen working there at the time). When an interiors magazine did an article on me that was picked up by a number of other publications, I went to see Florence again, carrying a prototype of the Swing Lounge 657 Chair in my arms. When I got off the elevator to her office, I knocked her down with the chair. Literally! It was a funny way to meet, but I apologized and we began working together.