KNOLLING Part Two: Can It Help Organize My Costume Jewelry Collection?

This series of blog posts about KNOLLING is dedicated to Andrew Kromelow who coined the term ‘knolling’ in 1987 and to Tom Sachs who expanded on the concept of knolling to ‘Always Be Knolling’.

Vintage bracelets and lots of rings
Vintage bracelets, lots of rings. Can knolling help to keep them organized?

Now that I have a fair understanding of Knolling, I wondered if it might be the answer to this 21st Century woman’s fashion accessories challenge. Could it help organize my costume jewelry collection? Collecting and wearing vintage accessories is my passion and hobby.

I have so many bracelets, pins, necklaces, earrings, purses and rings. I store them in the closet, protect them in fancy boxes and display some of them on my dresser where they just collect dust. That is not why I got them. I love them. I want to enjoy them. This means, wear them to enhance my outfits and show them off to everyone else to enjoy, too.


bracelets before knolling
This system makes it hard to quickly reach the bracelet I want to wear and sometimes I am not sure where I even put it

It’s very time consuming to find what I want to wear to accessorize my outfits for both daily attire and special occasions. I always forget pieces I have because I don’t see them. In addition, there are so many accessories stored in so many places, I can’t remember where I put them. I also have a problem with my shoes collection.


After hearing about knolling, I wrote an initial blog post about it, KNOLLING: Organizational or Graphic Design Layout and Product Branding System? I decided to see if knolling was an organizing system or just a design/branding technique. Could it be a solution to my fashion accessorizing challenge or just a pretty way of photographing my collections? The rest of this post and the following posts about Knolling explore the various aspects of knolling and its metamorphosis into flat lay photography and flatlays.



By Wikipedia definition, Knolling is the process of arranging related objects in parallel or 90-degree angles as a method of organization. Therefore if I could use knolling as an organizational system, my next steps would have to be:

• to design a template that could organize my vintage jewelry collections
• to display them to see if the process of knolling could solve my fashion accessories challenge
• to determine if knolling had other practical uses and ‘Always Be Knolling’ (ABK), as Tom Sachs suggested
• to discern if ‘flat lay photography’ and social media ‘flatlays’ are actually knolling
• to confirm what Andrew Kromelow’s meaning was when he coined the term knolling


I decided to tackle one challenge at a time. The first challenge and priority was to see if I could knoll my bracelets. Here is what I did. I took a 24″x18″ office cork board and divided it into three” squares. That gave me 48 squares or 24″ divided by 3 = 8 and 18″ divided by 3 = 6. Since 8 x 6 = 48 that is how I determined the number of squares that would result from this division. I marked off each 3″ box with ribbons both vertically and horizontally. Then I began to add my bracelets unsure that I would even have 48 of them. I still have plenty more to include. But at least the 48 knolled bracelets are easily and quickly accessible.

There is an additional reason I can find them so easily. I employed another element to my jewelry knolling, a color order system. I started with the red ones and variations of red. Then I went through the rainbow adding solid colors and then variations on that color. I can now find any bracelet I want to wear in record time as long as it is included in this set up.

knolling my bracelet collection using color order as an addition system
knolling my bracelet collection using color order as an addition system


At first, I had trouble with my decorative pins. I thought that the grip template I used for my bracelets would carry over well for my pins. It did not. Once I realized that I should lay them out in rows, I found the solution to this part of my knolling challenge.

My decorative pins collection knolled and easy to find
My decorative pins collection knolled and easy to identify


The next knolling challenges included my earrings, then my necklaces, pins, purses and shoes. Here is the progress I have made so far. How do you think these work?

Earrings Pre-Knolling
Earrings Pre-Knolling System Works Well
Knolling Earring Collection
Knolling Earring Collection Needs Solid Background

The earring knolling project is ineffective. The background on the right should be a solid color so that the earrings stand out better. Also, I still have a lot more earrings that need to be added. I came up with a great solution totally by happenstance. This lampshade is a ‘street find’ and an excellent solution to earring knolling.



I am finding it difficult to knoll my necklaces because hanging them vertically takes up a lot of room and is not optimal. But it is better than no system at all.

Pre-knolling: Using Necklaces for Decoration
Pre-knolling: Using Necklaces for Decoration
Necklaces Semi-knolled
Necklaces Semi-knolled, Colored backgournd is distracting

Finally I figure out the best way to knoll my necklaces for the time being. It is working okay.

knolling my necklace collection using color order as an additional system
knolling my necklace collection using color order as an additional system


I decided that the best place to position my purses is near the door since they are one of the last things I grab before I leave the house. Here is my knolled board of them.


I am known for my hats. I love hats and I am almost never seen without one. It’s funny. My mother hated hats; she never wore them. But my grandmother and great-grandmother adored them. In fact, the greater the grandmother the more outrageous the hat.

Knolling hats posed a problem for me. I was able to organized them to some degree. Some are on a plant stand. Some are on vintage hat trees that I found. Some are balancing on my bed frame. I can’t really say that I have knolled my hats. But I can find them easily so that I don’t end up wearing the same one every day.



Shoes hold a particular challenge for me. I insist upon keeping them in their original boxes. In fact, I even keep the receipt in the box. That way I can refer to when I bought them and how much they cost. The boxes are actually easier to knoll. The shoes are harder to remove from the box every time I want to wear them. Here are the results.

Knolled Shoe Boxes
Knolled Shoe Boxes

To be continued with . . . Part Three, link below.


KNOLLING Part One: Organizational Or Graphic Design Layout and Product Branding System?

KNOLLING Part Three: Social Media Adds Another Perspective To Knolling

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KNOLLING Part One: Organizational or Graphic Design Layout and Product Branding System?

This series of blog posts about KNOLLING is dedicated to Andrew Kromelow who coined the term ‘knolling’ in 1987 and to Tom Sachs who expanded on the concept of knolling to ‘Always Be Knolling’.

What Is Knolling? From 10 Bullets. 2009 by Tom Sachs
What Is Knolling? From 10 Bullets. 2009 by Tom Sachs Posted on the Blog, August 19,2015

Knolling is defined in Wikipedia as “the process of arranging related objects in parallel or 90-degree angles as a method of organization”. The original phrase, knolling, was coined in 1987 by Andrew Kromelow, a janitor in the furniture fabrication shop of Frank Gehry. Gehry was designing chairs for the legendary, Knoll Furniture Company. Kromelow was particularly impressed with the furniture designed by Florence Knoll.




Florence Knoll furniture
Florence Knoll furniture designs which Andrew Kromelow admired for their clean, angular lines.


Andrew Kromelow especially liked the clean, angular lines of Florence Knoll’s designs which can be seen above. As a result, at the end of the workday, Kromelow would collect all the tools that had been left out in the work studio and organized them in a similar geometric manner then photograph them from the top. No photographs of Kromelow’s work seem to have survived, publically.

Things Organized Neatly
Tom Sachs—”Always Be Knolling.“ from Ten Bullets on Tumblr, “Things Organized Neatly”

The above image from Tom Sach’s, Ten Bullets, #8: “ALWAYS BE KNOLLING’ suggests what a Kromelow ‘flat lay-overhead photo’ might have looked like.”The result was an organized surface that allowed the user to see all objects at once”. Kromelow referred to this as ‘knolling’ due to the idea’s inspiration from Florence Knoll’s design sensibility. The term, the concept and the ‘flat lay photography’ Kromelow made of his arrangements caught on thanks to another person in Gehry’s employment.


Tom Sachs, an artist and sculptor who also worked in Gehry’s studio, popularized Kromelow’s knolling and his ‘flat lay photography’ process. According to the blog post in, Sachs created a piece about knolling and adopted the phrase, “Always be Knolling” (or ABK for short) as a motto for his work. By 1987, knolling had officially become a trend. But what transpired between 1987 and 2009?

One wonders because nothing more seems to be available about it again until the 2009 blog post on, ‘What Is Knolling? The Overhead Photography Trend Explained’. Supposedly, this style of organizational layout has been used for over three decades to shape brands and sell products. No examples were available. Instead, decades before the social media venue, Instagram, had the popular account, ‘The Flat Lays’, before the existence of social media at all, and separate from Kromelow’s organizing technique, knolling existed as a graphic design layout and branding inspiration. But it was not known as knolling and it was before 1987.

Pencil sharpeners
Mechanical pencil sharpener boxes pinned to Pinterest. This image is from a series of the blog posts, the Charrette Chronicles on The image is courtesy of the Charrette Corporation and former art director, designer Johanna Bohoy


The process of ‘knolling’ existed independent of Knoll and apparently previous to Andrew Kromelow’s coining a phrase for it. It was a prominent style designing with type, graphic design layout, architectural presentation and products branding including overhead or flat lay photography. One company that prominently exemplified this pre-knolling sensibility was the Charrette Corporation. The architect  David Paul Helpern, designer of the NYC Charrette Corporation flagship store and the graphic design/branding designer, Johanna Bohoy, the Art Director at Charette’s Headquarters in Woburn, Massachusetts were responsible for its conception. This can be traced back to the early 1980’s rather than the late 1980’s when the term knolling was coined.

There is a series of articles about the Charrette Corporation written by me, the NY Graphic Design Examiner on Many samples of their forward-thinking graphic design and branding style are included. Suffice to say, whether it is called knolling or attributed to the earlier Charrette Corporation methodology, the result is very calming on the brain to observe objects in an orderly rather than chaotic manner. This seems to be especially true for artistic, creative brain dominant people.


To add to this, technology has taken leaps, specifically with the creation of social media venues which facilitates present day knolling. But according to my research, history clearly illustrates that the clean, perpendicular and parallel lined style of graphic design layout, now known as knolling, was not a revolutionary idea and did not begin with Florence Knoll or Andrew Kromelow in 1987. This is not to deny that the advent of social media has allowed knolling to become very practical, even pedestrian in its incarnation as ‘flat lay photography’. Layout and branding are now easily and attractively showcased by Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr, pictured directly above and below.

Coffee Stationery / Branding Mock-Up By forgraphic™ in Graphics
What is Knolling? The Overhead Photography Trend Explained
Looking for an easy way to incorporate some knolling into your next project? We’ve got you covered. From


Life has a way of providing what is needed at a particular time in history. Credit it to The Charrette Corporation, Florence Knoll, Andrew Kromelow or Tom Sachs. They have all played a part in transforming the disciplines of design layout and branding forward to another level of usefulness and appeal in the world of product marketing. But is there more to it than that?!

My next blog post will attempt to answer that question and this one specifically:
Can It Help Organize My Costume Jewelry Collection?

Knolling Orange
From on Instagram. Photo from
Another simple but great knolling photo on Instagram comes from Rather than group items by category or type, she created a photograph that was themed by color. This knolling photograph is predominantly orange and features a toy moose, a notebook, flowers and more.


KNOLLING Part Two: Can Knolling Help Organize My Vintage Jewelry Collection?
What Is Knolling? The Overhead Photography Trend Explained
Florence Knoll
Frank Gehry
Andrew Kromelow
Tom Sachs
Ten Bullets Website aka Tom Sachs Working To Code
Things Organized Neatly
Flat Lay Photography
Charrette Corporation Layout and Branding Technology
Alison Gilbert, NY Graphic Design Examiner

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