The winner of multiple awards in 2002 and 2003, the Life chair by Knoll features an attractive design and a slim profile. Environmentally friendly, it was also rated Sustainable Gold under SMaRT Standards.
– Breathable mesh on chair back available in 14 colors
– Four arm options (including 3D adjustable arms, also available armless)
– Knee tilt recline featuring auto-balanced tension
– Chair seat available in over 20 different fabrics
– Adjustable seat depth
– Contoured back shape
I recently had the opportunity to spend some time in a Knoll Life chair during an on-site meeting with a company. The first thing I noticed was that the Life is a modern, attractive-looking chair. While my business there had nothing to do with chairs, I was nevertheless excited to test out a new chair!
The Life’s seat is very comfortable, and after spending hours seated in this chair there was no soreness, numbness, or fatigue. The seat depth can also be adjusted so the seat doesn’t stick out too far. The recline mechanism claims to use “auto-balanced” tension so there is no knob or lever to adjust while you are seated, however, there is a lever in the back of the chair that can be adjusted when the chair is upright. This allows you to dial in the “perfect” tension setting by providing two additional settings: 5% increase, and an additional 10% increase in tension. In the interest of fairness, I wasn’t aware of this lever during my time in the chair, so I assume I got the standard “auto-balanced” tension. It was noticeably easy to recline, but not so easy that I would end up further back than I wanted to be. When I needed to lean back the chair responded and supported me. The front of the seat will flex if you lean forward so it doesn’t cut into the back of your legs.
The model I used had 3D adjustable arms (Knoll calls them “high performance arms”). If you read this site then you know that if you want arms on a chair, adjustable arms are the only way to go, and the Life’s were nice. They dropped down further than most chairs in order to get them out of the way under the table, slid forward and backward, and in and out. The arms are adjustable via a small lever on the outside.
This chair is also available with fixed plastic arms, fixed aluminum arms, height adjustable (no forward/backward or in/out), and armless. Fixed arms are worse than no arms, but these options are available if you want.
The Knoll Life chair has an available two-part magnetic lumbar support that you can put at whatever height you want. The front and back pieces hold the lumbar pad in place on the back of the chair (imagine sticking two magnets together with a piece of paper in between). I have used this before, but it wasn’t available on the chair I used for this review. The magnetic lumbar support is very nice, however, and I think Knoll should make it available for sale alone to be used on other brands of chairs, too. It will work on any chair with a thin mesh back.
The recline was a standard knee recline, and the seat can be locked upright or allowed to recline, but you cannot limit how far it tilts back, nor can you lock it into place. It’s all or nothing.
While the chair was comfortable, the frame at the top of the back is a bit thick and if you tend to stretch by making a “T” with your arms and moving them behind you, you won’t be able to do so in this chair. It’s comfortable, but may be slightly restrictive regarding shoulder movement to some people.
The casters (wheels) are cool-looking. I know a casters are function over form, but the Life has cool rollers. They’re slightly barrel-shaped and slide easily wherever you want to go.
– Available with 3D adjustable arms and also armless
– Magnetic lumbar support available
– Seat tip flexes as you lean forward so it’s comfortable on your thighs
– Tilt lock only offers all-or-nothing recline options
– Swivel arms not available (this probably isn’t a deal-breaker for most people, but a lot of the Life’s competitors chairs do offer this option so it’s worth mentioning)
– Seat back frame prevents full shoulder stretching
– Recline tension cannot be adjusted on the fly
A comfortable, nice-looking chair that is a worthy competitor in the high end, ergonomic task chair market.