A mix of Finnish and American influences, the designs of Eero Saarinen reflected both his Nordic roots and his US life. Curious and not afraid of experimenting, the creator from Finland focused on light, linear forms, and neutral palettes. Saarinen focused on practicality and functionality in the booming era of industry and consumerism. If there was a problem to solve, he would get a crack at it.
His vision is clear in his architectural projects as well as in the furniture he created with some of his most significant, contemporary colleagues. He was born from a family of creators and artists, and, later in his career, he worked alongside names such as Charles and Ray Eames and Florence Knoll. All in the name of modern design.
The Specs of The Saarinen Tulip Table (and Chair)
This collection by the Finnish designer featured a set with chairs, coffee tables, and dining ones. Each is an iconic piece of modernist style. In this case, the correct name of the table is “Pedestal,” inspired by its shape and lines.
The Saarinen Tulip Table is round and high. Furthermore, it features a smooth top made of molded plastic, a first of its kind in the industry. Thanks to a layer of transparent polyester, this delicate (and white) table is resistant to stains and foodie accidents. On the other hand, the base is made of heavy molded cast aluminum, solid and functional.
The Tulip Table by the Finnish designer looks like a sculpture. Saarinen wanted to make design and furniture simple again, without frills and distractions. People could also choose among different sizes and versions. In particular, the top of the Saarinen Tulip Table varied, and it could feature different materials, including marble, and different colors for the base, including platinum aluminum.
The perfect pairing for the Pedestal of the Finnish creator is the Tulip Chair. Tired of many legs and confusion, Saarinen aimed to design a single, continuous seating arrangement. Even better if it didn’t have any legs. Hence, the Tulip a complete piece of furniture. Some called it a stool, others a true innovation. No matter the name, this creation is one piece of cast aluminum, resistant to a person’s weight.
Just like the Pedestal, people had options. In fact, the armless chair came with a swivel or fixed base, depending on the needs. And people could choose between an upholstered seat cushion or a fully upholstered inner shell with a seat cushion. The shell was made of molded fiberglass. Both comfortable and functional, the choice wasn’t always easy.
The Story Behind The Collection
The Finnish designer worked on the project for five years. He was commissioned by the design company Knoll, a leader in the furniture industry. Hans Knoll himself convinced the creator, writing to him, “the prospect of having you work on a [new] furniture program after the first of the year is most encouraging and promising.” Saarinen didn’t wait long to give his answer, and, at the end of the 50s, the Tulip collection went into production.
Since then, Knoll has been producing the Saarinen Tulip Table and his Tulip Chair, focusing on the original sketches and quality. The company was always a trendsetter, and its history is filled with important design collaborations, like Gae Aulenti and Marcel Breuer, who designed for Knoll the Cesca chair and Wassily. In the history of Knoll, just as important is the acquisition of Gavina in the 60s and the rights to the production of the Barcelona piece by Mies Van Der Rohe.
Just like Eero Saarinen, Knoll wrote the history of modern industrial design.