Desig Icon #5: Tulip table by Eero Saarinen


What do you know about the Tulip table? This chapter of Design Icon will bring us to discover more about the Pedestal Collection designed by Eero Saarinen and released by Knoll in 1957.


The Tulip table of 1957 is a master example for timelessness with sculptural and organic shapes, presented in numerous museums, hotels and galleries all over the world. Do you like this table? It’s a statement piece that I’d love to have in my dining area…

Knoll produces the Tulip table by Saarinen with a frame of cast aluminium with Rilsan coating. The table top is made of laminate and available in different wood veneers and diverse marble editions. Here you can find out more about the process of the marble tops production, how they begin their journey from quarry to your home/office.. it is really fascinating!

The Tulip table from Knoll is also available in different heights and diameters upon request, to perfectly fit every situation.


Behind the Design

With the Pedestal Collection, Eero Saarinen vowed to eliminate the “slum of legs” found under chairs and tables with four legs. He worked first with hundreds of drawings, which were followed by ¼ scale models. Since the compelling idea was to design chairs that looked good in a room, the model furniture was set up in a scaled model room the size of a doll house.

Eero Saarinen wanted to organise things with his Tulip collection. He wanted to organise the “ugly, disturbing, nervous world” under tables and chairs. The tangle of legs has always disturbed the Finnish architect and designer. Five years of experimenting and modelling were necessary for Saarinen, until he found the final form of his Pedestal Collection, including furniture with one leg. Starting with the famous Tulip Chair, named after the emblematic flower we all know, the matching table is also known as Tulip today, since the collection of one-leg-pieces belongs together.

Drawing on his early training as a sculptor, Saarinen refined his design through full scale models, endlessly modifying the shape with clay. “What interests me is when and where to use these structural plastic shapes. Probing even more deeply into different possibilities one finds many different shapes are equally logical—some ugly, some exciting, some earthbound, some soaring. The choices really become a sculptor’s choice.”

Saarinen was assisted by Don Petitt, of Knoll’s Design Development Group, who introduced several ingenious methods of model making. Together with a Knoll design research team, they worked out the problems arising in production. Full scale models became furniture and, with family and friends acting as “guinea pigs,” the furniture was tested in the dining room and living room of the Saarinen house in Bloomfield Hills.













And now it’s time to talk about Eero Saarinen, designer of this design icon…


Eero Saarinen was one of the most prolific, unorthodox, and controversial masters of 20th-century architecture. Although his career was cut short by death at age 51 in 1961, Eero Saarinen was one of the most celebrated architects of his time, both in Finland and abroad.

In the postwar decades of what has been called “the American Century,” Saarinen helped create the international image of the United States with his designs for some of the most potent symbolic expressions of American identity such as St. Louis Gateway Arch (1948-64), General Motors Technical Center (1948-56), Detroit and TWA Terminal (1956-62) at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport.

Saarinen working on the model for the St. Louis Gateway Arch

Eero Saarinen (1910 – 1961), son of the architect and director of the Cranbrook Academy of Art, Eliel Saarinen and his wife Loja, which worked as textiles artist, studied Sculpture in Paris and Architecture at the Yale University before he worked together with Bel Geddes as a furniture designer and for his father as an architect. Saarinen also worked together with his friend Charles Eames, a student of the Cranbrook Academy of Art, and he finally became independent in 1950 in Bloomfield Hills.

The strong technical possibilities of new materials found a way into the expressivity of Saarinen’s work: steel and concrete in architecture, plywood and plastic in his furniture design.
Together with Charles Eames, Eero Saarinen won at the “Organic Design” competition, which has been organized by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) by its director Eliot Noyes. Their design out of plywood and sponge rubber was the first three-dimensional oval chair, which however lacked from production techniques, which was the reason why it was never produced as a serial product. Only a few years later the plastic technique was improved in order to start to produce the chair – this happened thanks to Vitra in 2006.

Organic chair by Saarinen and Eames, produced by Vitra

Saarinen designed many of the most recognizable Knoll pieces, including the Tulip chairs and tables, the Womb chair, and the 70 series seating collection. Saarinen, who was known for being obsessed with revision, took a scRisultati immagini per saarinen bookulptural approach to furniture design, building hundreds of models and full scale mock-ups to achieve the perfect curve, find the right line, and derive the most pleasing proportions. His designs, which employed modern materials in graceful, organic shapes, helped establish the reputation and identity of Knoll during its formative years.

To discover more about Eero Saarinen and his work you can read Saarinen by Pierluigi Serraino, a book that explores all his works in the architecture and furniture design fields.

Today, we commonly see the Tulip table in modern kitchen and dining rooms and also in cool offices, but a new authentic Tulip table will cost you a few thousand euros…Of course is one the most copied design pieces ever, so check out this affordable versions of this design icon below:

Hope you enjoyed this chapter of Design Icon about the Tulip 🙂 and if you are curious to read the previous posts about the Arco lamp by Castiglioni, the Plastic chairs by Eames, the String shelf system by Strinning and the Masters chair by Starck, check the links…

Happy Sunday!


Photos via Pinterest and Knoll website

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