The Bloom that Doesn’t Fade: Saarinen’s Tulip Table and Chairs

Few designers produce pieces that will enjoy more than half a century of popularity — but Eero Saarinen did. His Tulip table and chairs have become sought-after iconic pieces for homes and offices.

Eero Saarinen Tulip Table designView in gallery
A tulip table combined with your own modern chairs creates a very of-the-moment design setting.
Saarinen Tulip Armless Chair and TableView in gallery
Perfect for a slightly retro setting, a full set of Tulip chairs and a table are the focus of the dining area.
Saarinen Tulip Table With Ghost ChairsView in gallery
Perfectly at home in a contemporary setting, a tulip table is a shining centerpiece.

Saarinen was a Finnish-American architect, recognized for his solo work as well as his collaborations with other designers, such as Charles Eames. Probably best known for his furniture designs, Saarinen was firstly a prize-winning architect whose creations include the St. Louis Gateway Arch, the TWA terminal at JFK and the main terminal at Dulles International Airport, along with striking corporate buildings around the world.

Globus Chair in Plastic with Chrome Frame With Tulip TableView in gallery
Small or large, a kitchen dining space is perfect for a tulip table surrounded by chairs of any era.
Green Bauhaus-Look With Tulip Table designView in gallery
While these modern chairs are not one-legged, they still still create  minimalist space when combined with a tulip table.
Well decorated living room with pink pale accents and Saarinen Tulip TableView in gallery
Perhaps not surprisingly, a tulip table is equally at home in a more ornate interior.

He created the tulip table and chairs in 1957 and while today we might call them “retro, at the time they were considered futuristic. They were even used on the set of Star Trek, according to the Bienenstock Linbrary. Focused on creating organic shapes and doing away with “clutter,” Saarinen’s work was not always well received by critics, who thought he lacked an identifiable style. His style, as we have come to know it, is clean and modern. The one-legged Tulip table and chairs are Saarinen’s attempt to clean up our living spaces: “The undercarriage of chairs and tables in a typical interior makes an ugly, confusing, unrestful world. I wanted to clear up the slum of legs. I wanted to make the chair all one thing again,” he is quoted as saying, according to the Museum of Modern Art.

Corner bench seating with Saarinen tulip table and Eames chairsView in gallery
Paired with chairs that feature more lines than jus their four legs, the tulip table is a perfect counterpoint.
Small sides coffee table Saarinen TulipView in gallery
Modern Living room featuring a small Saarinen Tulip side table.

The concept of the single leg for the tulip table was ground breaking, as was his womb chair and his first-ever use of molded laminated wood,. The launch of the tulip table and chairs also brought about another important thing for Saarinen: a long relationship with Knoll Inc., the company that first produced the collection and still does today. Interestingly, a family connection led to the professional one: Florence Knoll, the wife of company founder, Hans Knoll, studied architecture with Eliel Saarinen, Eero’s father.

Small coffee table from SaarinenView in gallery
As a side table, the tulip table is a minimalist counterpoint to the transitional chairs in this setting.
Mix funiture for a morern-classic kitchenView in gallery
There’s nothing like the full Saarinen tulip collection to  serve as the focal point to a dining area.
Saarinen Tulip Table dining areaView in gallery
The iconic tulip table can easily be combined with more traditional pieces for an eclectic look.

Knoll is a well-known high-end furniture producer, making commercial and residential lines. The Pennsylvania-based company was founded in 1938 and has the distinction of having working with designers such as Mies Van Der Rohe, Ray and Charles Eames, and Marcel Breuer, in addition to Saarinen, according to their website. More than 40 Knoll pieces are part of the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Industrial touch for dining area with exposed bricks on wall and tulip oval tableView in gallery
Even if you choose a reproduction, a tulip table is a statement in your living space.
comfortable blue armchairs for saarinen tulip tableView in gallery
The sumptuousness of these blue chairs is a sophisticated counterpoint to the minimalist look of the tulip table.
Saarinen Tulip ArmchairView in gallery
Perfect for a retro space, tulip chairs can be paired with any style table.

In 1957, plastic technologies were obviously not what they are today, and Saarinen’s dream of producing the chairs from one solid piece had to be modified, writes steel classic.com. The base and the top of the tulip table are made from separate pieces and materials. Knowing this can help you sniff out whether a piece is an original Saarinen or a reproduction. While the look may be the same, the price is not. A true Saarinen Tulip table can cost more than $8000, depending upon the size and tabletop material. Reproductions can be had for much, much less.

Contemporaty grey kitchen featuring a saarinen tulip amrchairView in gallery
Saarinen’s tulip chairs are the perfect addition to a modern interior, whether parked with a tulip table or not.
Round wood dining table with White Saarinen tulip armchairsView in gallery
Any modern or retro setting is the perfect place for the  tulip collection.

The base of a Saarinen Tulip table is made of a single piece of aluminum coated with a plastic called Rilsan®. Rilsan is the brand of a high performance polyamide (nylon) coating made by a French company named Arkema, according to a report on the iconic Tulip chairs by Martin Konrad Gloeckle of Pratt Institute.

Large rectangular dining table with Saarinen tulip armchairs and classic chairsView in gallery
No matter how traditional your home, tulip chairs can have a place in the decor.
Copenhagen Residence Dining Area With Iconic FurnitureView in gallery
Kind of Scandinavian design With Iconic Furniture
Eames molding chairs with Tulip table designView in gallery
No matter how large your household, there’s a tulip table that can accommodate your needs.

Another telling detail is that the tabletop attaches to the base with a single rod that runs up the length of the base into the top, according to modern mom.com. And speaking of the top, no real Saarinen table is made with a plastic or metal top. The only materials used are marble, wood, laminate or granite. Last, but certainly not least, most tulip tables produced by Knoll will have an identifying metal tag underneath. Some vintage pieces from the early days may not, but most will.

Touch of Sandinavian style with tulip tableView in gallery
Combined with Scandinavian-style chairs, the tulip table makes for a spectacularly sophisticated setting.
Knoll Inspiration with Tulip table and ArmchairsView in gallery
There’s nothing like a full tulip collection set to make a modern statement.

Whether you decide to invest in a bona fide Saarinen tulip table or are happy with a lower priced reproduction, this iconic piece will be at home in almost any interior. It doesn’t mater if you surround it with tulip chairs or your own modern, contemporary or traditional chairs, it will be a stunning focal point in your dining area.

Orange Eames Chairs With Tulip TableView in gallery
Retro colors are very popular at the moment and combined with the modern tulip table they can truly shine.

Picture sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 19.