Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Design Under the Influence: Saarinen’s Tulip Collection

Hello, it's Erika from small shop — welcome to another edition of "Design Under the Influence!"

One of my favorite pieces of furniture in our home is our Saarinen tulip side table (above). It's a modern form that for me represents so much more than just a handy place to set your drink: it's a piece of design history. You probably recognize it's Star Trek-like pedestal shape, but you might not know exactly how that shape came to be.

The creator of the Tulip Chair and Table — architect Eero Saarinen -- studied sculpture at Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris, prior to emigrating to the U.S. to study architecture. This background provided him with a unique sensitivity to form in his buildings and furniture designs, in which he strove for "consistency and relatedness of all parts." Makes sense that the architect behind the St. Louis Arch and JFK's TWA Terminal was also a sculptor, doesn't it?

St. Louis Gateway Arch by Eero Saarinen

JFK TWA Terminal by Eero Saarinen

In 1956, Saarinen set out to design a furniture collection that would "clear the slum of legs in the U.S. home." With this objective, he was able to functionally achieve a simple one-legged structure while applying his own expressive sculptural sensibilities to the form. The now-timeless Pedestal Collection for Knoll included a chair, armchair, dining table, coffee table, side table and stool.

The Tulip Chair and Table have become design classics that have endured through the decades, and it excites me to see them used in a multitude of settings and styles to this day. A sampling:

Celerie Kemble & Anna Burke via Lonny

via Flickr

Miguel da Cunha via Nuevo Estilo

Laura Garcia via Lonny

Beth Haley

Trip Haenisch via Lonny

via Design Within Reach

via Marie Claire Maison

Concha Rodríguez via Nuevo Estilo

Barrie Benson via Domino

Barrie Benson

via Design Within Reach

via Design Within Reach

Michelle Adams via Lonny

El Palauet Barcelona Modernista suites

Oh what I would give to own a Saarinen dining table! But for now, our little side table will do just fine.

For more Saarinen inspiration, visit my "Design Under the Influence" Pinterest board!


kristin said...

I would love to own one of those dining tables as welll! Lovely!

Tiffany Leigh {thedesignerlifestyle} said...

I'm such a big fan of the Tulip Table! Luckily IKEA offers an affordable lookalike, but it's not quite the same as owning a piece of history as you pointed out here.

Jamie and Vashti said...

Love the Tulip table! I have a friend who is selling one right now, may have to snag it!:)

Like Me Some said...

Love your table! Wish I had one in my home:) Thanks for sharing the story behind the design!

Peak Rainey said...

I love that you posted this because I am thinking of buying a 40" diameter Saarien-style dining table from CB2 for my apartment... and now I am convinced! These are fabulous. Thank you for sharing - love your blog!

The Peak of Tres Chic said...

I love Erika's side table. This post is entirely inspiring for me as I have been drawn towards Saarien-style pieces before but have been too intimidated to try to style them. Love her tips!



LindsB said...

oh I would love to have any one of those items- they are all so classic and beautiful!

Clint said...

great post.
have always wanted a black marble saarinen tulip table with black marble or the green marble top.

have you ever seen the tulip table in martha stewart's office?

alison giese Interiors said...

I think I finally have my husband talked into to letting me trade in our shaker-style dining table for an oval tulip. Plan to mix it up with traditional chairs, though - you've got some great examples here. Pinning in 3..2...

B.A.D I Blog About Design said...

I love the chandelier in the Lonny space, second from the bottom. What a statement piece in that Dining/ Living room.

Jalon Burton said...

Nothing says "classic' more than a tulip chair - so versatile and clean. Love this post - thanks so much for sharing. Jalon

Lily said...

I love the tulip tables !! Your side table is perfect and so are the dining tables (obviously) !!


SCSS said...

One day i'll have my own tulip... I love the fluid shape and the classic marble. Table of my dreams !!
Couer Decors

Elizabeth said...

Love the table, not too fond of the chairs, but love it best like it is in Erika's house - a little side table. Great post!
xoxox - e (

{The Design Daredevil} Jessie D. Miller said...

Love that my Saint Louis Arch got a shout out! Just took my dogs for a walk round it yesterday! XO said...

You hit it out of the park, AGAIN!

Jackie said...

I love all of this great info and these gorgeous pics! How did I never before realize that those chairs and the tulip tables were from the same collection? I am so clueless! But I am obsessed with both, and am DYING to own one of the chairs! Stunning.