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
Miguel da Cunha via Nuevo Estilo
Laura Garcia via Lonny
Concha Rodríguez via Nuevo Estilo
Barrie Benson via Domino
Michelle Adams via Lonny
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!