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!

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Tell Me What You Think! leave a comment...

  1. 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…

  2. 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 (

  3. 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.