Design Icon

Design Icon: Saarinen Dining Table

by Maxwell Tielman


Design: Pedestal Dining Table (Commonly known as the “Tulip Table.”

Designer: Eero Saarinen (1910-1961)

Year: 1956

Country of Origin: United States

Manufacturer: Knoll

Materials and Construction: Cast aluminum base. Top made from marble, wood, or laminate.

Illustration by Libby VanderPloeg.


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  • I have this table…I love it and I love this illustration! I only recently discovered that both father and son have the same birthday and that the son was awarded the “St. Louis Arch” design way back when.

    • Emma— Eero Saarinen is Finnish American. He lived in the United States from the age of 13. His father, Eliel worked in Finland for part of his career, but Eero’s designs are typically considered American. The Tulip table was produced for Knoll, an American company.

  • I am also surprised to see no story behind this table – and what a great story! Used to work for Knoll – Eero Saarinen was an accomplished architect as well as industrial designer. He wanted to clear the area beneath the table from the “slum of legs” – something that I always remember about his tulip series – confirmed from the knoll.com website. Check it out! Still a huge fan of the company, even though I no longer work for them :)

  • Had the table back in the late 60’s – loved it. Would own it again but alas probably can’t afford it now because it’s vintage.

  • I love this series. I would love to have them all together in a poster/print. I could use it to test myself!

  • Emma: Eero Saarinen (20. elokuuta 1910 Hvitträsk, Kirkkonummi – 1. syyskuuta 1961 Ann Arbor, Michigan, Yhdysvallat) oli suomalais–amerikkalainen arkkitehti. Hän loi näyttävän uran arkkitehtina ja huonekalusuunnittelijana. Hvitträskissä syntynyt Eero Saarinen vietti paljon aikaa isänsä, arkkitehti Eliel Saarisen ateljeessa. Perhe muutti pysyvästi Yhdysvaltoihin Eeron ollessa 13-vuotias, mutta he viettivät kesiä Suomessa[1] Saarinen valmistui arkkitehdiksi 1934 Yalen yliopistosta. Hän opiskeli lyhyen aikaa myös kuvanveistoa Pariisissa Académie de la Grande Chaumieressa.[2] Valmistuttuaan arkkitehdiksi Saarinen matkusteli Euroopassa ja osallistui eri projekteihin ja kilpailuihin. Palattuaan Euroopasta hän toimi jonkin aikaa opettajana Cranbrook Academy of Art -koulussa, missä myös hänen isänsä oli opettajana.[2] Vuonna 1938 Saarinen alkoi työskennellä isänsä toimistossa ja työskenteli siellä aina tämän kuolemaan saakka. Eero Saarinen teki läpimurtonsa Jeffersonin muistomerkin (St Louis) suunnittelukilpailussa 1948[3]. Hän oli rationalistis-konstruktivistisen suunnan edustaja[3]. Vuonna 1950 hän perusti oman arkkitehtitoimiston. Itsenäisen arkkitehdin ura kesti kuitenkin vain kymmenisen vuotta, kun hän kuoli jo 51-vuotiaana. Yhdysvaltain kansalaisuuden Saarinen oli saanut vuonna 1940.
    Eero Saarinen oli naimisissa kuvanveistäjä Lilian Swannin kanssa 1939–1953, sekä 1954 alkaen taide- ja arkkitehtuurikriitikko, myöhemmin televisiotoimittaja Aline Saarisen (omaa sukua Aline Bernstein, myöhemmin Louchheim) kanssa.[4]
    Tulip Chair:

    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.

    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.
    Tulip Table, pls check the Knoll site. Still/again available. http://www.knoll.com/search-results?searchtext=tulip%20table&section=design&parent=1334871356784
    A few color options.

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