Monday, January 15, 2018

Admiring a Classic: Saarinen Tulip Chairs

It is rare that a notable piece of furniture is versatile enough to mix well with traditional and contemporary interiors alike- but the tulip chair manages to do just that.  Designed by Finnish architect Eero Saarinen in 1955 for the Knoll Company, the chair consists of a sleek cast aluminum base and a molded fiberglass top.  Saarinen is famous for saying-  "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."  Made originally to pair along with Saarinen's tulip table, the piece remains a popular dining chair option:

Eero originally wanted the chair to be 1 single piece constructed of fiberglass, but found that the prototypes were easy to break.  The fiberglass base were unable to support the top of the chair- and thus had to be made of cast aluminum coated in rilsan.  The chair is considered "Space Age" for it's futuristic use of curves and artificial materials.  Here is an ad for the tulip arm chair soon after it was released in 1956:

The armchair version of the tulip chair also remains a popular dining chair option:

{Architectural Digest}

Eero, his second wife Aline, and their son Eames enjoy breakfast at home perched in their tulip chairs:

Side note- Eero and Aline were widely in love.  They were known to write cute love letters back and forth.  Here's one Eero wrote to Aline:

So sweet.  

Eero is remembered for pushing the boundaries of modernism in both design and architecture.   In addition to his iconic furniture pieces, he designed many structures as well.  Among the most notable are the TWA flight center at JFK Airport in NY:

The St. Louis Gateway Arch:

and the Chapel at M.I.T:

Interested in acquiring some tulip chairs?  Here is a set of four antique swivel Eero Saarinen Tulip Chairs from 1st Dibs:

If you want the authentic design but brand new, a reproduction is available for purchase at Design Within Reach:

And many stores sell less expensive knock-offs ($132/each here):

“The purpose of architecture is to shelter and enhance man’s life on earth, and to fulfill his belief in the nobility of his existence." - Eero Saarinen

Read other "Admiring a Classic" blog posts:

(designed by one Eero's good friends, Charles Eames, whom he named his son after)

Happy Monday!



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