Interior Style

A brief history of the Tulip Table

The Tulip table and dining chairs still look like they’re from the future. Imagine what they would have looked like when they debuted last century

Who first created the tulip table?
Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen in 1958.

Who was Eero Saarinen when he was home?
He was an unapologetic modernist, who was almost pre-ordained to create. His father was an architect who moved the family from Finland to Michigan in the US in 1923, when Eero was 13, to teach at Cranbrook Academy of Art. His mother was a textile designer.

Eero went on to design the CBS Building in New York, the Gateway Arch in St Louis, the American embassy in Grosvenor Square and the TWA Flight Centre in New York’s Idlewild Airport (now a hotel) – for starters.

So how did he come to design something far less grand than a building?
Well, he detested what he called the “slum of legs” under dining tables and wanted to do away with the “ugly, confusing, unrestful world”. He devised a pedestal base for both the table and chairs, which took him five years and was known, imaginatively as the Pedestal Collection produced for Knoll.

Is that a bit OCD?
Hmmm. Let’s say his desire to have fewer legs in the dining room is our gain.

How can you ID it?
The table has a curved pedestal stem base – a nod to tulips – and either a round or oval tabletop. It was certainly a departure from the heavy-legged tables of the time.

The matching Tulip chairs – again on a pedestal base to do away with those unsightly legs. You can order a Knoll dining table in round or oval, with a plain laminate top, wood or marble – so many configurations and sizes.

But how will I know it’s the real thing?
It’ll have a chrome plaque under the table with Knoll Studio on it.

Where can I get one?
You can get the real deal from Studio Italia. But like all brilliant design, plenty of wannabes are around – any good replica store should have something similar in looks.

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