How an icon is born: the Saarinen table and the Tulip chair by Eero Saarinen
Like a drop that cuts through the air and expands when it touches the floor: this is how the stem of the Pedestal table -better known as the- and the Tulip collection designed by in 1957 appear. That foot, central, unique, the same for table and chairs, in an elegant, essential and creative way, solves the banality, until then dominant, of the legs of these furnishings. But the magic does not stop at the base, it also continues on the top of the table, in particular the elliptical one, in marble, laminate, or MDF: simple yet of great scenic impact. Similarly, the chairs, with their brazenly modernist and enveloping seat, with an immediately recognizable and highly imitated design. Saarinen table and chairs are the perfect couple: sculptural, yet can be integrated into very different furnishing contexts, and for this very often chosen even in traditional domestic interiors.
After all Eero Saarinen represents, himself, an icon. It is the icon of that design of the mid-1900s that has its roots in Europe but is nourished by the American vision of the project: enterprising, lively and free. Saarinen, in fact, was born in Finland in 1910, but in 1923 he moved to the USA, graduating from Yale in 1934. His father, Eliel Saarinen, was administrator of the Cranbrook Institute of Architecture and Design, where Saarinen perfected, living immersed in an environment of designers and creatives who were schooling at the time. Among these Charles Eames with whom he established a relationship of friendship, professional collaboration and mutual aesthetic influence. At Cranbrook Institute, Saarinen also met Florence Bassett, who in 1946 married Hans Knoll, with whom she founded the homonymous furniture manufacturing company. Thecompany will be decisive for the success of the furniture designed by Saarinen: in addition to the Tulip (or Pedestal) collection, also the , Executive and Grasshopper series, all still in production except the latter. Right at the Cranbrook Academy, Saarinen will return to teach, while working in his father's company. In 1961, at the age of 51, Saarinen died of a brain tumor, bequeathed to the world a lesson in immortal style, an example of timeless and eternally valid design: the Saarinen table and the Tulip chairs, which resist time and continue to be the preferred choice of architects and users, the choice that always works and that always succeeds in raising the tone of the environment in which it is inserted. So let's look at these two pieces of furniture in detail.
The Saarinen table (1957)
The table, designed by Saarinen in an oval version and in a round version, is characterized by the central foot that recalls the base of a glass. It is made of die-cast aluminum, painted in white, black or platinum. It is a single block of aluminum and therefore has no joints. The top is in laminate, wood, or marble, with shaped edges. Behind an apparent simplicity, therefore, hides a careful and refined choice of materials (plastic is banned) and meticulous attention to detail (there are no joints or visible screws when assembly is completed).
The Tulip chairs (1957)
The Tulip seating collection includes models with and without armrests, with and without padded back and also a stool. As for the table, the base, in the shape of a chalice, is made of a single block of die-cast aluminum, the seat is in fiberglass. The upholstery is made of KnollTextiles fabrics in various colors and patterns that reflect the company's modernist and Bauhaus influence style.
Saarinen table and Tulip chairs constitute a perfect combination, but at the same time they can be combined with furniture of different material and style, as only an actual great project can do.
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