Design Classics #35: The Tulip Table

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Eero Saarinen, like many of the other Scandinavian greats, trained as an architect and created several stunning buildings, including St Louis Gateway Arch and the TWA terminal building in New York’s JFK airport.

But it is for his furniture that he is chiefly remembered. The Tulip first appeared in 1957, when he decided to address the “ugly, confusing, unrestful world resulting from the slum of legs underneath typical chairs and tables.”

Like much of his work, the Tulip was produced during his long association with Knoll, the company founded by Hans, who went on to marry Florence, a long time family friend of Saarinen and a successful designer in her own right. Anyone who has watched Mad Men will also surely recognise her distinctive sofas.

Indeed, Saarinen’s equally famous Womb chair was created at Florence’s request after she asked for something she could “curl up in”.

Saarinen’s womb chair created at the request of Florence Knollpicture                                              from

Sharp eyed fans of later series will also spot a Saarinen low tulip table in Roger Sterling’s office. The set included a coffee table, a side table and a dining table.

The tables are still just as popular today; the editor of Elle Deco, Michelle Ogundehin has often said it is one of her favourite pieces admitting to owning five of them before she moved house and downsized to two!

In an interview with Gerard McGuickin of Walnut Grey Design she said: “I do think they’re the most perfect table. I love marble and the very pure shape underneath. If I had to pick one design, it would probably be the Saarinen Table.”

the Tulip table goes with all sorts chairs                                                                                                              image from

It recently came to light that Saarinen also worked for America’s first Intelligence Agency during WWII. According to the Architectural Review, he was employed by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in the research and analysis department. Described by his supervisor as “the most versatile and gifted young designer and architect in this country” and his background in making architectural models was invaluble in planning the strategy of military operations.

Saarinen died in 1961; he had two children, Eric and Susan from his first marriage and one, Eames, named after Charles, with whom he often collaborated during his career.

matching table and chair set                                                                                                                                image from the

And finally (as they say) if you love these tables and wish to own one then visit the Aram store before 17 November 2012 as they are selling them with 20 per cent off.

Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.