Florence Knoll was one of the great entrepreneurs of mid-century modern design. One of her most enduring projects was the Tulip dining set created for Knoll by the Finnish-American designer Eero Saarinen, who vowed to address the “ugly, confusing, unrestful world” he observed underneath chairs and tables – a so-called “slum of legs.” A five-year design investigation led him to create the revolutionary Pedestal collection, first introduced in 1956. The Tulip dining set’s sweeping silhouettes provide the perfect antithesis to the typical clutter found under chairs and tables. These Tulip chairs, designed by Saarinen, come with seat pads covered in orange fabric. The chairs appear to be of a 1960s vintage but no maker’s marks have been found on them.
Eero Saarinen (1910-1961) was a Finnish-born American industrial designer and architect who helped pioneer the neo-futurism style and redefining modernism in midcentury America. Son to influential architect Eliel Saarinen (1873-1950) and sculpturist and textile designer Lola Gesellius Saarinen (1879-1968), Saarinen from an early age exhibited a strong interest in design and architecture. At the age of thirteen, he and his family emigrated to America, where he went on to study sculpture and furniture design at the Bauhaus-inspired Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. (His father taught there as well.) There he befriended future design luminaries Charles Eames (1907–1978) and Florence Knoll (née Schust, b. 1917). In 1929, he continued his education at Paris’s Académie de la Grande Chaumière, and subsequently at Yale University, graduating with a degree in architecture in 1934.
In 1936, Saarinen joined his father’s architectural practice, which was renamed Eero Saarinen & Associates after his father’s death in 1950. His well-known projects include the main terminal of Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. (1958); and the TWA Terminal at Kennedy International Airport (1962). Beyond Saarinen’s many architectural accomplishments, he also maintained a successful career in furniture design. In 1940, working in collaboration with Charles Eames, he designed a collection of plywood chairs, which won first prize in all categories for the Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition sponsored by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Though the chairs never made it into production, Saarinen designed many other iconic pieces for friends Hans and Florence Knoll, including the Tulip Collection (1956)—arguably his most famous series which featured side chairs and armchairs , as well as coffee , dining , and side tables.
Designing in post-war America, Saarinen is known for introducing curvilinear and organically-inspired forms into both his architecture and industrial designs. Over the course of his career, Saarinen received many awards and accolades, including becoming a fellow of the American Institute of Architecture in 1952 and winning the AIA Gold Medal posthumously in 1962. Saarinen’s designs have been featured in exhibitions around the world, including the National Building Museum in Washington D.C. and the Museum of Finnish Architecture in New York.
As you’d expect, these chairs show signs of use but they remain both comfortable and extremely good-looking!
Price is £169 per chair.
W64 x D58 x H81cm (Seat Height : 43cm)