Our latest collaboration with renowned furniture manufacturer Knoll premieres Eero Saarinen's instantly recognisable Tulip Table in a mesmerising Santos rosewood tabletop. To celebrate the exclusive release, we look at the history of the superior design and its continued success today.
Conceived by Finnish-American architect and designer Eero Saarinen, the Tulip collection has graced our homes for 65 years. During its impressive history, the collection, also known as the 'Pedestal collection', has appeared on screen, on billboards, and in some of the most famous homes of the last half-century, remaining as covetable today as it's ever been.
One of the most prolific and diverse industrial designers of the 20th century, Eero Saarinen is most prominently known for his Tulip design, alongside his inviting 1946 Womb Chair. A leader of the second-generation modernists, Saarinen pushed material and aesthetic boundaries to achieve forms and silhouettes the like of which had never been seen before. Among his outstanding projects are the Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC, The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, the TWA Terminal at Kennedy International Airport, and the CBS headquarters in New York.
The Pedestal collection was created at the behest of Florence Knoll, one of the great entrepreneurs of mid-century modern design and a close friend of Saarinen. Florence's outstanding design talents brought exceptional quality and innovation to the Knoll company, becoming an internationally renowned arbiter of design. She also prioritised showcasing the projects of her friends, Eero Saarinen, Harry Bertoia and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe among many others, and helped to form the landscape of 20th-century design and its celebrated icons.
In his design, Saarinen vowed to address the ugly, confusing, unrestful world" he observed underneath chairs and tables; a so-called "slum of legs"; he declared, "I want to make the chair all one thing again." Saarinen was also intrigued by the emergence of structural plastic shapes in the 1950s, a popular new material sweeping the design and engineering industries. Seeing himself as a sculptor and the Tulip his work of art, Saarinen prioritised balanced proportions, elegant curves and organic shapes in his design. This approach resulted in a sweeping stem leg design protruding from a satisfyingly sleek tabletop or ergonomic cup-shaped chair frame. The revolutionary collection provides the perfect antithesis to the typical clutter found under chairs and tables of the day.
Saarinen's preoccupation with new materials gave the collection its distinctive modernist aesthetic. The chair's singular form is crafted from moulded fibreglass, accented with a removable foam seat pad for extra comfort. The form sits atop a die-cast aluminium lacquered based, coated with a protective Rilsan finish.
Initially released in a limited selection of hues, the Tulip Table is now available in various forms and finishes, from Arabescato marble to the Conran Shop-exclusive Brazilian 'Sequoia' granite, a silk-like surface meticulously cut from unique natural stone. Most recently, our partnership with Knoll has introduced a Santos rosewood tabletop, reimagining the linchpin Tulip Table with prized, dense and long-lasting Santos rosewood, an ethical substitute to the endangered variety known for its extraordinary beauty.
As we move towards the 70th anniversary of the Tulip's conception, its popularity and prominence show no signs of slowing. The Pedestal collection still fulfils Saarinen's minimal, modern purpose, and any attempts to mimic his intentions never quite compare to the original.