Masters Of Design: Eero Saarinen

Architect and furniture designer Eero Saarinen was a prolific innovator who challenged tradition with an incredibly diverse and unique legacy. Best known as a pioneer of the Neo-Futuristic movement, he created furniture, buildings, homes, halls, Dulles Airport, and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, MO — just to name a few. One of his most signature styles, the Tulip Line, was developed with shapes, materials, and a character that had never been seen before. Regardless of the medium or project, Saarinen delivered movement, energy, clean lines, high-quality, and a progressive lean towards futuristic shapes.

Born into an artistic family, Saarinen was the son of an architect father and sculptor mother, and it’s clear how these influences impacted his future design aesthetic. In 1920, the family immigrated from Finland when Saarinen was just 13. His father became the dean of the Cranbrook Academy of Art, where Saarinen later enrolled in furniture design and sculpture. After studying at Yale School of Architecture and Paris, he returned home to teach alongside his father. While at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, Saarinen connected with contemporaries like Charles and Ray Eames, and in 1940, this team entered the now-iconic Tulip Chair into a competition, where it won first prize.

This standout design captured the attention of Hans Knoll, founder of the Knoll furniture company, and it was quickly taken into production. Knoll Furniture still exclusively produces his pieces. For nearly two decades Saarinen developed a variety of styles for Knoll, most notably for the Tulip (or Pedestal) line. This distinct collection included tables, stools, and chairs — all with the instantly recognizable Saarinen silhouette. These pieces have been in demand since 1956 and are still held in high regard. You can see these world-renowned styles at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but it’s much more enjoyable to admire them close up from the comfort of your own home. Browse some of the most iconic furnishings in our remaining collection, and keep in mind…these pieces sell quickly and do not last long!

Tulip Dining Table

The foundational piece for the entire line, the Tulip Table was first introduced in 1956. Saarinen is considered a pioneer in the Neo-Futurism movement, and these clean, architectural characteristics are its foundation. While developing a stark contrast to the typical table form, Saarinen focused on shapely curves and exploration of new materials. This resulting piece of art is considered a classic of industrial design.

Swivel Tulip Stool

Regarding the Pedestal Collection, Eero Saarinen said, “I wanted to clear up the slum of legs. I wanted to make the chair all one thing again.” The Tulip Stool is a quintessential piece of the line and offers timeless appeal. Featuring original Knoll wool upholstery atop an enameled base, this mix of textures adds contrast and intrigue while maintaining the signature Saarinen cohesion.

Tulip Chairs

To coordinate with his groundbreaking tables, Saarinen developed the truly innovative Tulip Chairs. Although he had hoped to produce the chair as one single unit, his inventive use of new materials could not support this original concept. As a clever alternative, Saarinen built the base of his chair in molded cast aluminum with a fiberglass top. A heavy shell finish conceals the individual pieces. This gorgeous set is elevated with rich cushions to establish a complementary and rich neutral palette, creating a relaxing retreat.

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