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Famous american coffee tables - Saarinen Tulip Table

Updated on April 21, 2013
Saarinen | Source

This article is the second on a serie of famous american coffee tables that I started with Isamu Noguchi.

Almost every american home has a coffee table in the living room, surrounded by chairs and sofas where family and friends are gathering for a cozy chat. But few of these homes have one of the most beautiful, luxurious and lovely one: an eero saarinen tulip table.
With an elegant design, graceful and light, this piece of furniture is the master of simplicity, without sacrificing the beauty and functionality.

About Saarinen tulip collection

The tulip table was created in the middle of last century by an architect and designer, and has been produced ever since. Its price has never gone down, but up, and today you can buy it for about $1.500. Even its reproductions costs a third of its original.

And it is more then just this coffee table, it is a whole collection of dining tables, side tables, coffee tables and chairs that share the same unique design: the tulip shape, or pedestal.

When he first created the tulip, Eero Saarinen started with a simple idea: decluttering. As the story goes, he was annoyed with that multitude of legs in american homes: table legs, chair legs etcetera, that he referred as “ugly, confusing, unrestful world resulting from the slum of legs underneath typicals chairs and tables”. So, he went on to make a simpler furniture that let the space breath and, probably, make the housewives happier when vacuuming!
He first created a chair that won a prize, then he created a table and then he did the whole collection.

Tulip chair and coffee table
Tulip chair and coffee table | Source

The Tulip Table

It is mainly the tulip tables that are in high demand at this time. The Saarinen tulip table, as it is known, is produced by Knoll in three sizes - dining table, coffee table, and side table- and two shapes -round and oval. The same company manufactures the chairs. Just like Noguchi table started with Herman Miller, Saarinen started with Knoll.

The idea behind Eero Saarinen’s design is simple: less legs. So, his tables and chair only have one leg. The lower part is finished with a base that provides stability and the upper part holds the tabletop.

The top of the table is available in white laminate, wood, marble or granite. The base is molded cast aluminum, strap-polished and coated in rilsan finish. Marble or granite tops are finished with a protective sealer for a smooth surface and easy clean. Base is available in black, white and aluminum.

Eero Saarinen’s most known piece of furniture is the pedestal chair. His design was used in the original Star Trek TV series. It was slightly modified for the movie.

When the movie stopped being produced, the chairs were thrown away in the dumpsters. Some smart people salvaged few of them and later went on auction for as much as $18.000 apiece.

Star trek bridge
Star trek bridge | Source

Who is Eero Saarinen

Eero Saarinen was a finnish native that emigrated in the United States with his family, at the age 13. His father was an architect who had designed lots of public works in Finland.
In U.S., they lived in Bloomfield Hills in Michigan. His whole family worked at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, where he also studied. He also learned sculpture in Paris and architecture at Yale.

After completing his studies, Eero work for his father’s business. He also entered in some design competitions. His first achievement came with the creation of a chair, in association with one of his friends, Charles Eames. Based on this first model, he then designed the tulip chair for the Knoll company. A full size prototype was produced in 1955. Few years later, he completed the collection with tables.

Eero Saarinen became famous for his futuristic furniture and industrial design. His most known public works are Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the TWA Flight Center at JFK International Airport and the terminal at Dulles International Airport.

His glorious career was cut short in 1961 when he died at the age of 51.

Eero Saarinen
Eero Saarinen


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    • cameciob profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      RTalloni, that is a wonderful comparision you made. Maybe that's what Saarinen saw too:). Thanks for commenting.

    • RTalloni profile image


      6 years ago from the short journey

      What a classic this is table-once futuristic now so retro. The white ones remind me of milk being poured out. :)

    • cameciob profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Angela, I am glad you enjoy it.

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 

      6 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      This is very beautiful and clean looking! Beautiful hub!

    • cameciob profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Ciel Clark, how interesting is that people have such diverse opinions. See, i only care about the coffee table and not about the architectural design...but appreciate you stopped by.

    • Ciel Clark profile image

      Ciel Clark 

      6 years ago from USA

      Oh, interesting! I didn't really realize his work was so... futuristic. I went to a school he designed, and it seemed to me (at the time) so old-fashioned. Maybe it is both. Great hub and it brings back lots of memories.


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