Modern Classics: Eero Saarinen's Tulip Chair

Modern Classics: Eero Saarinen's Tulip Chair

Nancy Mitchell
Oct 22, 2012

There's something about the tulip chair. No other design embodies quite so well that space-agey Jetsons aesthetic. With its organic shape, it seems to have sprouted up from the ground, rather than been made, just like the flower it takes it name from.

The tulip chair was designed in 1956 by Finnish architect and designer Eero Saarinen, as a complement to his tulip table. Saarinen originally intended for the chair to be made from a single piece of molded fiberglass, but since early prototypes of the fiberglass were prone to breaking, he had to settle for a cast aluminum base, coated with rislan to match the fiberglass upper shell. The chair is still produced by Knoll using this same method. (Saarinen's dream of manufacturing a chair from a single continuous piece of material wouldn't be realized until 1967, with Verner Panton's famous S chair.)

Like any true classic, the tulip chair is enormously versatile, equally lovely with a traditional table (or desk) as it is with the tulip it was originally created for. A lookalike to the tulip even appeared on the set of the original Star Trek. These chairs are not the tulip, but the Burke 115, a similar design with a four-pronged propeller base, instead of the tulip's round one.

1. Perfect with a traditional table in this interior from Vogue.
2. Space agey goodness. Love the easter egg palette and the Lindsey Adelman lamp, too. From Solid Frog.
3. As seen in Kelly's Retro Artist Loft.
4. The tulip demonstrates its versatility; pretty with a chinoiserie cabinet, from House and Home.
5. Airy and modern from Desire to Inspire.

6. Charming paired with a traditional desk in The Martinez Family's Modern Mountain Turkey Coop.
7 & 8. In a MCM-filled Barcelona apartment from Miss Design.
9. In a glamorous workspace from Lonny.
10. Lovely luxe modern from Interiors Digital.

11. In a breakfast nook from Lonny.
12. The tulip armchair in a quirky mix of classic chairs. Home of Marcus Hay, from Real Living Magazine via Oh Joy.
13. Love this mix of midcentury and traditional pieces from Sarah & Steve's Attic Aerie.
14. Black tulips with bright colors in this saturated interior from Interiors Digital.
15. In a colorful interior from Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz.

(Images: as linked above)

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