History Lesson: The Tulip Table

A Modern Classic
    We want to start a reoccurring theme for our blog, which will be to highlight a piece of timeless, classic furniture, an investment piece. Like a musician who owns a classical guitar worth several thousand dollars, or a chef with a modest income who owns kitchen knives that each cost hundreds of dollars, designers designing their own homes can benefit greatly from a centerpiece, or a starting point of inspiration, which can take the shape of a masterfully made sofa, an exceptional Eames lounger, or, the focus of this weeks’ article, a Tulip Table:
Tulip Table with Marble Top
“In a 1956 Time magazine cover story, Eero Saarinen said that ‘the underside of typical tables and chairs makes a confusing, unrestful world,’ and that he was designing a new collection to ‘clear up the slum of legs in the U.S. home.”


    Eero Saarinen was a Finnish-American architect and designer. He designed the Tulip Table based off of the concept of a drop of a high viscosity liquid (which is itself sort of a modernist concept…before decent photography, he would perhaps have been much less likely to think of using a droplet of liquid as the template for furniture). The table definitely makes use of classic Modernist tropes: it is simple and sleek, and the classic, neutral colors lend themselves well to making the table a timeless classic. One of the reasons this table is such a good candidate as an “investment piece” is that there is nothing to get tired of. If you need to change everything else in the room to get a new look or feel, the Tulip Table will almost certainly still fit into your design.

Bench & Chair Seating works perfectly with the Tulip Table!
The Tulip table with bench seating and a spectacular Eames Molded Shell Chair.
We love this combination of booth seating and chair seating.  Great use of space too!

Cost/Benefit
    We compared the Tulip Table to an expensive classical guitar; the comparison wasn’t an idle one: the Tulip Table retails for about $7,500. But that comes with optional tops, marble being one option. It’s versatile: you can match it up with traditional chairs to create, through juxtaposition, an effect where the simple table mixes with ornate traditional chairs, which produces a nuanced, but balanced harmony. There are also the Tulip Chairs, created by Saarinen as well, that can be paired with the table:

The Tulip Table with the chairs created to go with it.  There are also arm chairs & stools.
Tulip table with traditional, elegant seating.
Even the Louis XVI chair works with the tulip table.

    But, our favorite combination might be with the Thonet Chair (which will be the focus of our next blog on furniture):

Tulip table and Thonet Chair No. 4 Cafe Daum
Painted Thonet chairs and Tulip Table
Perhaps our favorite tulip table/chair combo is with the Thonet Chair No. 18.

What we love the most about the Tulip table is it’s timeless versatility.  The table can be used in the most traditional settings to the most modern.   

 The tulip table in a traditional setting.

Tulip table in a Traditional Setting

Low Cost Alternatives

Now, if you like the look of the Tulip Table, but your budget doesn’t allow for an authentic one (or maybe you just aren’t sure you want to use the same table for the next decade), there are imitations to consider. Ikea makes a similar table for about $200, though it does lose a little in translation.  Lexmod makes really good looking imitations, which go for about $1,500 but it seems like they are almost always on sale for half that, so keep an eye out.

What Are You Looking For?

So, if Stevi could pick one expensive, classic piece of furniture, right now it’d be the Tulip Table. What pieces do you guys aspire to own one day, or what do you already own and love? Comment with your timeless wishlist or even photos of what you have/want! 

By the way…did you know that the Gateway Arch in St. Louis was designed by Eero Saarinen?!?

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