Tulip Armchair by Eero Saarinen (1957)

Design Classic – Influential and important design

Tulip Armchair (model 150) designed by Eero Saarinen
Tulip Armchair (model 150) designed by Eero Saarinen

Armchair 1957

  • Designer: Eero Saarinen
  • Material: fibreglass-reinforced plastic and lacquered aluminum and upholstery.
  • Manufacturer: Knoll Associates, New York

The Tulip Armchair (model 150), Eero Saarinen’s last furniture design, was part of a five-year-long series of chairs, stools, and tables based on a single cast aluminium stem or pedestal. Saarinen faced the problem of trying to treat the leg structurally and visually as part of the reinforced-plastic moulded seat shell with the help of a research team from the Knoll firm led by Donald Petit. This issue had plagued him since he and Charles Eames conducted their first experiments with moulded seat shells.

The Tulip Armchair is shaped like a tulip and also a stemmed wineglass. One of Saarinen’s major concerns was clutter, which was addressed by this one-legged chair. Describing his intentions to simplify and clarify the structure, he said: “The undercarriage of chairs and tables in a typical interior makes an ugly, confusing, unrestful world. I wanted to clear up the slum of legs. I wanted to make the chair all one thing again.” Each piece of furniture in the Tulip series was created by Saarinen with a single pedestal leg, resulting in a coherent set of chairs, tables, and stools.

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Hiesinger, K. B., & Marcus, G. H. (1995). Landmarks of twentieth-century design: an illustrated handbook. Abbeville Press.

McDermott, C. (1997). Twentieth century design. Carlton.

Saarinen, E. (n.d.). Eero Saarinen. Tulip Armchair (model 150). 1955-56: MoMA. The Museum of Modern Art. https://www.moma.org/collection/works/2565.

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