Hello, lovely readers and welcome to the inaugural edition of Design Defined, a new series where we’ll take a closer look at furniture, architecture, materials and design terms that are either on the rise or have never gone out of style.
Let’s start with two ubiquitous pieces that combine the best of both worlds: trendy and classic. Introduced in 1955, the “Pedestal” or “Tulip” collection features chairs, tables and stools with a modern, streamlined interpretation of organic form. Designed by Finnish-born, forward-thinker Eero Saarinen, the collection was an immediate success that’s now considered a standard of midcentury modernism and futuristic design.
Design by Jenny Norris
An acclaimed architect and trained sculptor, Saarinen’s impetus to create the collection stemmed from his dislike of, as he put it, “the slum of legs” created by all preceding tables and chairs.
Designing sturdy, functional pieces with only a single, slim support proved a challenge, forcing Saarinen to abandon his original vision of constructing furniture entirely out of molded fiberglass in favor of using more durable cast aluminum for the bases. For the chairs, the aluminum base is topped with a molded fiberglass shell seat — either with arms or without.
Tables can be topped with marble, wood or a plain white laminate:
Design by TerraCotta Properties
Saarinen’s simple, sculptural design ensures these pieces work with a variety of design styles — and are as at home in the bedroom, office or living room as they are in the dining room:
Design by Erinn Valencich
And, if these photos aren’t enough to convince you that the Tulip collection is truly out-of-this-world, then maybe this will: Saarinen’s futuristic design was the inspiration for lookalike chairs on none other than the original USS Enterprise:
If you’re ready to add a piece of this sculptural furniture to your home, prepare yourself for a bit of sticker shock. Furniture this iconic doesn’t come cheap — but it can be had. Saarinen’s collection has been licensed through Knoll since its release and is still in production today. Or, you can try your luck at finding one of the highly collectible 1950′s originals at online sites like 1stdibs, eBay, Etsy and Chairish or estate sales, thrift stores or flea markets in your area. Happy hunting!