What is the Tulip Chair’s story? An Introduction

What is the Tulip Chair’s story? An Introduction

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What is a Tulip Chair?

The Tulip Chair is the embodiment of modernist furniture. Born out of the highly successful partnership between Eero Saarinen and the Knoll furniture company, the Tulip Chair was an instant success and continues to be highly sought after today. The Tulip Chair and the Tulip Table form the essentials of the Pedestal Collection, one of several pieces and collections that the Saarinen/Knoll creative partnership brought forth in a little over a decade.


What is the Tulip Chair’s history?

The Tulip Chair (and Tulip Tables) was not the first creation from the Saarinen/Knoll partnership, but it is arguably their best and most successful piece. Both the chair and tale were first presented in the Pedestal Collection in 1955.  

Of the entire Tulip range, it is the chair that best elicits the organic form that was its inspiration. The gentle curve of the cup formed by the flower’s petals are echoed in the swoop of the back (and arms in the arm chair version). The seat follows the almost-flat underside of the flower then merges into the deceptively delicate stem, carry the exquisite arc right down to the base. All absolutely deliberate and intentional, recalling the architectural forms Saarinen used in the Gateway Arch in St Louis and the Washington Dulles International Airport.


What is the Tulip Chair made from?

In the original concept, Eero was looking to construct the entire chair from a single piece of fibreglass, to emphasise its fluid lines and simplicity. However, technology at the time was insufficiently advanced to provide the necessary strength in the base so the decision was made to use fibreglass for the seat and stronger yet light aluminium for the base and stem. Finishing techniques blend the two pieces to create an almost invisible join and preserve the elegant curved form. As production capabilities improved, a switch was made to use plastic for the seat from the early 1990s onwards, providing a slightly more robust, but equally comfortable alternative.


How many versions of the Tulip Chair exist?

The Tulip Chair has barely evolved since its original concept and while prototypes show the variations that were explored, the two main versions prevail to this day: the side chair and the arm chair. The side chair is the simpler of the two with open sides and the arm chair version is essentially a Tulip Chair with arms which gracefully extend the fluid curves of the chair’s shape from the seat and into the back support.

Part of the beauty of the Tulip Chair lies in its ability to stand alone or in conjunction with a side table or a full-size dining table. As a single chair in a suitable context the chair acts as a real statement piece, and like any such classic, it possesses something almost undefinable as to why it works…it simply does. Almost too good to sit on. And when paired with a side table and a second chair, the set evokes an al fresco dining experience, perfect for a cappuccino and a croissant.

Combined with the dining table, the benefit of the single stem leg truly comes into its own, not only from the aesthetic match but also the practicality of no cumbersome legs intruding or protruding, guaranteeing comfort for everyone.


How can I buy a Tulip Chair?

Original Tulip Chairs (and Tables) now fetch premium prices as collector’s items but brand-new current pieces are lower in price and represent excellent value for money as well as an investment for life. Their longevity of the last 65 years is testament to their elegant design and their classic beauty.

Both the side chair and the arm chair are available in black or white and the range of five cushion colours can work to co-ordinate with existing furnishings or create a bold contrast to catch the eye even more. Or maybe you’d like to mix and match to create a dazzling display of multi-colour. Take a browse of our collections and feel free to contact us if you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for.