Tulip Chair

In my house I have a rectangular dining table, with two chairs that have four legs each residing beside the long side and a bench with four legs on the opposite. When Ms. Super Consumer visited me and saw this setting the first thing she said is “I love how the bench is reducing the clutter of legs”. And she was absolutely right, the bench that serves the purpose of two chairs but simultaneously reduced the clutter by four legs gives a feel of spaciousness and clutter free vision. Similar were the thoughts of Eero Saarinen when he designed the Industrial Design Classic – The Tulip Chair.

Tulip Chair - A Furniture Design Icon

Tulip Chair – Front | PC Knoll

Tulip Chair - A Furniture Design Icon

Tulip Chair – Rear | PC: Knoll

Designer and his Vision

Eero Sarinan was born to a Finnish Architect but was raised in the United States. He studied Sculpture, Furniture Design and Architecture. He was said to be close friends with Charles and Ray Eames and Florance Knoll, because well; birds of a feather flock together.  He won many awards for his work and through his lifetime designed many important architectural landmarks. Saarinen is now considered one of the masters of American 20th-century architecture.

Tulip Chair an Industrial Design Icon

The Designer – Eero Saarinen

Tulip Chair an Industrial Design Icon

The Design Process

The Tulip Armchair, quite obviously resembles the flower and also a stemmed wineglass, is part of Aero Saarinen’s last furniture series. This one-legged chair was meant to relieve one of Saarinen’s great concerns: clutter.  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.”

Saarinen designed each piece in the Tulip series of furniture with a single pedestal leg, creating a unified environment of chairs, tables, and stools.

Tulip Chair an Industrial Design Icon

Tulip Chair and the Side Table from the Range | PC Knoll

Tulip Chair an Industrial Design Icon

Tulip Chair and the Table from the Range | PC Knoll

The Construction

The Tulip chair also marks the conclusion of the designer’s efforts to create a chair molded from a single material, which spearheaded his design concept of “one piece, one material.”  But moulded fiber glass was not able to support the base, and prototypes were prone to break. So the elegant Tulip chair might look like it is made of one material, but the sculptural fiberglass shell seat is supported on an aluminum stem with a fused plastic finish to match the uppershell.

Cultural Influence

At the time the Tulip was designed, a one-legged chair was an idea so advanced that it seemed suited only in visions of the future. Remember the space-age animated series The Jetsons, aired first time around 1960’s showed houses furnished with one-legged chairs.

The futuristic design of the Tulip suited high-tech settings, and it is no surprise that it was the chair of choice on the sets of the starship U.S.S. Enterprise in the television series Star Trek. I also remember seeing it in Donna Pinciotti’s Kitchen in That 70’s Show.

Tulip Chair an Industrial Design Icon

Furniture Seen on That 70’s Show

Despite these nontraditional and futuristic associations, the Tulip Chairs that were mass-produced since the 1950’s are today considered highly valued antiques. And the best part is they  can be incorporated into a wide variety of settings, including contemporary and traditional rooms.


PC: Knoll


PC: Knoll

Tulip Chair an Iconic Furniture Design

PC: Desire to Inspire

Tulip Chair an Iconic Furniture Design

PC: Fashismo

Closing Thoughts

PC: Retro Renovations

Closing Thoughts

This chair is as popular today as it was when it was first introduced. You might find modified styles and replicas in pretty much all furniture stores. Not many one-legged chairs have achieved the fame of the Tulip which is now considered a symbol of futuristic thinking and is termed a classic in the field of furniture design.

What do you think of the Tulip and what are your favourite iconic pieces of Industrial design? Let me know in the comments.



4 thoughts on “Tulip Chair

  1. Mark Jarvis says:

    I agree that the Tulip base is a genius design ! A good chair lets you sit in it the way you feel like sitting … and lets you change your position easily … as this one does by getting the chair legs out of the way of your legs.

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