If you’ve ever been to (or seen) Gateway Arch in St. Louis, then you know a little bit about Eero Saarinen. He was a Finnish-American architect and industrial designer—and he designed the arch that makes St. Louis so recognizable.
This past August would have been Saarinen’s 100th birthday and I decided that I’d pay homage to his wonderful Mid-Century Modern style and spring for a Tulip table. I’m finally doing that.
My reasons for choosing this style are two-fold. First, I love the simple elegance of the pedestal base. And I’ve always loved how round tables encourage closeness—not necessarily in the physical proximity to one’s fellow diners, but in the angle in which people are seated. Sitting at 90 degree angles seems odd. Remove the corners, and everyone is in a circle. It makes sense.
Second, I have a blind cat. Alice gets around the condo perfectly fine. She learned the lay of the land very quickly and never bumps into walls or furniture. She can even plan a jump from the floor to the bed from three feet away. She must count the steps from the door to the spot where she takes off. I don’t know her strategy but it’s flawless—well, except for those damn table legs! Between the table and four chairs, she’s got 20 legs to navigate around (16 of which change their position with each push of the chairs). It’s a lot to ask.
I was thinking that fewer legs would make Alice’s life a lot more predictable when I read a quote Saarinen gave in 1956 to Time magazine: He said he was designing a collection to “clear up the slum of legs in the U.S. home.”
That resonated with me. I have a slum of legs in my dining room! I’d been trying to justify replacing a perfectly usable glass and aluminum table and aluminum and microfiber chairs. So with Alice’s vision (or lack thereof) as my excuse, and Saarinen’s quote as my inspiration, I began my research.
Knoll manufactures the Tulip table. You can buy it at Design Within Reach and Room & Board among other places. Unfortunately, I have Knoll taste on an Ikea budget. Then I found a few companies that make reproductions. I chose Lexington Modern because they had the combination of table top and base that I needed. I ordered a marble top (I was afraid the wood or fiberglass tops would get scratched by Alice’s claws (yes, she manages to navigate to the tops or tables; apparently all cats, including those who can’t see how high up they are, love heights).
The matching Tulip chairs are terrific. But because I went with the black base, I decided to go with black chairs: specifically, the Panton chairs by Verner Panton. They don’t have “legs” so the slum won’t creep into my dining room. Panton is another great Mid-Century Modern designer, and I’ll write about him in another post.
My table is, as they say, in the mail. I’ll share pictures and thoughts about it when it arrives.