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The Tulip™ chair, an icon of industrial design

Even if you're not an expert, you'll be familiar with the Tulip™ chair, the design classic designed by Eero Saarinen in 1956.
The Tulip™ chair, an icon of industrial design
The Tulip™ chair, an icon of industrial design

Its single leg was revolutionary at the time, and the chair has never gone out of fashion since. It remains one of the most famous chairs of the 20th century.

Nature meets technology

In the 1950s, there was no such thing as a single-legged piece of furniture. The Finnish designer and architect was fed up with the "jungle of legs" and wanted to free up the space under the table. It took him five years of research to give it shape, while sticking to his initial idea: to create a chair in a single block, with the leg and seat forming a visual unit. To do this, he procured revolutionary materials, the type used by the US Navy during the Second World War and not usually found in the world of industrial design. Lightweight yet rigid, they allowed him great freedom of form.

The Tulip™ chair consists of a white shell made of moulded fibreglass, reinforced with polyester and covered with a removable coloured cushion of polyurethane foam. It can swivel or be locked in position. The central tulip-shaped leg is made of lightweight, moulded cast aluminium covered with white Rilsan and fits snugly around the base of the seat shell and backrest. Harmoniously linked together, the two parts of the chair give the appearance of being made of a single piece. The join is invisible to the naked eye, quite the technical feat at the time.

New materials for a new concept

A new concept, a new trend that brought elegance, curves and aesthetics into the home, the chair that went against the classical tenets of interior design of the time was an immediate success. More than just an innovative chair, it is a symbol of post-war technological progress and mastery, with its free, organic lines and its use of new materials and techniques, such as moulding.

So much so that the concept of the single tulip leg would soon be used for high tables and coffee tables, pedestal tables, armchairs and stools, making a definitive break with the classicism of the late 1950s.  

A legend for almost 70 years

Created at the time for the design house owned by his friends Hans and Florence Knoll, it is still made and distributed today by the famous American company, one of the most creative and best-known design houses in the world.

The Tulip™ chair has resided in the MoMA in New York since 1969 and was featured in the Star Trek television series. It can take pride in being on the very select list of cult design objects!

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