The Furniture of Eero Saarinen

eero saarinen tulip

At the age of thirteen, Eero Saarinen arrived in America with his family from Finland. Eero studied sculpture and furniture design at Cranbrook Academy, a school his architect father, Eilel, co-founded in Michigan. The young Saarinen also studied in Paris1 and at the Yale School of Architecture2 before returning to Cranbrook Academy to teach.

Eventually, he collaborated with colleagues Charles Eames and Florence Knoll, designing a furniture collection called “Organic Design in Home Furnishings”. The collection, entered in an exhibition held by New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1940, won first prize; one of many accolades for Saarinen.

With regard to his architectural influence, one can easily recognize his impact on the landscape. Saarinen designed many prominent buildings, including airport terminals and corporate headquarters buildings for IBM, John Deere and CBS.1 The Gateway Arch in St. Louis may be his most recognizable architectural work.

Saarinen‘s modern furniture designs are just as familiar. His is the brilliant mind behind creations such as the Tulip table and chair, and the Womb chair, among others. Saarinen’s thinking behind the Tulip design, also known as Pedestal, was to “clear up the slum of legs in the U.S. home.”2; bringing airy simplicity into the modern household.

Mr. Saarinen’s design of the Womb chair stemmed from a request by his friend Florence Knoll. She wished for a chair that she could curl up in. The Womb Chair delivered with style. Created as a singular piece that is ergonomically shaped, the warmly padded structure invites and then cocoons its occupant.

His eye for streamlined comfort was so appealing that his clients frequently asked him to not only design their buildings, but the furniture inside them as well. His sofa design for the lobbies of the General Motors Technology Center in Michigan is one such project. The man who created cozy allure with the curved lines of the Womb Chair demonstrated exceptional skill, making straight lines and sharply cornered block forms look attractively comfortable. Inspired by the design of stock car seats, the boldly geometrical seating series is strong and inviting with a polished chrome framework that cradles sumptuously squared cushions.

The clean lines of his furniture and architecture are utterly aesthetic and functional. His “mid-century Scandinavian organic modernism is again in demand, as demonstrated by the popularity of stores like Ikea. Organic, ergonomic design is just what today’s eco-conscious consumer is drawn to.