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What Exactly Is a Tulip Table?

08.30.19

The twentieth century is renowned for its amazing design deliverance – especially in the furniture genre. The tulip table is just another one of these landmark designs that have redefined the way we perceive typical dining tables. In fact, it was such a success that it even spawned an entire sub-genre of coffee tables, end tables, and elliptical table tops.

The story behind the conception of the tulip table is rather interesting. It was actually designed by Eero Saarinen – an architect at profession and a furniture designer at heart – who came up with and executed the idea. His conception of this table was based on a very personal grievance: he absolutely abhorred the “slum of legs” that took form with typical square and rectangular shaped tables and chairs when both were fitted against each other. He wanted a table with smooth, uninterrupted curves and charisma that wouldn’t look cluttered at a glance.

It was this necessity that became the mother of invention for the tulip table. So, what exactly is the tulip table? Let’s take a look at all the components that make it so unique:

1. Remarkable design

Carrara Nuvo Calacatta Quartz Tulip Dining Table - Round

CARRARA NUVO CALACATTA QUARTZ TULIP DINING TABLE - ROUND

The design of the Eero Saarinen dining table consists of a platform base that rises from the ground in the shape of an inverse tulip and seamlessly integrates into a smooth, round table top. It’s the perfect piece of furniture if you’re looking for flexibility and great interaction – both visual as well as physical.

Other than that, the round tulip table is not just iconic, it has also become timeless. It’s been more than 50 years since it was introduced to the world and people are still obsessed with its sleek curvature and gorgeous design.

2. Adaptable through the ages

Calacatta Gold Marble Tulip Dining Table - Oval

CALACATTA GOLD MARBLE TULIP DINING TABLE - OVAL

One of the most remarkable things about Saarinen’s round tulip table is how adaptable its design has proved to be over the course of time. Saarinen first designed the prototype of the table to test out in his own home before it was bought by Knoll and started manufacturing.

Here, it’s really important to understand that spatial management and home designing were totally different back in the 50’s when the table was first designed. However, it can be easily incorporated in all contemporary homes of today – be it small apartments or large suburban houses. It’s a truly exemplary case of designing a true classic.

3. Perfectly suits all chair typess

White Carrara Marble Tulip Dining Table - Oval

WHITE CARRARA MARBLE TULIP DINING TABLE - OVAL

If there’s one thing that the tulip table managed to do, it was curbing Saarinen’s incessant need for a sleek table with no legs. This resulted in a simple, modernist design that almost feels like it’s molded as a single piece. This is how Saarinen managed to make the presence of the table sculptural, and this is exactly why it’s able to complement almost all chair types. From the industrial aura of the tolix chair to the Scandinavian beauty of the classic wishbone chair, there’s nothing that the unique aesthetic of Saarinen’s tulip table design can’t complement.

4. Benefits of the small footprint

White Carrara Marble Tulip Side Table - Round

WHITE CARRARA MARBLE TULIP SIDE TABLE - ROUND

The round tulip table has a decidedly small and flexible foot print because not only is it available in many sizes, its sturdy base takes decidedly less square-footage when placed anywhere in your homes. Its unique form also ensures that your space doesn’t end up becoming too crowded as a whole. This is why it can be easily incorporated in most contemporary homes to this day, no matter how small or large they are.

5. Highly sturdy material choice

White Lacquer Tulip Dining Table - Round

WHITE LACQUER TULIP DINING TABLE - ROUND

One of the things that made the tulip table and its subsequent pedestal collection so revolutionary was the expert use of materials. The twentieth century was a hotbed of material experimentation and Saarinen was an expert at it. Since the base of the tulip table is smaller than its top, achieving the perfect balance was extremely important. At the same time, Saarinen wanted to keep the table as lightweight as possible. So, the base ended up being designed from one-piece cast aluminum to give it perfect harmonization of balance, lightness, and sturdiness.

The table tops on the other hand were (and still are) manufactured in a variety of finishes that included laminates, wood veneers, and natural surfaces such a granite and Carrera marble. The last of these went on to become the most recognizable tulip table surface to this day. The attention to detail was very deliberate and focused, so even the table edges were tapered to suit the elegant overall aesthetic.

6. Becoming a concept

White Carrara Marble Tulip Dining Table - Round

WHITE CARRARA MARBLE TULIP DINING TABLE - ROUND

Over the course of the decades, the tulip table has become more of a concept rather than a physical articulation of someone else’s designs. The round marble look, the pedestal base, the classy and sleekly seamless form – they all sprouted a huge variety of tables. For example, the same design concept can be applied to elliptical table form and is now available throughout the world. It’s definitely something that has become a phenomenon, more than a physical object.

7. Elegance meets functionality

White Lacquer Tulip Dining Table - Oval

WHITE LACQUER TULIP DINING TABLE - OVAL

More than anything else, what sets the round tulip table apart is how it exudes unfettered elegance and grace. It’s beautiful in its refined sophistication. However, at the same time it’s also highly functional. Its smooth surface is perfect for carrying out all sorts of activities with the utmost ease – be it dinner, a card night, carrying out conversation, etc. It’s circular top also makes it extremely flexible and able to fit in all sorts of spaces, be it central, small alcoves, or large open concept plans.

8. The “forever” furniture piece

Carrara Nuvo Calacatta Quartz Tulip Dining Table - Oval

CARRARA NUVO CALACATTA QUARTZ TULIP DINING TABLE - OVAL

Now that we’ve established how the tulip table is timeless enough to be used in contemporary times, it’s not overreaching to say that this table is definitely going to be in the future as well. Just like fashion is always recycling, design styles are also making comebacks after several decades. So even if the future of architecture and interior design leans towards postmodernist themes and sleek, high-tech futuristic designs, the tulip table is classic and flexible enough to adapt in all of them.


So, this is what makes a tulip table so unique. It’s a design based on a great legacy that is sure to be incorporated even in the future. It’s got beautiful looks, great functionality, and was designed at a time where experimentation and modernist forms were all the rage. It remains a true classic even to this day.


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