Design history: How Saarinen’s Pedestal collection revolutionised modernist furniture design

By MiNDFOOD

Design history: How Saarinen’s Pedestal collection revolutionised modernist furniture design

“I wanted to clear up the slum of legs,” were the words famously uttered by Finnish-American architect and designer Eero Saarinen when he set out to create his revolutionary Pedestal Collection for Knoll.

The son of an architect and textile artist, Saarinen was born in Finland in 1910 and moved to the United States with his family in his early teens, going on to study sculpture in Paris and architecture at Yale.

Considered one of the masters of modernism, Saarinen saw design as a unifying force. “In working out a design, you always have to keep thinking of the next largest thing – the ashtray in relation to the tabletop; the chair in its relation to the room; the building in relation to the city,” he once said. 

1958 he introduced a collection that would become one of the most influential examples of modernist furniture design. In collaboration with Knoll, Saarinen worked extensively to solve the problem of “the undercarriage of chairs and tables” that made for “an ugly, confusing, unrestful world.”

No doubt influenced by his sculpture background, he did away with clunky, traditional legs and opted for a sleek and streamlined single pedestal. The 1958 Pedestal Collection featured stools, arm and side chairs and coffee and side tables, but it was the dining table that was the star of the show.

A dramatic, swooping design reflective of Saarinen’s modernist eye with an almost futuristic-feel, the table’s pedestal is made of cast aluminium, devoid of any seams and with tapered edges, paired with tabletops of laminate, wood veneer or natural materials like marble. 

The purity of his design and experimental use of material has seen the Pedestal Table become an icon in homes and commercial interiors since the late 1950s, and it has remained an enduring piece of modernist furniture history, now available at Studio Italia.

Saarinen died only a few years after the release of the Pedestal Collection, and while many have imitated his design since then, none have been able to rival the purity of his groundbreaking vision.

The Saarinen dining and side tables and Tulip chairs are available at studioitalia.co.nz

Photography by Gionata Xerra

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