How to Identify a Genuine Saarinen Dining Table
Finnish architect Eero Saarinen (1910 to 1961), studied sculpture and architecture before joining his father Eliel Saarinen's architecture practice in 1936. Experimenting with Charles Eames, Saarinen and Eames developed the first molded plywood furniture. They participated in the 1940 exhibition "
Organic Design in Home Furnishings" at New York's Museum of Modern Art, winning first prize. After 1940, furniture was a key component of Saarinen's practice and thinking. In your home, a Saarinen table adds Mid-Century Modern style to your decor, complementing an array of styles, from traditional to contemporary.
Eero Saarinen first met Florence Knoll when she was a student of his father's at Cranbrook Academy of Art. Knoll hired the younger Saarinen when she and her husband formed Knoll Associates in 1946. Saarinen used a range of materials in his designs for Knoll. His signature breakthrough came in 1958 with the introduction of his Pedestal series. Saarinen had vowed to correct what he described as both a "slum of legs" and the "ugly, confusing, unrestful world" of table bases. Saarinen's solution, determined after making scale and full-size models and endless refinements, was the single leg, tulip-shaped base produced in cast aluminum. Since the table was constructed in two separate parts, the aluminum base and a top, a range of options exist for the tabletop material.
Although they all share the same base, a genuine Saarinen dining table is available in a variety of sizes and shapes. The classic round dining table is available in four standard sizes, ranging from 35 to 54 inches, with an additional 60-inch size available as a custom option. It is also available in two oval-top sizes, 78 or 96 inches. All Saarinen dining tables share a height, which is standardized at 28.25 inches.
Saarinen tables consist of two components, a cast-aluminum base available in three finishes, and a round or oval top. Generally, any top attaches to its pedestal base with three screws, although Knoll refers to the three screws as"threaded rod." However, the larger oval tabletops in the 78 and 96-inch sizes require four screws. If a pedestal base is attached to a round or oval top with a larger or smaller number of screws, it is very likely not a genuine Saarinen table for Knoll International, unless it has been modified by a previous owner.
Stamps and Signatures
Each component of a Saarinen dining table for Knoll International includes stamps of the Knoll Studio logo and Saarinen's signature. The base has the Knoll Studio stamp, while the top will contain a plate with the designer's signature. One challenge in determining the authenticity of a Saarinen tabletop may be the variety of labels associated with Knoll, including the Knoll Associates label and the Knoll International label, both of which are "stick-on" style labels. There also appear to have a number of variations within each label. Knoll can provide information on labels that have been used throughout the history of Saarinen dining table production.
Brett Levine is a writer with more than 17 years of experience writing for a range of national and international publications. His articles have appeared in "Art Papers," "B-Metro," "Alabama" magazine, "Object," "Urbis" and "RealTime." He holds a Master of Arts in arts administration.