Eero Saarinen’s Tulip Chair (first seen in 1955 for Knoll) is a classic example of mid-century modern design. With its smooth, sleek lines resembling the petals of a tulip flower, it’s instantly recogniseable and is often grouped with the Jacobsen Egg Chair and Eames Armchair as top examples of industrial design.
Of course, I knew none of this. Per usual, my introduction to the sleek, futuristic Tulip Chair was Star Trek. Below, check out a shot of Majel Barrett surrounded by a bevy of tulip chairs of different shades of white, grey, and blue as Trek’s very first female First Officer in the 1964 pilot, “The Cage” directed by the legendary Robert Butler.
When I began playing with the idea of doing a 1:6 scale Trek diorama, I wanted to meld the set design from the original series with the shiny new Star Trek (2009) film. The white and red tulip chair was a must-have miniature, but I was shocked to discover the only miniature available at the time was the Vitra Design Museum replica, which cost over $250. Needless to say, I passed.
However, the design is a classic, and I soon discovered a much more affordable 1:6 tulip chair available from Lexington Modern. Sold directly through Lexmod’s website, and on Amazon.com, I got several chairs with both black and red cushions for only $15 each during a sale. I’ve made a point over the last year to point fellow diorama artists toward Lexmod, as it’s a much better alternative to Vitra for a variety of reasons, not the least of which the quality of the miniatures for the price. A similar chair (possibly cast from the same moulds) is available wholesale from China for only $7. Check it out at Aliexpress.
So, next time you’re looking for modern minis, don’t despair! There are plenty of affordable mid-century chairs out there, if you’re willing to do a little digging! Sometimes they’re sold as mobile phone holders, novelty gifts, and decorative collectibles rather than doll or action figure furniture. With the same chairs often sold on ebay for $40 and up, I wanted to spread the word far and wide on where diorama artists can find their own tulip chairs without breaking the bank.