A bustling family household does not mean you have to sacrifice chic design for functional furniture. Sometimes a genuine designer piece is all you need to dress up a room. A table designed by Finnish-American architect and master designer Eero Saarinen is one such work of art good enough to pass down to your children one day, but still sturdy enough to withstand the rigors of family life. Ever since winning awards for his first chair designs in the 1940s, furniture manufacturers have cashed in on the popularity of Saarinen designs by producing copies. To identify a real Saarinen dining table from a reproduction, examine your table for its telling clues.
Part of what makes a Saarinen table special is its pedestal base, which Saarinen created in order to eliminate the clutter of table and chair legs -- perfect for the occasional chaos of family dinner. If you come across a table that has more than one leg, step away. When it comes to identifying a genuine Saarinen table base, make note that these table bases are made from cast aluminum, as plastic, wood or steel are indications of an impostor. The base is made from a single piece of metal. Identify reproductions by looking for any sneaky horizontal joints or seams that indicate several parts joined together.
The pedestal base attaches to the tabletop with a single threaded rod that feeds up through the center of the base. If the table is upside down, you will see the single screw in the center of the bottom and no other screws. When the table is upright, you cannot see any screws connecting the base to the top. The presence of screws is a sure giveaway, so look for them at the edges of the base where it connects to the tabletop. Better yet, have the kids look for you, so you do not have to crawl around on your hands and knees.
Saarinen tables comes with tabletops made from multiple materials. White and gray marble is common, but it can also come with a wood, laminate or granite top. What you will not find is a Saarinen table with a plastic or metal top, so steer clear if you come across one. The top has a beveled edge that rounds gently from the top side and then slants underneath to create its tapered edge, which is also a little more kid-friendly. A flat edge is another dead giveaway. Saarinen marble tables are just under 1 inch thick, while laminate tabletops are about 1 1/4 inches thick. Saarinen tables only come in round or oval shapes.
Eero Saarinen contracted with the Knoll furniture company in 1946 because of a long-standing family relationship with owner Hans Knoll's wife, Florence Schust Knoll, who studied architecture and design with Eliel Saarinen, Eero's father. While other companies might manufacture tables similar to Saarinen's designs, do not be fooled, as these are reproductions. Look for a little metal tag on the underside of the table with Saarinen's signature or for a Knoll company imprint. Older tables might not have this, but it is always smart to check. Saarinen tables are meant to last for generations and to handle the wear that a growing family doles out, so if the table feels flimsy or cheap, just walk away -- it is not a genuine Saarinen table.