Eliel Saarinen, et. alia Saarinen, Swanson, Saarinen
Flexible Home Arrangements Cabinets by Eliel Saarinen for Johnson Furniture, 1939
click on thumbnails for pictures and detailed information
Flexible Home Arrangements by Saarinen A5 Cabinet #2
Flexible Home Arrangements by Saarinen A5 Cabinet #1
Flexible Home Arrangements by Saarinen S-407 Chest on Chest
Flexible Home Arrangements by Saarinen Twin Beds #F-29; 1939.
Starting in 1925, soon after his second place finish in the Chicago Tribune Tower competition, Eliel Saarinen (1873 - 1950) became the architect of the new Cranbrook Educational Community in Bloomfield Hills, MI, just north of Detroit. Soon afterward, Saarinen also became President of the Cranbrook Academy of Art, a position he held until his death in 1950. Those not intimately familiar with the design work of Eliel Saarinen may be more comfortable seeing him as the teacher and mentor of a number of important mid-century American designers. Included in the group are not just his own children Eero and Pipsan, but also his son-in-law Robert Swanson, the then Ray Kaiser, who met her husband Charles Eames while at Cranbrook. Harry Bertoia, Jack Lenor Larsen, Florence Knoll, and many others owe a strong debt to Eliel Saarinen's influence. Saarinen's influence made Cranbrook the most fertile ground in America for mid-century modern designs.
The items included in our exhibit are part of a broad commercial collection developed from furnishings originally designed for a Detroit area residential client of the Saarinen architecture firm. The collection is called "Flexible Home Arrangements," and is increasingly recognized today as the first "modular" series of modern furniture produced for a mass audience.
The collection was first introduced in 1939, but it's opportunity was severely limited during World War II. The first edition (called "basic") has the combination birch / aluminum hardware, while the second edition "S Series" was introduced in 1948, with additional pieces, and the title referencing both the hardware detail and the bases created for the case pieces, each in a subtle "S" curve.
The items here, as the entire collection, are extraordinarily architectural in form, appearing to float above rich walnut recessed bases.
We've developed a 40+ page study guide for those interested in more details about "Flexible Home Arrangements." The guide contains original catalog material, line drawings of all items in the collection, photos of all the items introduced at MassModern, and additional detailed photgraphy of some of the group's common details. More information is available on our "Research and Resources" page.