Eero Saarinen’s Two-Seater: the Womb Settee

Knoll overcomes structural issues to bring the 1940s design back into production

The story behind Eero Saarinen’s classic 1948 Model 70 Womb design is simple: Florence Knoll wanted a chair that felt like “basket full of pillows.” While most might immediately think of fluffiness and volume, the Finnish-American furniture designer (and architect behind the architectural marvel that is the TWA Flight Terminal at JFK Airport) had a sleek and suggestive style. Saarinen created a shell shape that allowed for multiple, relaxed sitting positions, and meant that curled up comfort could be achieved without tons of cushioning—making overstuffed armchairs look clumsy and bulky in comparison.

Not many remember, however, that the Womb chair had a short-lived sibling. In the ’40s, the production of Womb Settee was abandoned after three years due to structural issues; it was difficult to create a robust double-wide version that wouldn’t break or bend. Jump to a few years ago, when Knoll’s team encountered similar engineering issues when exploring the possibility of bringing back the design. By using Reaction Injection Molding technology to strengthen the shell, and inserting a hidden strut (not in the original design) for additional support, Knoll has brought the elegant two-seater back to reality once more.

Find the Womb Settee ($6194) online from Knoll, along with the rest of the Womb collection—which includes a child-sized version of the lounge chair, too.

Images courtesy of Knoll