My vintage Burke tulip table and chairs: Out with the new, in with the old

burke dinetteI have replaced the faux-Saarinen tulip table and chairs that I originally bought for my kitchen from Crate & Barrel and eBay, respectively, with a true vintage set that I found in a nearby thrift shop and which I believe may be vintage Burke. It’s a bit of a story… and includes my swivel problems with knockoff tulip chairs purchased a while back on eBay… so continue reading for the 411.

 

When I originally finished my kitchen renovation in 2007, my consciousness had been alerted that what the space needed was a Saarinen style tulip table and chairs set to complete the look. With all the aquamarine in my kitchen, I wanted contrast in my dinette. The sleek white of the classic Saarinen tables and chairs not only would provide the clean visual contrast, it would match perfectly with the “appliance white” of my vintage GE stove, vintage Kohler porcelain sink, and new-yet-classic Sub-Zero side-by-side refrigerator.  At the same time, I knew that the organic rounded lines of the Saarinen style would provide visual graphic relief from the boxy sea of cabinets.

When it came time to looking for my Saarinen dinette, I would certainly have loved an authentic reproduction still manufactured by Knoll. True beauteousness – yes yes yes. But, the $6,000+ price tag for the complete five-piece table and chairs set wasn’t practical. What I really wanted was vintage. So, I poked around on ebay, craigslist and local stores for the few months. My searching was kind of unenthusiastic, though. Becase, by the time I got to looking for the dinette set, I was exhausted by all the kitchen renovation work, and I JUST WANTED IT TO BE OVER.  That included (1) just wanting a dinette in there already and (2) not wanting to have to deal with a beat-up vintage set that would become “another project.”

1960s blue kitchen Reflecting this reality, what I went for, was a set of knock-off Saarinen tulip chairs from ebay (shown in the photo above), which cost about $125 each. I paired them with a $150 tulip style table from Crate and Barrel. Fast forward about four years, and (1) the chairs from ebay were not holding up to our abuse and (2) I was ready, anyway, for a vintage dinette project if one presented itself.

Re (1) We used the dinette chairs pretty heavily, and on two of the chairs in particular, the screws that held the base to the swivel ultimately began loosening and had to be up-ended regularly to re-tighten the mechanism. Perhaps there was a good go-to-the-hardware-store solution, but we did not try that. I tend to believe there must be a relatively easy fix — this was a purely mechanical issue. I do not have the paperwork on brand of chairs I purchased from ebay — I think there are a couple of folks who sells that have this appearance today. So I can’t judge quality of one vs. the other or again, whether there was an effective longterm fix. Note: The plastic or whatever it was that the chairs were made of — was holding up just fine.

The Crate and Barrel table – it’s just fine. In fact, I think it is a good value for the money. We’ll keep that table and use it somewhere for crafts or a friend in need.

Re (2) Fast forward to this past summer, when I was re-energized to tackle a bunch of annoying house projects that have been languishing on my to-do list. This included watching for a replacement for that dinette set, especially since I’d kind of always wanted vintage. So, in conjunction with all the other projects on my list, I started keeping my eye out for a vintage set — even if it needed some TLC. burke dinette set before being refinishedSure enough, I was making a swing through some of my favorite vintage and thrift shops and stopped at my friend Ron’s Berkshire Used Furniture in Pittsfield. There – new to him – was a sad, beat-up looking 42” tulip table (the size I needed) and four matching chairs.  He had found them on a local woman’s porch kind of buried under other stuff. I inquired as to price. He gave me a good deal. And I became the proud owner of what I believe is a vintage Burke tulip table and chairs. Above: The dinette in its “before” state.

Now, all I needed to do was to get them cleaned up – they were a mess. Tomorrow: How we cleaned up and repainted a vintage tulip table and matching fiberglass chairs.

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Comments

  1. Greg McKinney says

    I have my parents 52″ tulip table and six Burke Inc-Dalas #115 chairs. They have been used on the back porch of my parents house and on my back porch for years. They were purchased new in Dallas around 1960. The white table is faded, dull and has some slight stains and the chairs are white fiberglass and for the most part in good condition except for some deterioration on the star legs. The turquoise (mom’s favorite color) vinyl seats are in fair condition but I will replace them, (also with turquoise in her honor). I want to redo the set for use as my main indoor dining set just as it was for my family back in the mid sixties. Any suggestions you can give me as to what materials to use and how to get it refinished to “like new” would be very much appreciated.
    Greg McKinney-Plano,Texas

  2. Nostalgia North says

    I just found two of these swivel chairs. Looking to sell them. Where i live vintage is not in. The ppl here would rather buy at the brick.\

    Any feedback would be appreciated.

    Thanks
    Tony

  3. Ethel Browne says

    I just inherited a 5 piece dinette Burke Tulip Set. Original Burke. 4 cushioned chairs and a table with inlaid wood design. I have searched and have never seen a table like this one. All pieces have Burke signature under the base. The chairs are a taupe color with printed velvet seat pads (replaced about 15 years ago). The cushions are in good shape but the covering is faded. The table is a lighter shade of taupe color with a small individual design in inlaid wood on the top and all around the outer circumference. All the pieces are very stable. I have seen slip covers on eBay for about 40.00 each.

    I am interested in selling the whole set but am not sure of the value..I’n thinking in the $1200 range. PS I live in Los Angeles. If interested I will send along pictures to include the signature.

  4. JB says

    I have a 60″ Burke Tulip table and 7 Burke 116 chairs. The chairs have the 4 star bottom. Condition is Excellent used. There are no major dings or visible scars. I have the original cushions, of which need some work, and the cushions may have been made to match the chairs. Purchased new in 1966. I have only a fair idea of value, but would like to sell it to someone that wants it.

    • Greg McKinney says

      I might be interested in another set. Can I see pictures and have an idea of what you want for it? I’ve finished redoing our set and it was quite costly. Also, there will be expense of shipping it. I’m in the Dallas area.

      • JB says

        I am going to have the table turned over tomorrow to get whatever information is on the bottom of the pedastal. It is probably a Burke, but may be a Knoll, I just don’t know. I will try to have an answer back and attempt to the value the combination. Please allow me to get more info before I reply on value. I can only arrange a trans shipment where someone picks it up and arranges all the details of shipping due to the location it resides just being sold and being vacated by April 26th +/- a day or two.

  5. MamaM says

    Hi all! I hope this thread isn’t dead. I recently bought a tulip table and chairs set that looks identical to this set but the table is only 25 inches high! Is this the normal height for these sets? The chairs are 16 inches. I would love some input. Thank you!

    M

    • pam kueber says

      I measured my table: Tabletop height is 28″, seats are 16″ not including the built-in cushion. Hope that helps.

      • MamaM says

        Thank you for that! I thought it seemed short! Maybe I can make the table higher somehow. Thanks again, I love your website! :)

        M

  6. Greg mckinney says

    I have my family’s original 52″ with 6 #115 chairs and I bought and restored a 60″ set w/6 armed swivel chairs. First set I had a Corvette painter paint the chairs. Very expensive and nice. Second set, I had a powder coated paint them. Paid $100 per and they are beautiful. I use the 60 inside and the 52 on covered patio. Love them.

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