Your Childhood Self Would Approve of This New Decor Trend
Weird is cool.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 7:12 AM
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Is it just us or is design getting chubbier, more childlike, and perhaps even more rambunctious? Whispers of the juvenile style started when Kylie Jenner famously decorated her daughter’s nursery with a stuffed animal chair (to the internet’s shock and horror), and now, it’s a full-blown design movement.
Some designers are using the word “neotenic,” a term once used by scientists to describe the juvenilization or slowing of the physiological development of an organism. Coined by JUMBO’s Justin Donnelly—who has a themed exhibition at New York’s A/D/O until the end of March—it’s typically used to describe chubby furniture with plump legs and curves in all the right places. So why this sudden need to revert back to childhood, and where did it come from?
All signs point to Italian rationalist designers popular in the ’70s and ’80s—namely Gaetano Pesce and Mario Bellini. The former was known for vivid and almost gory foam and resin furniture. As 1stdibs’ Marisa Bartolucci notes: “He was part of a postwar generation of […] young Italian designers who proposed a new domestic landscape of meaningful objects in response to a crass and burgeoning consumer culture, which they feared might spell humanity’s doom.” It’s a sentiment that may feel all too familiar today.
Pierre Yovanovitch’s Teddy Bear Chair bears (no pun intended) an uncanny resemblance to Pesce’s Up-5 chair, while the Italian designer’s drippy glasswork and polyurethane furniture are reminiscent of work by his contemporaries Katie Stout and Chris Schanck. Bellini’s Il Colonnato tables from the ’70s also feel familiar. They’ve inspired pieces like Faye Toogood’s Roly Poly chair and Eny Lee Parker’s Stitch coffee table.
So why is everyone decorating with childlike furniture? In today’s increasingly chaotic world, we all need a little whimsy in our life to swallow the giant pill that is our current world politics, financial uncertainty, and general full-time anxiety. After all, it’s much less stressful to sit in a teddy bear–shaped chair or stare at a curious alien-shaped lamp than fire up the news, isn’t it? If you need a little tension relief to make you feel comforted when you get home from work, here are a few pieces to get you started.
If you want a happy dose of sunshine…
Katie Stout’s whimsical yellow lamp is made and painted by hand and feels like a (very) elevated version of the pottery work we brought back to our parents after art class. Prop this sunny accent in a bright and airy room for an instant mood booster.
If you loved science class as a kid…
If this gooey green lamp reminds you of the “volcano experiment” in science class, you’re not alone. Prop this adorable lamp on a shelf to reminisce about school days (and also because it looks really cool).
If you remember the Michelin Man fondly…
This is an easy way to adopt the neotenic trend subtly. The Sill’s new Dolores planters have a chubby quality to it that is vaguely reminiscent of the Michelin Man that graced our TV screens as kids—only this version is earth-friendly and can house your favorite plant.
If you loved those Play-Doh molds…
You know the Play-Doh molds that looked a little something like a pasta maker for children and allowed you to create long tube-looking shapes with various patterns? This is what we imagine this sculptural chair by Ara Thorose came out of.
If E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was your favorite movie…
Pierre Yovanovitch’s E.T. lamp is made of handmade ceramic and blown pink glass and it lights up just like the alien’s finger did when he wanted to call home. If this doesn’t fall under nostalgic decor, I don’t know what does.
If you dream of running in a field of flowers…
Get your hands on Andrés Reisinger’s playful Hortensia chair. An almost surreal intersection between furniture, sculpture, and 3-D digital art, the chair is inspired by a bouquet of hydrangeas, giving it the perfect dichotomy between featherlight and chunky.
If you loved your chia pet…
Chris Wolston’s terra-cotta plant chair almost feels like an elevated chia pet—just pot your favorite leafy plant where the hair of this curious creature would be.
If you want to dream of bubble gum…
Chris Schanck’s bubblegum pink mirror adds a childlike element of playfulness to any space. The designer’s work aims at transforming mundane materials into unique objects of uncommon luxury.
If you’re looking for an elevated beanbag…
Objects of Common Interest’s tube chair is as close as it gets to an insanely chic version of the beloved beanbag chair we owned as teenagers. This inviting chair just begs to be the centerpiece of your lazy lounging Saturdays.
Discover more decor trends we love: If You Think You’re Seeing Decor Melt, You’re Not Wrong This Italian Coffee Table Trend Is Enjoying an Edgy Comeback The Decor Trend That Threw Me Into a Bout of Childhood Nostalgia