For the past decade, the furniture design industry has been largely dominated by minimalist details and a mid-century sensibility. However, more recently, a new and more expressive style has started to surface. A small group of designers have begun to reevaluate form and function as it relates to furniture design by exploring the softer side of minimalism (think rounded corners, exaggerated proportions, and anthropomorphic details).
This style is largely backed by the idea that as humans we are inherently drawn to objects that display childlike physical characteristics: big eyes, round heads, and pudgy extremities. This concept is called “Neoteny,” and while it isn’t a new concept, it’s application to furniture design is relatively fresh.
Now let me ask you this, who has heard of the term, “neoteny”? If you haven’t, don’t worry, I had to look it up myself. Ne-ot-e-ny, borrowed from the German Neotenie is defined as “the retention of juvenile features in the adult animal.” There’s literally scientific research that suggests that as humans we find softer, rounder shapes are more pleasing to look at, which explains why we’re all so obsessed with puppies, chubby babies, and why all Disney protagonists have huge eyes and round faces! #cute
Brands and designers like JUMBO, Faye Toogood, Jaime Hayon have really embraced and championed this style, which have resulted in some epic designs, and were recently on display in an exhibit titled “Neotenic Design” and curated by Justin Donnelly and Monling Lee.
Roly Poly Chair by Faye Toogood (Courtesy A/D/O)
While some people may associate the rounded, over-scaled aesthetic details of this trend with contemporary furniture designs from the 1980s and early 1990s, like this tubular lounge and the First Chair designed by Michele de Lucchi, there is juxtaposition of restraint and playfulness that this next generation of designers expresses that feels refreshing and intentional.
As polarizing at it is, the resurgence and modernization of 80s-inspired furniture design (including these soft rounded details, and chubby tubes) has us excited.
Both the Sir Burly barstool and the Frankie communal table were born out of the designer’s desire to strip an object down to its most basic form while still making something unique and desirable. In the case of these two products, we’re left with simple, structural forms and exaggerated proportions, resulting in products that could easily be called “cute.”
Who wouldn’t want to eat or work in a space filled with chubby, childlike furniture that makes us feel happy and comfortable? We’d love to know your thoughts, love it or leave it?