NEWS - DECEMBER 2021
Surrealist Design Is More Relevant Than Ever
As real life gets weirder and weirder, designers are finding their fun in whimsical and wonderful décor.
BY Hannah Martin
Check out this interesting piece from Architectural Digest.
IN THE LATE 1930s, British arts patron Edward James transformed his family home in West Sussex—an Edward Lutyens–designed, early-20th-century farmhouse—into his very own surrealist fantasia. The facade of Monkton House, as it was called, was painted metallic purple. Inside, walls were covered in dizzying squiggles, ceilings were painted in clouds, and much of the furniture—from lobster phones to sofas inspired by actress Mae West’s mouth—was designed by the one-and-only Salvador Dalí.
Just shy of a century later, as reality becomes ever more difficult to believe (a global pandemic, 10-minute jaunts to outer space, an endless string of biblical natural disasters), a penchant for the postwar art movement is back. New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art just mounted Surrealism Beyond Borders (through January 30, 2022), and Frida Kahlo’s eerie self-portrait Diego and I sold for nearly $35 million at Sotheby’s earlier this week. Even shoemaker Birkenstock recently emblazoned their signature clogs with imagery from two René Magritte paintings. Perhaps not surprisingly, the witty and wonderful art movement is finding its way back into homes across the globe.
Ken Fulk’s new Surreal World collection of fabrics, wallpapers, and rugs for Pierre Frey on display in his room at the Dallas Kips Bay Show House. Photo: Stephen Karlisch
“Surrealism is a merging of the absurd with our reality in such a way that it delivers an unexpected dose of optimism,” says AD100 designer Ken Fulk, whose new Surreal World collection of fabrics for Pierre Frey conjures fantastical scenes featuring forests, neoclassical architecture and celestial motifs—the last of which he employed in his room for Dallas’s Kips Bay Show House. “The past few years have had a lot of absurdity and sometimes not enough optimism,” says Fulk. “Launching our collection with Pierre Frey this month seemed like a perfect time to deliver a bit of joyous fantasy to our current state of affairs.”
As reality becomes ever more surreal, is it any surprise that such strange, otherworldly imagery has been infiltrating our interiors? French designer Vincent Darré has embraced the look for years, decorating his Paris apartment in a manner he calls “like a dream for me.” Meanwhile, in an eclectic Los Angeles home by AD100 firm Charlap Hyman & Herrero, Fornasetti clouds wrap the entryway and a Mario Ceroli perches in a room that appears to be dripping with vines.
A vintage Lips sofa—inspired by Salvador Dali's original—holds court in fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg’s Manhattan home. Photo: Francois Halard
“Surrealism is a merging of the absurd with our reality in such a way that it delivers an unexpected dose of optimism.”Ken Fulk
Above: Fornasetti's Malachite wallpaper for Cole & Son in a powder room of an eclectic London home by Rachel Chudley. Photo: The Interior Archive LRD. Right: TV writer Jordan Firstman’s Los Angeles home, decorated by John Sharp, features a surrealistic cloud mural in the living room. Photo: Sean Hanzen
In the powder room of an art-filled London home by Rachel Chudley, a curtained mirror hangs on Fornasetti’s Malachite wallpaper (Fornasetti being, of course, a great starting place for any surrealist interior). Or what about TV writer Jordan Firstman’s postmodern take in his fantastical Los Angeles pad? Writer Nora Taylor captures the essence perfectly in her description: “Barbarella-meets-Beetlejuice-meets-Dalí-meets-seedy-Los Angeles-nightclub fantasia.”
“In the last year, peoples’ lives got very warped, and I got a lot of desire to deal with something that made them smile,” explains Erik Schilp, Managing Director of the Dutch art collective Rotganzen. They recently collaborated with AD100 designer Kelly Wearstler on an exclusive series of five limited edition disco balls, which can create a surreal, shimmering puddle on a cocktail table or bookshelf. The pieces, which Rotganzen has been making for years, skyrocketed in popularity during the pandemic. “I think that’s partly because people don’t have the headspace to deal with more negativity or challenge,” Schilp reasons.
Other product designers have, seemingly, taken that lead. At Los Angele’s Casa Perfect, Chris Wolston recently unveiled a fleet of new pieces—mostly in Colombian wicker—in which hands, feet, butts and lips meld into funny furnishings. Gufram, whose iconic Bocca sofa—a cartoonish foam riff on Dalí’s original—is a Surrealist poster child, released new colors of its MAgriTTa chair, the apple-in-a-hat-shaped seat originally designed by artist and designer Sebastian Matta in 1970. Meanwhile, brands like Dada Daily and L’Objet have delivered a steady stream of products emblazoned with Surrealist influences. Perhaps it is as Schilp says: “If people are decorating their homes, they want something that gives them a good feeling."
See original article here.
An Los Angeles home by Charlap Hyman & Herrero features Fornasetti’s Nuvole wallpaper, produced by Cole & Son. Photo: Laure Joliet