N is for Neotenic Design

Exploring the appeal of Neotenic design, the puffy, whimsical aesthetic adding softness and comfort to our interiors

Happy New Year!

‘N’ is for Neotenic Design is the latest instalment in my A-Z of Interior Trends, and, what better time for a new interiors’ trend than now?

I’ve just been reading January 2024’s edition of Living Etc and couldn’t help but notice how many of the featured homes were furnished with child-like forms and softer structures. The generic term for this style is Neotenic Design, a phrase coined by Justin Donnelly in 2017, when he co-founded Jumbo NYC design practice with architect, Monling Lee.

I have to admit that writing this article has been on my ‘to do’ list for quite some time but it’s only now that I’ve come to realise just how important this trend has become. Whereas, once upon a time, not that many years ago, contemporary furniture would have been described as boxy, hard-edged and rigid. In fact, very masculine in its look and feel.

Definition

Neoteny (noun) is ‘the retention of juvenile features in the adult animal’

Definition from Oxford Languages

Neotenic Design

In the world of interiors Neotenic Design has been interpreted as cute, playful, appealing, soft, and warm. Could this be construed as more feminine and nurturing in a time when, as humans, we’re feeling more vulnerable and insecure?

Curvaceous Forms

I have a particular love of curved sofas, especially those upholstered in cuddly fabrics, and would love to see more specified into homes. No longer do seating arrangements have to be formal and symmetrical but can now be more flowing and organic. Accessorised with circular rugs and rounded occasional tables the whole room takes on the feeling of a big hug.

Squat Proportions

Think teddy bears, Jelly Cats, and Teletubbies; fat bellies, wide eyes and squat proportions are key elements of Neotenic Design. Pierre Paulin’s Pacha lounge chair gives a real elegance to rounded forms by finding the perfect proportions by raising it lightly on its base and tracing in the foam and upholstery with stitching lines inclined inwards. It is still as contemporary today as when it was first designed in 1975.

With comfort as the constant starting-point in Pierre Paulin’s designs, the curvaceous, whimsical and organic shapes of the Pacha range are conceived to serve the body, providing both enjoyment and cosiness.

Gubi

Materials

For seating think bouclé, sheepskin, mohair and plush velvet paired with organic shaped tables made from marble or recycled plastic.

Colour & Accessories

Whilst most of the images I’ve shared thus far are predominately pale this does not mean that there is not room for brighter, more cheerful hues. The image below courtesy of trend forecasting experts, ACIIID, and the featured image showing the Serie Up 2000 armchair for B&B Italia illustrate a more colourful take on this particular fashion.

This trend doesn’t just relate to furniture either – it includes accessories as well. In particular lamps, candle holders and vases.

Round-Up

In summary, it seems that Neotenic Design is here to stay. Whether it is in the form of a body-hugging chair or a mollusk shape lamp our homes are ready for some softer lines and childish humour.

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