With the planet on a high simmer, designers have responded with the furniture equivalent of a big bowl of ice cream. Huggable furniture.
“Along with binge-watching Netflix, it wasn’t enough that our sofas just looked good; they had to be super-comfy as well,” says interior stylist Heather Nette-King. “And just like that, puffy curved pieces were fast-tracked into the mainstream.”
Chunky, bulbous, and indeed huggable, curvy furniture is designed for good looks and wellbeing. Far from the rigidity and structure of more rectilinear styles, elegant and cushy curves are the perfect pieces for adding chic and sinking into.
“Lockdown pulled our design choices into sharp focus for a unique blend of comfort and versatility at home,” adds King. “Add to that a yearning for simpler times, and the popularity of puffy pieces reminiscent of the 1970s really took off.”
Designer Christian Lyon from Editeur agrees and says it’s no coincidence the ’70s have returned.
“It was a hedonistic and decadent decade, following the ’50s and ’60s, which were modernist, rigid and pared-down,” he says. “Fashion designers like Halston were liberating the female form with sensuous bias-cut garments, and furniture was the same with curvaceous, bold, soft forms, which felt sexy and cocooning. In 2021, we’re craving the same. We don’t want to perch on the edge of hard-edged furniture; we want to fall into a sofa and be utterly enveloped by it.”
For interior designer Nickolas Gurtler, designs from this era are as iconic and relevant today as they were back then. “Togo by Michel Ducaroy for Ligne Roset and the Pacha lounge chair by Pierre Paulin for Gubi have become part of the lexicon of good design,” he says. “They are contemporary today as they were 50 years ago. On the local scene, Jardan is leading the way with their voluminous furniture that is fast becoming heirloom pieces.”
For Melbourne furniture designer and sculptor Lauren Lea Haynes, the “organic nature” of huggable furniture is inspiring and exciting. “There’s something playful and optimistic about shapes and curves,” she says. “We’re coming out of a white and beige period, and a pop of colour is exactly what we need right now. Colour pulls you in.”
So too does texture, which evokes the warm and fuzzies and is critical in creating shape, form, and aesthetic in curvaceous design.
“Texture helps evoke emotion, so to create a soft, supportive piece, you don’t turn to smooth, hard finishes; you look for enveloping soft ones,” says Lyons. “Curves need soft textiles, like velvet, silk mohair and velour, that has flexibility and can follow the curve, as well as a certain nap that reflects light and highlights its form.”
While soft and cuddly, puffy furniture also features stability and strength, with stainless steel framework either concealed or displayed as a design detail.
“Uniqueness breeds a more desirable product, and technically speaking, it’s harder to construct a rounded piece than a squared one,” says Spon-Smith. “Joins need to be built with more time, and durability is harder to maintain. Rounded furniture is harder to make and scarcer. This makes it unique.”
Despite its distinctive aesthetic, puff pieces are simple to style and adapt to almost any space.
“We’re seeing more layering of furniture and accessories,” agrees King. “You don’t have to have all contemporary or all vintage pieces. Just know that one striking puffy piece is enough. Too many is overkill and can look like a cartoon house. There’s always space for sleeker pieces. The beauty of one offsets the other.”
With the world opening again, are puffy pieces here to stay, or are they soon to be passe?
“The yearning for comfort and nostalgia will stay for a while,” predicts King. “As with any trend, it’s best to dip into it rather than completely buy-in. A measured mix done with elegance and confidence will always be in style.”