It could have started with the Ultrafragola Mirror, a wavy, six-foot-tall object designed by Ettore Sottsass in the 1970s that became a selfie favorite with celebrities like Bella Hadid and Frank Ocean.
Suddenly the wobbly figure seemed to show itself everywhere, including glassware, incense holders, soap dishes, pillows, and rugs.
Anna Brockway, 50, co-founder and president of Chairish, a digital marketplace for furniture and art, said searches for “squiggles” and “jiggles” on her website increased dramatically during the pandemic. Ms. Brockway believes this is because people “want more lightheartedness and humor”.
Shelley Selim, interim director of curatorial affairs at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, said the wobbly trend is a direct descendant of the Memphis Group, a design collective founded in Italy in the 1980s by Mr Sottsass. The use of playful colors, bold shapes, and crazy proportions was a rejection of the formality of mid-century modern Danish design.
This also seems to inspire younger designers today. “They spend more time scrolling Instagram and sitting in their homes thinking about what to redecorate,” Ms. Selim said.
Case in point: In 2020, Levi Shaw-Faber and Zoe Cohen founded Wiggle Room, a make-to-order furniture company in Brooklyn that sells restaurants, coffee, and end tables for $ 280 to $ 880. One of the first designs was a blob-shaped table made from Baltic birch plywood covered with pink laminate.
Shaw-Faber, 28, a master candidate at Yale School of Architecture, said he was inspired by Roberto Burle Marx, a Brazilian landscape architect known for his modernist amorphous forms. During the pandemic, orders were received from friends and others who wanted to upgrade their homes and break away from minimalism. So far, more than 300 tables have been sold.
Customers include Isabella Di Stefano, co-founder of Daisy, a social marketing company who discovered the Wiggle Room end table on Instagram last year and bought it for her Upper East Side apartment. “Curating my space has never been more important to me,” she said. “What do people need right now? You need things that are light-hearted and uplifting. “
Ms. Di Stefano, 33, who also outfitted her apartment with a wavy pink radiator cover and bookcase by Sophie Colle, a Brooklyn designer, said she wanted to evoke a sense of “now stalgia” – a term she used to feel good about describes Gen Zers who are “nostalgic for a period of time that they haven’t really experienced but that they feel emotionally attached to,” she said.
Shaky furniture is also enjoying brisk business on the west coast. Sisilia Piring, a photographer based in Joshua Tree, California, began selling Memphis-style floor lamps from the ’80s on Instagram last year. At first she was unaware of their popularity and sold one of the lamps for $ 300. “I knew right away that I had underrated it because of the DMs I received,” she said. “Months later, I sold the same floor lamp for $ 750.”
Since then, she has sold seven table and floor lamps and made around $ 2,500. She appreciates its quirky shape because it’s “a bit of fun in your surroundings,” she said, which is why she kept three lamps to herself.
Carvalho Park, a design gallery in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, recently displayed the work of Garance Vallée, a Paris-based artist, designer, and architect who makes wobbly sculptures and drawings. “I think there is a return to free form,” said Ms. Vallée, 28, who was inspired by the non-linear works of Jacques Couëlle, Jean Arp, Antoni Gaudi and Isamu Noguchi. “Free us from a straight line.”