Perhaps as an answer to the studied calm of minimalism, interior design is starting to embrace a more surrealist decor style. As a contradiction to all the beige, the neutrality, the sensible choices we've seen designers make we're suddenly starting to see more artistry, a bit of edge, a flash of wit, instead.
For this interior design trend, think imaginative works by Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, and Picasso, where fantastical subjects unfold in dreamlike settings. According to Jo Annah Kornak, SVP and Executive Creative Director at HOLLY HUNT, “Surrealism is such a visually rich and inventive genre, marked by common motifs like squiggles, abstract shapes, and vibrant colors” — elements seamlessly translated “into dreamlike interiors and whimsical design objects.” Kornak notes a shift from the minimalist and monochromatic interiors that gained popularity during the pandemic years, characterized by neutral palettes and furnishings fostering a sense of calm. Now, on the other side of turbulent times, people are once again embracing surrealist artistic principles, an interior design idea offering no shortage of color or whimsy.
The creative director suggests that this resurgence may signify a subconscious inclination towards shapes, colors, and patterns, providing an avenue for joyful fantasy and optimism — an escape from the daily conventions of life. With that, continue along for a Livingetc edit on how to achieve this dreamy designer look, promising melting clocks and captivating elements that seemingly defy gravity. Brace yourself — it might not be a dream, but your home is about to feel like one.
Get the Look: Surrealist Decor
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Given that surrealism finds its roots in the world of art, it's hardly surprising that incorporating the best wall art is the swiftest route to achieving this aesthetic. Although somewhat overt, Kornak emphasizes that art "can change the energy of a space very dramatically." Look for pieces featuring bright colors, abstract shapes, and enchanting motifs.
Infuse a touch of Picasso-esque vibrancy into your space with this colorful piece featuring an abstract face. Available in various sizes, this print effortlessly adds a playful and artistic dimension to any room, allowing you to curate a dynamic atmosphere wherever your heart desires.
If you're in the mood for a splurge, indulge in the spectacular Guy Bourdin print. Rich, glossy red hues paired with a captivating multitude of fingers create maximum intrigue. Blending fashion with art, hang this piece at eye level to infuse your home with gallery-level sophistication. This living room wall decor idea is out there, yet undeniably timeless.
You don’t know how exactly to identify this is upon first glance, and that confusion is part of the point. If anyone asks, this is a lucite amoeba sculpture by Jonathan Adler, but like any piece of art, is up to interpretation. The piece makes for a compelling addition to a tablescape or near a source of light, since its amber tones will change with illumination.
When venturing into surrealism in decor, Kornak advises starting small but opting for the unexpected. She suggests, "Begin with smaller accessories like whimsical vases and sculptural objects." With these elements, the emphasis isn't on scale; instead, let each dreamy design piece speak for itself, adding an air of novelty to your space. Consider "playful accessories such as candles and light fixtures shaped like food, and asymmetrical mirrors that double as sculptural wall art."
The dramatically irregular and elongated proportions of this vase set promise to delight. While each vase stands out as a standalone piece, grouping the four together creates a compelling impact. Perfect for those easing into the trend, these vases strike a balance between uniqueness and accessibility in this eclectic edit.
What could possibly be more surrealist than a melting clock? At just under 5" wide, this replica Dalí timepiece offers so much artistic appeal without utilizing much space. Consider placing on a bookshelf or mantle — an instant conversation starter.
Transforming an everyday object into art, this sculptural hand bowl is a masterpiece. Its beauty is so captivating that even leaving it empty is a statement in itself. For an added surreal appeal, consider adorning this modern kitchen idea with a selection of your favorite fruits — it's beautifully confusing.
While surrealism isn't typically associated with lighting, Kornak points out, "Lighting can also be a key element of a surrealist interior." Clever use of light can enhance other fantastical elements or, in itself, become a whimsical focal point.
Radiate sophistication with this arched floor lamp, reminiscent of a more refined Pixar light. Use this piece of Wayfair lighting to cast a spotlight on your favorite surreal sculpture or position it next to your cherished reading chair for a design-forward, slightly playful focal point that illuminates your space with style.
Walk on the wild side with this leopard table lamp, evoking the feel of a family heirloom from a distant place. Mastering the balance between cheeky and elegant with its emerald and brass accents, as with all Anthropologie lighting it adds a touch of exotic charm.
The disharmony of this table lamp shouldn't work, yet it does with surprising expansiveness. Priced at $215, it's one of the best table lamps to infuse your home with artistic designer flair, defying expectations and upgrading your space.
For a deeper dive into surrealist design, Kornak recommends selecting furniture with inventive, abstract shapes and sculptural forms. While not all of these pieces explicitly scream 'surrealist,' their combination with the aforementioned tips creates the desired whimsical effect.
The green-accented bird claw base of this end table is wonderfully weird — a brilliantly strange piece that blends modern and aged aesthetics. While not for everyone, its unique design makes it a perfect size for a mug or cocktail, adding an eccentric touch to your space.
This curved yellow couch is the life of the party, drawing inspiration from mid-century modern sensibilities. Wrapped in thick velvet fabric for a glamorous feel, its modular design allows for adventurous splits, creating an eye-catching seating area that exudes both style and comfort.
From a distance, this chaise lounge appears to be levitating, boasting a sleek, modern design and an S-shape curvature. Beautiful and good for your back, it's the most comfortable seat in the house. Choose from cognac brown, dark brown, or midnight black.
On the hunt for more surrealist design? Peruse the best home decor stores for similarly dreamy picks.
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Formerly covering fashion at L’Officiel USA, style maven Julia Demer brings her love of design to Livingetc’s world of interiors. As the title’s Style Editor, Julia's work reflects a sharp eye for detail and an innate passion for aesthetics. Her journey began with a strong foundation in design, honing her craft at renowned establishments like The Row and even establishing her own eponymous fashion brand. Julia’s design background is evident in the way she thoughtfully curates shopping edits, always maintaining a focus on emerging trends while preserving timeless sensibilities. For Julia, fashion and interiors go hand in hand, reflecting her lifelong commitment to perfecting the art of style.
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