Designers Love This New Decor Trend That Makes People Feel More Joyful — Here's How to Get the Look

Inspired by all things dreamy and visually perplexing, surrealist decor is the new design trend that seeks to add a little wonder to your home

The best surrealist decor, according to a style editor.
(Image credit: Saks Fifth Avenue; Net-a-Porter; Anthropologie; Wayfair; Burke Decor)

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.


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."


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.


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.

On the hunt for more surrealist design? Peruse the best home decor stores for similarly dreamy picks. 

Style Editor

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.