Decorating with Curios

Fantastical collectibles and curious creatures combine in interiors

Suzanne Imre, the renowned interiors icon, queen tastemaker of home design, and influential former editor of LivingEtc, stopped by to talk all things curious creatures in respect of design and interiors, and how we are embracing this vibe and emboldened style that models itself on the 'more is more' mantra.

“The set for the 2018 Alice in Wonderland-themed Pirelli calendar was something of a departure. Naomi Campbell and Sean ‘Diddy” Combs, dressed as Royal Beheaders, squeezed themselves into a padded cupboard, while model Duckie Thot postured next to a life-size Dodo bird. And then there was fashion stylist-turned-Vogue-editor Edward Enninful dashing about tweaking the turn of a costume collar or the fold of a skirt. All ready to be snapped by the theatrical eye of photographer Tim Walker, himself no stranger to fantastical scenes in his work which has captured models as mermaids, rabbits, and peacocks. “Curiouser and curiouser,” as Alice herself might have said.

“For, the fantastical has fascinated creative minds for decades. From art and literature to fashion and now interiors, displays of historical curio, fairy-tale creatures, and the unexpectedly exotic have introduced a dash of quirk and eccentricity to classic British interiors.

“In homes, a riotous mix of patterns, colours, and motifs form the perfect backdrop for such collections, which add a layer of interest and intrigue to a room scheme. Take artist Rory Dobner’s Hector Hares, the hand-sculpted ceramics that seem to capture the quirky animals in mid-gesture, or Seletti’s somewhat unsettling Mouse LED table lamp. Curios should be talking points and never just part of the furniture.

“At Archive, curious beasts rear up on velvet, be-tasseled Elixir of Life cushions as two punky-coloured unicorns go head-to-head, while the swirling lines of the Forbidden Fruit wallpaper and fabric designs are a reimagination of Pat Etheridge’s 1968 Nana print, depicting a Medusa-like nude poised amongst swirling poisonous green tendrils and gigantic flora.

“Since Georgian times, we’ve used the appeal of curiosities in interiors to express our personalities; to reflect our interests, delights, and secret obsessions. A cabinet full of bleached animal bones or vials of exotic tinctures were the centrepiece of many a Victorian parlour. Today, we blend the historical with the modern. Gothic tastes stretch to skulls and taxidermy wild animals while the more modern eye is attracted to pop art sculptures of intergalactic beasts. The more curious the better.

“But curiosities shouldn’t be collected for their quirkiness alone, one needs to be inspired or intrigued by them. Inexplicably drawn to them. For they add richness and depth to a room’s narrative, the difference between a nicely decorated home and a beguiling, unique space with a story to tell.

“Then there are the practicalities of how to work such curios into an existing scheme; how best to display them? A mantel or recessed shelf is a great starting point, but a glass-topped display table or curio cabinet will bring order and focus to a collection. Consider categorising them according to colour and scale or even create a colour gradient across the shelves. Or maybe line a bookshelf with richly coloured, decorative papers such as Archive’s Mildmay or Golden Lily wallpapers, to act as a dense foil to a treasured collection of curios. As the creative minds behind the 2018 Pirelli calendar know, when it comes to creating interesting spaces filled with curious creatures, more is definitely more.



Entranced by curios and maximalist metamorphoses in design? Take a dip in our wallpaper, fabric and made-to-measure curtains and blinds.


posted on 27 May 2022 in Interiors

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