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Bright colours and witty shapes – surrealist designs are back in our homes

Whimsical: The Small Biggie Sofa, in Pine Green £1,429, from, adds a touch of fun to a living room

Creativity, imagination, a touch of escape, pushing the limits. These are things we now admire in homes, whether they are our own or someone else’s.

And that’s where surrealism comes in, but its popularity hasn’t always been so strong. Indeed, the surrealist movement, founded in 1924 by André Breton, but (to many) championed by Salvador Dali, is often seen as an art enterprise despite its origins being rooted in design as well as anarchism and the Communism.

A recent exhibition at the Design Museum, Surrealism & Design Now, sought to show us the impact of this movement from the 1920s to the present day.

Whimsical: The Small Biggie Sofa, in Pine Green £1,429, from, adds a touch of fun to a living room

Whimsical: The Small Biggie Sofa, in Pine Green £1,429, from, adds a touch of fun to a living room

Surrealism, like many things, was a reaction to the horrors, dislocation and shock of World War I.

The works of this movement contain elements of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and vagaries.

And maybe that might reassure us – surrealism seems hard to understand because it’s meant to be.

But we don’t have to look far to realize that he is all around us.

Strange things

We might think that the lobster and the telephone don’t have much in common.

One is a crustacean that can live for more than half a century and the other is an inanimate object invented in 1875.

Salvador Dali, however, would disagree. He found it both erotic and exciting. That might be a stretch for most of us, but the idea prompted him to create Aphrodisiac, a feature phone that combined the two.

And it is this kind of leap that seems to characterize surrealist design. This is an example of “object-based polyamory” to give it the official name. In other words, the unexpected combination of two objects to create something new.

Statement pieces

But how exactly does this translate into our own homes?

Well, bright colors and bold shapes are more popular than ever, we’re inspired by the natural world and delving into classic design tropes always excites us.

Admittedly, there are emblematic pieces: La Trahison des images by René Magritte stages a painting representing a pipe with the words “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”. Reproductions of the play adorn many walls, including those of students (£10.29,

We also might not realize that items such as the popular pineapple lamps are a nod to surrealism – Laura Ashley has one in gold (£82.65,

The Mae West Lip Sofa - shaped like the actress' lips - doesn't come cheap.  The lowest appears to be £1,514 at Litfad, while 1stdibs is selling one for the surreal price of £239,225

The Mae West Lip Sofa – shaped like the actress’ lips – doesn’t come cheap. The lowest appears to be £1,514 at Litfad, while 1stdibs is selling one for the surreal price of £239,225

Other, more animal-inspired varieties like the Joe Browns Crane Table Lamp also do the trick (£64).

This idea may not sound so groundbreaking, but postulate the idea of ​​fruit/animal meets lamp to someone 50 years ago and they might be different.

And back to Dali, with a product that will be recognizable to many: the Mae West Lip Sofa — shaped like, well, the actress’ lips.

The artist would have been fascinated by West (which might have been more concerning than flattering).

There are versions, but they aren’t cheap, the lowest seems to be £1,514 (Litfad). While 1stdibs is selling one for the surreal price of £239,225.

Branching out

On a more reasonable note though, there are plenty of brands bringing bright, bold products into the home. Although not exactly surreal pieces, these objects evoke the playful ideas of the movement.

Snug’s The Small Biggie three-seater sofa is reminiscent of the Mae West sofa (similar to the Design Museum, pictured).

Midnight Blue and Pine Green are the boldest shades, starting at £1,401.

And paint brand YesColours offers eco-friendly products in vibrant tones that would have appealed to the likes of André Breton.

Passion was a key element of surrealism and the brand’s teal and lilac tones in this range are a good choice (from £21).

As Emma Bestley, co-founder of YesColours, says, “Going with a surreal scheme is about bringing the whimsical and the wonderful into your home, and the colors you introduce are an integral part of the whole look. It’s about combining dreams with reality, which provides a huge sense of optimism.

Do it yourself

And now that we’re no longer shy about taking on home improvements ourselves, perhaps a little DIY surrealism is the way to go.

Sally Coulden, Founder of Red Dog Glass Design, says: “Large framed posters are fabulous and you can even create your own surreal collage with magazine cutouts and then place images that don’t necessarily go together to create the unexpected.

The Design Museum itself has some great prints as part of the exhibit.

The surreal cover of Harper’s Bazaar October 1938 (£28) and Lee Miller’s Bathing Feature print (£60) would make an interesting combination.

Particularly alongside some bright colours, as seen with artists like Ronan Bouroullec (£45 print), for a more modern touch.

Much of it is up to you and the experimentation is part of the fun.

As Salvador Dali said: “I don’t understand why, when I ask for grilled lobster in a restaurant, they never serve me a cooked telephone.

Apparently there are no rules. Go your own way, embrace the unexpected and the absurd and you’ll be sure to bring the surreal into your home.

The savings of the week… Clocks

Classic: Newgate's Covent Garden Double Bell Alarm Clock is £15, up from £29

Classic: Newgate’s Covent Garden Double Bell Alarm Clock is £15, up from £29

The clocks are moving forward on March 26, and some will be celebrating lighter mornings with the acquisition of a new clock.

There are people who can ignore a cell phone alarm, but leap out of bed when an old-fashioned alarm clock goes off.

Newgate’s Covent Garden Double Bell Alarm Clock is £15, up from £29.

A Victorian-style Westhampton wall clock, with Roman numerals, is also reduced from £95 to £55.

Thomas Kent’s elegant white and black Arabic clock was £95 and is now £75 at Ginger Interiors.

If you want something colorful and subtly retro, Roger Lascelles’ wooden wall clock with red dial and Roman numerals has been reduced from £52 to £29.99 (Wayfair).

But whichever clock you choose, both your home style and your punctuality should improve.

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