Life can be so serious. Why not add a touch of humour to the everyday? Year after year at Ambiente we see plenty of ways to combine style and smiles through good design. We cast our eye over the decorations and accessories that made us smile, and discovered practical gadgets with a certain laughter factor.
According to Groucho Marx of the famous Marx Brothers: “A clown is like aspirin, only he works twice as fast”. But you don’t necessarily need a clown to raise the mood. There are lots of different and unusual products that can bring a daily dose of smiles to our everyday life – with similarly positive effects. We wanted to find out what works in practice, and how.
Design with a twinkle in the eye
One popular style element used by designers to raise a smile is when familiar forms or functions are given a new interpretation. You only need to look at the ‘plumber’ clocks by Bozu. This young Italian design studio aims to make products to a high specification with an unconventional aesthetic. Hence – for a touch of industrial design in your interior – the handmade ceramic clock designed by Andrea Bellotto is modelled on a water pipe. Jalo from Helsinki also offers practical objects in unconventional forms: like these moth-shaped smoke detectors. This usually unwelcome insect metamorphoses into a decorative life-saving device on your ceiling.
And if animal accessories on the wall are your thing, you’ll love the ‘trophies’ from Wild & Soft: these Dutch designers take the classic hunting motif and reinterpret it with humour. Their wall-mounted animal heads are acceptable to even the most ardent animal lover, since the lions, elephants, elk, etc. are all made of plush fabric. Art in the City also employs this widely-used alienation effect with their collection of colourful cow-head trophies made of coloured synthetic resin. On the floor at Ambiente we met ‘Candy’, a balloon dog – also from Art in the City – who made us smile, and cast our minds back to our childhoods.
When we see fleecy objects, we usually can’t help thinking: isn’t the whole ‘Venus in furs’ look a bit passé? But these days, it is fine wines that wear fleecy jackets on our dinner tables: a tongue-in-cheek attempt at seduction. We wonder if these wines leave you with a furry tongue the next day?
Messages loud and soft
Humour is an effective means of communication. And graphic design is a fundamental element in the designer’s toolkit for conveying humorous messages on all sorts of products, for instance fashion items and lifestyle objects. Funny sayings, bold statements and slogans, iconic silhouettes of animals and (ever-popular) moustaches, photo prints of stars, comic characters – these things are no longer purely the preserve of t-shirts and mugs. They are often also found as prints, on ornaments and embroidery, on fabrics and on all sorts of decorative accessories. We saw some funny printed cushions telling us to ‘Keep Calm & Drink Champagne’, and cheeky candles from manufacturer ‘Kerzilein’ with suggestive slogans such as ‘Turn me on’ and ‘Light my fire’. Who could resist?
Princess by night
Ambiente exhibitor Snurk can turn your bedtime routine into a fancy dress extravaganza, for kids both big and small. This Dutch company produces a variety of cute life-size ‘costumes’, including astronauts, firemen, pirates and princesses. The duvet cover bears the costume, and the pillow adds the headgear. Great fun for adults, too – even if you don’t want be a spaceman or a princess, perhaps you’d like to wake up beside one?
Brighten up your day
Design can be practical as well as making you smile! It makes daily chores a bit more fun– for instance, the Mister Sponge holder by Peleg Design and the kitchen aids by Ototo, whose ‘Nessie’ soup ladle rises from the pot like a big blue monster from the deep. Desk gadgets such as adhesive tape dispensers and pen pots can come shaped like a whale, or with funny bunny ears. The wide range of fun, functional and captivating products that tickle us have so many ways of adding a touch of humour to our everyday lives. Designs that make you smile will never go out of fashion.
Lie back, relax and enjoy!
Last but not least: When the day’s work is done, it’s time to relax. Relaxation gets a whole lot sweeter if you bathe in chocolate. Just dissolve a couple of pieces of ‘Pink power’ by Badefee in your bath, and you’ll really start to unwind. Pralines, cupcakes and doughnuts complete the decorative range of guaranteed no-calorie ‘confectionery’. However, if you do want a real sweet treat with your hot drink, there’s a mug for that! It’s Donkey Products’ ‘Mug Monster’, which comes with both a funny face design and a handy biscuit shelf. All the more reason to smile! We think these mugs are perfect for the office, don’t you?