“Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.”—Dr. Seuss
While whimsical design cannot be defined by a single aesthetic, it encompasses those designs that evince a feeling of playfulness, lightheartedness, and fancy. From the cheerfulness of Jean Royère’s sensually curving furniture, to Studio Job’s anthropomorphic, bowing Tour Eiffel lamp, designers have long infused a sense of whimsy into their work. Among post-war 20th-century designers, Italians embraced playfulness perhaps the most, paralleling Arte Povera’s use of humble materials and embrace of uniqueness and the bizarre, comic, and absurd. The tendency of designers such as Gaetano Pesce, Studio Alchimia, and Ettore Sottsass’s Memphis Group to embrace humor has resulted in some of the most iconic and colorful works of the past century.