Atom chic? Five pieces of furniture designed to look like molecules

Eschewing minimalism’s rigid lines and simple curves, these amorphous pieces put furniture design under the microscope

Looking to nature for inspiration is de rigeur among designers. In the natural world, every particle falls perfectly into place, be it in an orderly manner or one that is haphazardly harmonious. This collection of furniture drills down deeper. It’s as though the designers looked to the lab for inspiration. That said, we doubt any donned white coats to peer through microscopes on stainless-steel surfaces. Rather, they used their imagination.

Still, these forms—more organic than atomic—read rather molecular. Let’s consider the definition; in its most simplistic terms, a molecule is a cluster of atoms bonded together. Maarten De Ceulaer references science with his Mutation series. He says of his pieces: “Perhaps it’s a virus or bacteria that has grown dramatically out of scale.” Rosie Li explores physics in configuring her Bubbly lamp and embraces technology in developing its finishes. And, Serhii Makhno ties his work to organic matter and the origin of life.

Jasper, Ronel Jordaan

Photo by Ronel Jordaan

What do you get when you wrap a felted rock with cord? If you’re Ronel Jordaan, the answer is a cushion that resembles a lumpy globule more than a pretty rounded pebble—and we mean that in the best way possible. The soft form is oddly compelling; pop a few on the sofa for lighthearted interest, or go for an oversize boulder to round out (as it were) a lounging pit. The textile designer, self-taught in the art of felting, makes the cushions from biodegradable merino wool coloured with lead-free dyes and felted through an eco-conscious process in Western Cape, South Africa. From US$415

Green Rainbow Bubbly 03, Rosie Li

Photo by Rosie Li

Rosie Li’s Bubbly lights will turn any room into a party space. A recent iteration of the Brooklyn-based designer’s popular Bubbly series, which plays with ideas of buoyancy and gravity, is the Green Rainbow Bubbly 03: a joyful floor lamp with a rainbow-infused green finish and an alabaster-stone base. Li achieves the variegation through physical vapour deposition (PVD), a technique that coats the plated metal surface with colour. As for what we can expect next from this self-proclaimed STEM-loving studio? Li says a deeper, earthier green rainbow hue is on the way. US$21,800

Gem, La Manufacture

Photo by La Manufacture

Fancy yourself a creator? Sebastian Herkner, who interned for Stella McCartney before opening a design studio in his native Germany, encourages you to take the leap—at least in your own home. With his Gem table, envisioned for French furniture brand La Manufacture, you can do just that by mixing and matching components and colours. Conjure an elongated dining table with mismatched legs or an asymmetrical pedestal table that looks like it grew out of the ground, one organic shape at a time. Up top, finalise your piece with glass, marble, or Valchromat options. Starting at US$12,800

Mutation, Maarten De Ceulaer

Photo by Maarten De Ceulaer

Call it a contemporary take on a chesterfield, or a science experiment gone wild—either way, Maarten De Ceulaer’s Mutation sofa is a forward-thinking original. Rather than upholstering a spring-and-foam frame, the Belgian designer creates bubbly shapes using foam sphere cutoffs in varying sizes, manually applying each element to the interior structure. Once assembled, the entire form is sprayed with polyurethane and finished with either a coloured rubberlike coating or one that mimics the velvety texture of the Yareta plant, which grows in the high plains of the Andes. About US$25,000

Vushka, Makhno Studio

Photo by Makhno Studio

Conveying a sensibility that’s both primal and sophisticated, the Vushka armchair and stool would feel as appropriate on a playground as in a book-lined study. Crafted by architect and ceramicist Serhii Makhno as part of the Zemlya collection, the Vushka’s name comes from the Ukrainian word meaning, variously, “eyelet,” “little ear,” or the mushroom-filled dumplings consumed on Christmas Eve. Tapping into Ukraine’s ceramics heritage that dates back 7,000 years, Makhno works with master craftspeople to hand-fashion the large-scale pieces in his Kyiv studio; the functional sculptures come out reading molecular but with an undeniably animalistic twist. US$37,000