A Cabinet of Curiosities

January 09, 2020

A cabinet of curiosities or a "wunderkammer" is a display case of objects showcasing the oddities and intricacies of the natural world. They began as a way for the aristocracy of the renaissance era to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of animals and minerals. They also served as an excuse to boast of journeys to faraway countries or cosmopolitan connections across the globe.

In a world without technology, these rooms represented an opportunity to share anecdotes (whether real or imagined), and capture the minds of guests and courtesans with an interactive game of 'show and tell.'

The association between these objects and the sophisticates who gathered them has given the cabinet of curiosities a connotation of luxury and decadence that remains to this day. Motifs such as coral, rare seashells and geodes are often referenced in opulent interiors for this reason.

My fascination with this practice began after a visit to La Specola in Florence, just across the street from the Palazzo Pitti. It is the oldest public museum in Europe and it's collection is largely anatomical. The interiors are all glass cabinets and wooden display cases that have the austerity of a University archive. However it was the selection of brilliantly dazzling geodes and carefully presented crystals and corals that really captured my imagination. 

I began to create my own interpretation of this particular form of luxury: one that combined the organic with the exotic. By adding new dimensions (for example, the kaleidoscopic mirroring or colourful backdrops) I aimed to give these classical objects a new lease of life.

One of my first designs takes victorian illustrations of pebbles and arranges them as they would be in a catalogue or archive against an abstract painting. Removing them from their formal context and layering them on top of our Grey Stucco backdrop introduces an element of the absurd and the result is a much more playful take on a traditional motif.

Our recently released Coral Collection layers and mirrors Precious Coral against a neutral greyish-green background. The branches extend outwards to create a decadent and ethereal forest of interlocking parts in rich ruby reds. They add a sense of decorative drama to any interior.

 

You could also mix and match both collections. There was no set format for how the cabinets were organised and chronological order, colour scheme and even thematic considerations were thrown out of the window. The display was the choice of the owner... and you could also combine different elements to create your own interpretation of this theme.

What cushions in our collection work with this theme?

How can I stye them?

This selection of cushions will appeal to those with a more dilettantish taste - think of the more eclectic and multifarious visual palate. As a result they will work well in interiors that embrace this. They will work well piled altogether on a sofa or against some of our plain velvet designs as a 'statement piece.'


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