Something is clearly in the ether. Silvery constellations gleamed on midnight-blue frocks at Dior’s autumn/winter 2017-18 ready-to-wear show, while sequinned stars and moons are twinkling on Dolce & Gabbana heels. Now interiors are also enjoying a sprinkling of celestial stardust, as designers of contemporary furniture, lighting, rugs and homewares embrace intergalactic inspiration, blending aesthetics, technology and craftwork to achieve poetic, otherworldly effects.
The tiniest cosmic details have always fascinated us, as my great-great grandfather, the astronomer royal George Airy, indicated when, in 1846, he called for “a telescope of the largest size, for the observation of faint nebulae and minute double stars”. Now, space tourism’s potential, heralded by the likes of Richard Branson, anticipates personal immersion for some brave souls, while others are content to explore the universe on home territory. “We’ve painted star constellations on bedroom ceilings for several clients and installed fibre-optic zodiac signs on a swimming pool ceiling,” says interior designer Karen Howes, founder and chief executive of Knightsbridge studio Taylor Howes.
Howes attributes the trend to escapist desires and a search for opportunities beyond current horizons. “It often translates into a design brief that pushes boundaries too,” she says. “Experimental finishes by artisans such as Based Upon and SilverLining can create an otherworldly aesthetic. And we’re literally going stratospheric in our new wallpaper collaboration with de Gournay, theming it around the solar system and night skies.” A silk ombré wallpaper, shaded from midnight-blue to silver and decorated with hand-embroidered, metallic shooting stars, comets and planets, makes its debut at the end of this year.
An early fan of lunar design influences was the late architect Zaha Hadid. Her Moon System – consisting of a sofa (£9,050) and ottoman (£1,274), designed for B&B Italia – has a dynamically curvaceous seat, back and armrest seemingly sculpted from one continuous form. A recent Hadid retrospective at Maxxi in Rome highlighted this theatrical blend of aesthetics and ergonomics, echoing her studio’s decision to display the design at the museum’s opening in 2010.
Now a new wave of designers is gazing skywards too. “I’m inspired by the cosmos as it’s the big unknown,” says jewellery and furniture designer Lara Bohinc, whose Lunar collection – a collaboration with stone expert Lapicida – transports marble to another galaxy. “I’m also inspired by the perpetual circular movement of the planets,” she says. “A globe is the perfect geometric shape – graphic and feminine, modern yet ancient.” Planetary forms are suggested in designs such as her Collision console (£15,540), Full Moon side table (£11,250) and Sun and Moon coffee table (£7,995) by using bisected or overlaid discs to create dynamic structural elements while setting highly figured, richly coloured marbles within brass or 18ct gold-plated steel rims. “I love working with marble because every slab is unique. The veins and colours change dramatically; it’s almost like nature’s way of painting.”
“Lara’s designs convey something magical and decadent and I love how she mixes marble shapes in what seems to be a design riddle but is, in fact, something clean and modern,” says Caroline Issa, fashion director and CEO of Tank magazine, who recently bought the Sun and Moon coffee table. “I think the planets and all their mysteries are a powerful reminder to make as much as possible of our lives, and I’m grateful to have something in my home that is equally beautiful and meditative.”
But not everything is serene in Bohinc’s universe. Like crashing asteroids, her debut lighting designs (Collision table lights from £2,950; ceiling light £5,135) suggest a violent impact as white acrylic domes and metal frames seemingly split into broken spheres. Further stellar designs include candleholders and bowls inspired by orreries – mechanical models of the solar system. The sculptural marble and brass Stargazer candleholders (from £420) and faceted hexagonal Constellation bowls (from £420) are available in five exotic marbles.
Planetary projections are also explored by German designer Elisa Strozyk. The circular, patterned tops of her ceramic tables (from €980) resemble satellite pictures of earth, showing winding rivers and snow-capped mountains as if frozen in time. “I developed a specific process to apply liquid glazes that pool and mix during rotational drying. This leaves traces of fluid movement and smoke-like patterns that solidify in the kiln’s heat,” she says. “Nature is tamed inside our homes, but the firing process, which transforms metal oxides and powdered minerals into glass-like surface finishes, raises the question of whether chaos and disorder could reconnect us with the outside world.” Strozyk’s mirror series takes this mercurial idea further. Overlap (€2,050) and Balance (€1,950) feature overlapping circular surfaces – one patterned, one reflective – combined with a wooden shelf, while Folded (€1,250) and Reflection (€1,500) stand on a ceramic surface, enabling a newly created pattern to be projected on their upstanding polished-steel faces.
Telescopes turn skywards in a collaboration between fashion giant Diesel and furniture manufacturer Moroso. Immersive lunar photographic prints decorate the silvery, tempered mirror-glass surface of the My Moon My Mirror coffee table (£828), while My Moon My Mirror (£672) reiterates the concept as a wall mirror. Diesel Living’s award-winning collaboration with Seletti also explores planetary life. Its Cosmic Diner plates (from £21) are accompanied by life-in-space tableware, including Meteorite glasses (from £126 for a set of six), brass rocket candleholders (£90), a planet-like brass salad bowl (£210) and a porcelain astronaut-shaped vase (£58).
Meanwhile, a starry constellation artwork is the focal point of interior designer Sara Cosgrove’s Dublin home. “I love maps and frequently use them in my projects, most recently at The Principal Edinburgh hotel, but when I saw a giant print of the Dorali Celestial [a 17th-century map of the heavens; framed $3,985, unframed $1,425] in the US I knew it would bring a little ethereal magic to my living room,” she says. It came from Natural Curiosities, a Los Angeles-based lifestyle arthouse whose cosmic-inspired artworks include Visconti Celestial (two variations; framed $2,845, unframed $1,195) and Solaris (six variations; framed from $1,895, unframed from $895). “They overscaled the print to fit a 3m x 2m frame and hand-decorated all the stars in gold leaf,” says Cosgrove. “Everyone who visits us for the first time comments on it.”
If the cosmos can brighten a wall, so it can equally enliven a floor. Dutch designer Edward van Vliet playfully reverses the idea of gazing upwards at constellations with his Celestial rug (from £2,249) for Moooi’s Signatures collection. Even more atmospheric are the supernovae suggested by award-winning German designer Jan Kath in his hand-knotted, custom-sized Spacecrafted rugs (£2,950 per sq m). Inspired by photos taken from space by the Hubble telescope, the photorealistic images are woven in Kathmandu, using Chinese silk and hand-carded, hand-spun Tibetan highland wool, and employ up to 60 colours to create a powerful impression of nebulae and the moon’s surface.
“I’m constantly developing the collection by introducing new elements,” says Kath, who launched the series in 2014. “As there is no recurring pattern, the designs present a challenge to even the most experienced weavers in Nepal. The structures are so varied and filigreed the craftsmen often change the material from knot to knot. But it is this anarchy of thousands of colour points that makes the pieces unique. While our weavers strive for perfection, irregularities arise from the weaving of natural materials. The errors give depth and make the rugs look so alive.”
“Jan Kath takes rugs into another realm – a galaxy underfoot rather than admired from afar,” says London-based interior designer Daniel Hopwood. “Spacecrafted adds a whole new dimension to rug design and chimes with the emergence of an art movement in which photorealism is achieved through traditional methods. The detail in the work is incredible.”
Reimagining the solar system as illumination has intrigued creative minds ever since Danish designer Verner Panton created the Verpan Moon pendant light (from £534) in 1960. “We wanted to transpose the sun and planets into a lighting system,” says Britt Moran of Lampada 061 (from €10,000), the lighting installation he designed with DimoreStudio co-founder Emiliano Salci for Chicago’s legendary Pump Room restaurant. A similar fascination with planetary orbits and trajectories is evident in Martinelli Luce’s Lunaop table lamp (from £2,518), whose three vertical rings rotate independently, while a hand-blown, white satin-glass sphere is suspended within a thin metal structure in FontanaArte’s Setareh light (table £825, pendant from £455) – which, says Ludovic Aublanc, head of creative direction at Chaplins, “encapsulates a purity and stillness only found outside the hum and thrash of our own planet”. Its designer – Milan-based Sicilian architect Francesco Librizzi – nevertheless grounds it firmly on earth with a cement base.
Advanced technology can even appear to harness extraterrestrial forces. “Piero Gandini [CEO of lighting manufacturer Flos] showed me a new technology consisting of a ring of LEDs that sends light sideways into the edge of a composite, translucent material that, when lit, appears to be a flat white disc,” says London-based designer Jasper Morrison. “I created Superloon [from £3,120] in response to this intriguing development.” His moon-like tripod-mounted lamp rotates 360 degrees on its axis for use as an ambient floor light or directional reading lamp, while built-in optical sensors alter lighting intensity and tone.
Equally innovative is Moon Factory’s Moon Model Globe lamp (£995), which claims to be the first topographically accurate lunar globe and displays real-time phases (as seen from earth) using Nasa Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter technology and topographical data. And for sheer intergalactic brilliance there’s Supernova (£600,000), designed by Petra Krausová for contemporary glass brand Lasvit. This bespoke, kinetic, hand-blown glass lighting sculpture responds to people’s movements by changing shape and creating myriad light patterns. Mesmeric and eye-catching, it’s definitely a superstar in this new firmament of cosmic‑inspired design.