Telling Tales – Fantasy & Fear in Contemporary Design


Last weekend, I went to the V&A to see the Telling Tales exhibition. I desperately wanted to see as it showcases furniture and objects designed with story-telling in mind. Put beautiful designs and fairy tales allusions in the same sentence, and I am there. All the work presented is from young designers, mainly from the Netherlands. They refer to themes such as fairy tales, obviously, but also status display and its conventions or the fear of death, all experiences everyone can relate to.

My first reaction, while standing in front of the Linen-Cupboard-House by Jurgen Bey, in a room filled with forest sounds was “Did someone get in the world in my head to steal the furniture?”. I am not a furniture designer, or a designer full stop, but when I dream about furniture, this is what it looks like.

Linen-Cupboard-House by Jurgen Bey

Bathboat by Wieki Somers

‘Fig Leaf’ wardrobe by Tord Boontje

As you progress through the exhibition, you witness a mixture of the completely whimsical and the anxiety induced nightmares, via some sort of Mad Hatters Tea Party of giant ceramics, rugs with oversized designs, tables and chairs with bizarre proportions.

Pixelated Chair by Jurgen Bey, ‘Lathe Chair VIII’ by Sebastian Brajkovic, ‘George III’ chest of drawers by Gareth Neal & ‘Venus and Mars’ chair and mirror by Boym Partners

‘The Pyramids of Makkum’ tulip vase by Studio Job

It is divided into three parts: the Forest Glade presents work inspired by fairytales, myths and nature, the Enchanted Castle displays objects usually associated with wealth and status that have been subverted, and the last section explores themes of mortality.

‘The Lovers’ rug by Fredrikson Stallard

“Do you hear what I hear?” by Kelly McCallum & Perished Bench by Studio Job

If you are in London, or are just coming to visit, make sure you go and see this wonderful exhibition, it is on till the 18th of October and it is free!