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Neotenic interior design: for your inner child

What if we say that there’s an interior design style with wavy, squiggle lines, joyful shapes and colors… and everything that reminds you of freedom and childlike vision? That’s right, it exists, and it’s called neotenic design - a rather new style that will definitely evoke your inner child!

neotenic interior design

Neotenic definition

The term neotenic has nothing to do with interior design - originally, it is a biological term. Neoteny means the “retention of the juvenile features in an adult animal”. According to Wikipedia, “neoteny, also called juvenilization, is the delaying or slowing of the physiological, or somatic, development of an organism, typically an animal. Neoteny is found in modern humans compared to other primates.”

Neotenic design, therefore, is a design style that produces furniture and decor elements that still have childlike features, even if those are not definitely meant for children - but features that we can all vibe with, as we have all been children.

Neotenic design origin

The term neotenic design got popular thanks to “Neotenic”, a month long exhibition in 2019, organized by the A/D/O coworking and design space, located in Brooklyn, New York. The showcased items included furniture, lighting and decor, with one thing in common: “anatomical associations and exaggerated proportions—big faces, thick legs, and rounded feet,” - according to a press release published at that time.

neotenic design exhibition
Neotenic exhibition at the A/D/O design space, 2019

What did it mean in practice? Well, just to mention a few: chairs resembling teddy bears (with ears!), huge curvy furniture legs, premium furniture made from the same stuffed animals, and many other sculptural forms that are sometimes hard to decide whether it’s a practical piece or a toy… but that’s what makes neotenic design so exciting.

Unfortunately, the mentioned design space has closed permanently in 2020, creating a big loss for Brooklyn's design and creative community. The good news is that the style has gotten much more popular since that. Today, the contemporary and trending interior design style almost always has neotenic features.

Neotenic interior design: key features

A bit minimalistic, a bit mid-century, a bit contemporary, but always free, colorful, and playful.

The neotenic interior design style includes:

  • organic shapes

  • squiggle designs

  • bright colors

  • motifs resembling toys or animals

Now that you know what to expect; it’s time to dive into neotenic design and see some great examples.

Neotenic interior design examples

Perhaps one of the most iconic neotenic pieces of neotenic design is this glossy, squiggle lamp by Petite Furniture:

The lamp also goes well with neotenic-inspired wall art, like in this interior:

neotenic bedroom

Neotenic and sculptural design often go hand-in-hand:

We at mybettershelf also offer some neotenic-inspired pieces. These freeform floating shelves almost start to move, thanks to their organic shapes:

Soft, curvy, fluffy sofas and chairs are often emblematic pieces of neotenic interiors:

Tables and chairs also often get neotenic nowadays - like this cloud-shaped coffee table and these beautifully upholstered, pet-like chairs:

Sometimes, the whole room can offer a neotenic vibe - like these charming bedrooms, with the colorful arch designs:

Or these contemporary living rooms:

Are you interested in contemporary interiors? Make sure to check out these articles below, to get new inspiration.

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