This Melbourne Exhibition Signals a Return to Romanticism in Design

We’ve been dancing around naming it for a while — or we’ve been calling it other, less expansive, more niche things — but it’s official: Romanticism is creeping back into design, like an ex who’s begun leaving heart emojis on your IG stories again. Following a similar moment in fashion — which saw things like Alessandro Michele’s peacock-y looks for Gucci or, really, anything from Harris Reed’s eponymous line — we’ve slowly noticed the appearance of flowing skirts around simple stools and lamps, intricately patterned floral wallpapers, deep oxblood-colored furniture pieces and interiors, and dramatic gestures like tapestries hung on apartment walls — all hinting at design’s turn to embrace its romantic side. A counter to the simplified geometries and washed-out hues of the Millennial aesthetic? A reflection of society’s current highly emotive state? Whatever the reason for this shift, the recent work of trans-Pacific duo BMDO marks a significant step in that direction, and their self-professed “playful, dark, social, and emotional” work is currently on view through this weekend at Oigall Projects gallery in Melbourne.

Founded by Melbourne-based Fletcher Barns and LA-based James L. Marshall in 2018, BMDO combines their industrial design and fine art backgrounds in furniture and objects that blend traditional and futuristic processes, materials, and aesthetics. They describe their first solo exhibition, High Hopes, as “a series of DMs, missed calls, texts, and just enough hemispherical timezone cross-over” — verbiage that could describe a tempestuous relationship as much as a design collection. And the pieces on show display all of the hints of a Romanticism resurgence we’ve previously spied.

Fabrics rule this collection. BMDO’s Multifunction Wall Object comprises a two-toned red carpet suspended vertically from a polished stainless steel hinge and panel, which can be used as a divider, a mirror, or “somewhere to hide.” Tapestries are also draped over machined aluminum sheets, turning minimalist forms into the soft, decadent Chair 9. The Bauer Stool and Chair are similarly “dressed” in archival fabrics from fashion designer Amanda Nichols, while The Dipper Table, created with craftsperson Daniel Poole, has had its American white ash frame stained in that recurring crimson hue.

Several of the pieces are crafted from scrap-yard finds and transformed in an Arte Povera style. The Magna sconce and Econo pendant, for example, reimagine Mitsubishi Magna and Econovan car parts as hand-hammered bronze lighting fixtures in collaboration with metalsmith Ned Vernon’s studio v. Brokkr. BMDO has even romanticized a trash can, lining it with a floral-printed fabric that’s secured on the cylindrical fiberglass form by a polished brass rim. “Each piece in High Hopes emerges in the discovery, the unexpected combinations, and the stories that unfold along the way,” say the duo. “This ethos, where each piece bridges the familiar and the unusual, invites us to explore layers of materiality, history, form and a deep connection to the collaborators coming together to realize the works.” On view until March 2.