The smiley face is a universally recognised symbol of happiness. It’s an integral part of our visual lexicon, from childhood artworks to WhatsApp emojis.
Now the motif is appearing on homewares such as ceramics, glassware, textiles and accessories. It’s not hard to guess why. Round-the-clock exposure to anxiety-inducing global news has provoked a counter-reaction, and this wave of positivity is manifesting itself in simple everyday objects.
Jaime Hayon’s ‘Happy Hook’ for Fritz Hansen marks a playful new direction for the brand and captures the mood of the moment. ‘It’s an object that reminds us to smile in hard times. Being positive is essential to life – I wanted to meld function with this message,’ explains Hayon.
Others have stumbled across the emblem more serendipitously. Presented at last year’s London Design Festival, Attua Aparicio’s series of plates use discarded ceramics as a canvas for contemporary decoration: ‘I conceived the collection in China, where I could almost only communicate with emojis. I made a test on a plate to see if the glass would fuse to it and, without thinking, drew a smiley face.’
The range includes a spectrum of expressions, but it’s the designs that infer happiness that have proved the most popular, simply because, Aparicio says, ‘smiley faces make people smile’.
Glass artist Neal Drobnis also gravitated to happy visages when he was trying to use up glass remnants in his studio. They caught the eye of US lifestyle store Degen, which collaborated with him to create unique face-emblazoned pieces that celebrate the imperfect nature of humanity.
‘I think these wonky smiles are popular because we are in a time of shifting beauty standards,’ says Lindsay Degen, the company’s founder. ‘Individuality is becoming more beautiful. They show optimism but they aren’t too optimistic. Our hope is that they bring little blips of joy.’
Five more homeware buys for a happy home
This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration August 2020
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