14 Mysterious and Macabre Home Furnishings in Defense of the Dark

11.09.23 | By
14 Mysterious and Macabre Home Furnishings in Defense of the Dark

Bold, beautiful, and beguiling. When it comes to an interior’s visual narrative some may consider it brazen to lean into a darker language, but many contemporary designers are capitalizing on the macabre to create home furnishings for spaces imbued with a sense of mystery. “It’s more about thoughtful restraint and materiality. Dark and mysterious doesn’t have to be ugly or rough. For me, it’s more about tone and texture, the interplay of shadow and light, and slightly twisted forms,” says Nicole Ficano, Workshop/APD’s Director of Interiors. “There’s an element of chiaroscuro at play – what’s compelling is how it draws the eye and pulls you in for a closer look.”

Three amorphous hide rugs in inky hues with mirrors in the center.

Portal Rug Collection by John Pomp and Kyle Bunting in three inky hues

Take Kyle Bunting’s latest roundup of textiles embracing enigmatic color trends, for example, or the instantly chic Portal Rug Collection by John Pomp in collaboration with Bunting, whose inky hues and playful warp elicit wonder at what may be waiting in the dazzling central floor mirror.

Two shots of a large wingback chair.

The Hathi Lounge Chair by DeMuro Das

Equally overt in its bulbous expression is DeMuro Das’ Hathi Lounge Chair. A contemporary take on the traditional wingback, the silhouette is borrowed from that of an elephant and becomes an instant focal point due to its significant visual weight and physical gravity.

Contemporary floor lamp with a luminary that looks like a cocoon.

The Belle De Jour Floor Lamp by YMER&MALTA

Profile of black bench that is vaguely bird like in shape.

The Oiseau Bench by YMER&MALTA

Sharing an affection for nature is art-furniture creator YMER&MALTA who fashion furnishings “made to measure.” Some of their particularly curious pieces include the cocoon-like Belle De Jour Lamp and Oiseau Bench, a seemingly petrified avian relic. Adjacent to anthropomorphic forms are objects like the table and armchairs from Jean-Luc Le Mounier’s Empreinte Collection, which quite literally explores destruction and rebirth with patinated bronze elements cast from broken and burned wooden planks.

Contemporary dining room table and chairs with pointy features.

Jean Luc Le Mounier’s Empreinte dining table and chairs at Maison Gerard

Detail of table legs that look like tree bark.

Bronze detail of Jean Luc Le Mounier’s Empreinte dining table at Maison Gerard

From the Window to the Wall

Darker color palettes can be utilized as backdrops to better articulate saturated tones when paired with the right furnishings and mood lighting. But for the faint of heart, consider staging high contrast pieces within a brighter context. “Black grounds a space while also punching up a white wall more so than white-washed furnishings that become tone-on-tone,” says interior designer Michael Ellison. “It’s badass and bold.”

Black console table with three legs.

Loïc Bard’s Bone Console with drawers for Radnor

One such example is Loïc Bard’s altar-like Bone Console exclusive to Radnor. Vaguely skeletal in joint detail, this series explores such forms in maple that is given a blackened finish from his shou sugi ban process. ⁠Compelling art and mesmeric mirrors add additional impact when in dialogue with furniture like this while holding the power to create moments of quiet reflection if positioned on their own.

Two contemporary paper collages in high contrast.

Eventide and Moon Cave, fine art collages by Tara Hogan

Artist Tara Hogan’s fine art collages – an amalgam of printmaking paper, intuitive techniques, and minimal material application – range from the austere to the enchanting with Eventide and Moon Cave, respectively. Despite their esoteric design, the pair encourage viewers to inhabit a meditative space to explore their personal meaning.

Geometric mirror.

The Polaris Mirror by Reflections Copenhagen

The multifaceted silver, black, and white geometric fragments of Reflections Copenhagen’s crystalline Polaris Mirror deliver a literal aesthetic edge that is both extravagant yet striking in its simplicity. Its dynamism adds electricity to any space.

Gather ‘Round

Often a microcosm of broader programming in the room, tabletops are tasked with setting intentions for the space and equally responsible for displaying meaningful objects.

Collection of ceramic black and white bolts, plates, mugs.

Jialun Xiong’s Symmetry collection

Jialun Xiong’s Symmetry series – porcelain tableware comprising a cup, plate, and bowl – embody the material’s defiance in an effort to achieve perfect form. Simple dots, lines, or circles along the grooves mark the exact center of each piece like war paint – only 4 out of every 10 items survive the kiln due to their unique method of production exclusive to the artisans of Jingdezhen, China.

A bright room contrasted with dark table dressings.

Tortuga Forma’s Cosmos Placemats in Terrazzo Black

Objects like Tortuga Forma’s Cosmos Placemats, available in a black terrazzo pattern made from recycled rubber, take a lighthearted approach while bringing a contemporary, eco-friendly look to the table. The flecks of color add additional flair.

Table setting with black napkin rings.

Black leather napkin rings by Peter Speliopoulos

Peter Speliopoulos’ hand stained leather napkin rings employ a similar ellipse shape that gives the set otherworldly forms as well as their functionality. Once activated with a napkin, the protruding ends resemble the particle stream emitted from a black hole.

Do Look Up

Luminaries of all genres allow for the literal play with light – or the restraint required to master mood lighting. “The fabulous fixtures by John Procario, the Freeform Series in particular, at Todd Merrill Studio evoke a sense of danger and the macabre with all its contortions and bends,” adds Ellison. “It feels like you shouldn’t see light bend that way.”

Twisted black bar light.

John Procario’s Freeform Series Light Sculpture XI

For a lo-fi but equally artful alternative consider Guculiya’s black-smoked, handmade candelabras manufactured using a proprietary Ukrainian craft technique. The ceramics come in a variety of glyph-like forms ready for communing with guests of all kinds.

Glyphic-like ash ceramic candelabras.

A collection of smoked ceramic candelabras by Guculiya

If You Dare

And those interested in “quiet luxury” are not relegated to the same selection of blandness often plaguing contemporary goods. “We do see an overall counter movement in interiors moving away from the overly blond designs in favor of darker settings with deeper tonalities in both paints, fabrics, as well as in the selection of natural materials,” say Åsa Bollvik & Lotta Meynell, co-founders of Ateljé Nordöst design studio. “All together it serves to create that dramatic atmosphere equally warm and inviting while also hinting at something mysterious to encourage exploration with unique details ‘hiding in the dark.’”

Succumb to its gravity and get lost in the shadows.

With professional degrees in architecture and journalism, Joseph has a desire to make living beautifully accessible. His work seeks to enrich the lives of others with visual communication and storytelling through design. Previously a regular contributor to titles under the SANDOW Design Group, including Luxe and Metropolis, Joseph now serves the Design Milk team as their Managing Editor. When not practicing, he teaches visual communication, theory, and design. The New York-based writer has also contributed to exhibitions hosted by the AIA New York’s Center for Architecture and Architectural Digest, and recently published essays and collage illustrations with Proseterity, a literary publication.