Ornate exhibition features furniture informed by boudoirs


British designer Bethan Laura Wood has unveiled Ornate, an exhibition of furniture that seeks to reclaim ideas of femininity, at the Nilufar Gallery as part of Milan design week.


The exhibition features both existing and new pieces by Wood, as well as historical works chosen by Nilufar‘s gallerist Nina Yashar.

Exhibition at Nilufar Gallery in Milan
Top: a decadent headboard and sconce lights. Above: the exhibition is designed to resemble a traditional boudoir

The Ornate collection of decorative furniture aims to chart a decade of creative collaboration between Wood and Yashar through the lens of the boudoir – the traditional term for a woman’s bedroom or private interior space.

New pieces by Wood include her Meisen cabinets and desk crafted from rippled sheets of handpicked ALPI veneer, which take cues from Meisen kimonos. Also featured is Bon Bon, a pyrex coloured glass lamp arranged like an abstract bunch of flowers.

Bethan Laura Wood designed the work
Two curvy Meisen cabinets are on display in the exhibition

Thinking back on her work with Yashar was what led Wood to create a furniture collection that references a woman’s bedroom.

“It was when I started to properly think about all these pieces that Nina and I had been talking and thinking about over the last two years,” Wood told Dezeen.

“I was really looking at the placement of objects again and it dawned on me that what we were making was a woman’s room, and it’s a room made by women together.”

Lamp made from coloured glass
The Bon Bon chandelier was informed by sweet jars and designed to echo flowers

Partly informed by Wood’s love of costume jewellery, Ornate aims to reimagine decorative objects as large-scale furniture in an architectural space.

According to the designer, this is an attempt to highlight the importance of ornamentation as a design tool and reclaim decorative design, rather than have it dismissed as overly feminine and unnecessary.

“Quite often, a man’s collection of wooden spoons is somehow seen as a more legitimate collection than a woman’s collection of jewellery,” explained Wood.

“But jewellery has, in the past, been one of the key ways for women to show a point of view and identity and embrace a political standpoint,” she added.

“So I like the idea of taking those small elements off the body and using them as an anchor point to create ‘jewellery’ for larger architectural spaces.”

Ornate exhibition at Nilufar Gallery
Ornate is on show at Milan’s Nilafur Gallery

Another piece that displays these ideas is a wiggly headboard that is defined by interlocking curved shapes, which is mounted above a bed next to accompanying sconce wall lights.

It was informed by American sculptor Alexander Calder’s 1940s silver bedhead, which he designed for art collector Peggy Guggenheim, as well as the Peacock Room by artist James McNeill Whistler.

Headboard by Bethan Laura Wood for Ornate
Wood’s furniture combines embellishment and functioning structure

“I wanted to see if I could design a piece where if you took the pattern away, it wouldn’t exist,” said Wood.

The Ornate collection also references Wood’s travels over the past 10 years, as various techniques learnt from craftspeople across Europe, California, Mexico and East Asia are reflected in the furniture designs.

Green sofa under circular mirrors
Mirrors at the exhibition were crafted with Venetian mirror specialists

Bethan Laura Wood is a multidisciplinary designer whose colourful work is known for its material investigation and artisan collaboration. In 2019, she created a playful self-portrait mask for London Design Festival.

Nilufar Gallery was founded in 1979 in Milan by Nina Yashar.

Photography is courtesy of Nilufar Gallery.


Ornate is taking place from 5 September to 27 November at Nilufar Gallery as part of Milan design week 2021See Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events taking place around the world.



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