Irish designer Domhnall Nolan has created the Play Pieces range of modular sex furniture that takes cues from retro gym equipment and aims to be gender-inclusive.
Play Piece 01 is a loveseat-style folding bed composed of six adaptable modules that can be configured in numerous ways to cater to any sexual activity.
“I wanted to create pieces to make people feel sexual and to react to that in their own way,” said Nolan. “They’re non-prescriptive pieces that you can use in whatever way you desire.”
“This approach was very much just ‘sex between people’ – any kind of person doing any kind of sexual activity. Which in itself is a very queer approach,” they told Dezeen.
The modules were upholstered in cognac-hued leatherette that intends to recall retro gym equipment, which attach to a steel folding leg frame with swivel hooks and chains, created by metalworker Daniel Higgins.
The bed can be arranged into numerous positions.
“The tonal palette was a very important part of the design,” acknowledged Nolan, who said that they were also informed by the sexual liberation that emerged in the 1970s.
“[It seeks to] steer away from the feeling of ‘dominance’ felt in other sex furniture – which typically uses stark, aggressive colours like reds and blacks – to create a softer feel,” they added.
“Combining these warm fleshy tones of the upholstery with the mild steel frames creates pieces that are neither masculine nor feminine.”
The second item of furniture, Play Piece 02, is an adjustable spanking bench finished in the same materials as the folding bed. It juxtaposes a chainmail trim on its edges with softer leatherette elements.
Similarly to Play Piece 01, the bench was designed as an open-ended object that can be used depending on the preference of participants.
Nolan explained that they decided to make the sex furniture modular not only because it will need to be dismantled on a weekly basis at Joyride, but also to try and create “an inclusive queer playroom”.
“Everyone approaches sex differently,” said the designer. “Some arrangements of the pieces allow for a slower start, while others create a more obvious innuendo.”
With this in mind, Nolan said that they looked to design furniture that does not focus on “traditional genitalia” and attempts to steer away from any preconceptions about its users.
“Existing sex furniture caters predominantly to a cis-gendered market, typically heteronormative,” reflected Nolan.
“It usually prescribes as either masculine or feminine through the use of colours, materiality and how it’s marketed. This creates an exclusivity that affects a huge sector of the LGBTQ+ community.”
“As designers, we are filled with inherent bias and preconceptions towards the sexes which inevitably affect our approaches to design,” they added.
“But as a (queer) designer in this case, you open your eyes to another way of designing. I think everyone needs to continue challenging these mindsets, and in a very queer way, revolt against them!”
Domhnall Nolan is a London-based designer who specialises in furniture and interior design. They are currently the in-house senior interior designer at Soho House.
Other recent sex-related designs that intend to challenge the status quo include a unisex condom by Wondaleaf and a wearable vibrator created to tackle erectile dysfunction.
The photography is by Ollie Tomlinson.
Designer: Domhnall Nolan
Models: Samuel Purnell and Domhnall Nolan
Metalwork: Daniel Higgins