John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Bushels of kudos go to Spanish artist Maximo Riera for taking interior design's ages-old question – What would really tie this room together? – and answering it with, A frickin' humongous toad.
The "Toad Sofa" is black and shiny, like a slippery amphibian crawling from an oil spill. Its two normal sofa legs are overwhelmed by an immense pair of haunches with all the must-haves of the modern design world: chic webless toes, for instance, and high-class tubercles. The butt of the animal is tastefully displayed as a slight crevice. The head is missing to make room for the seat, generating the surreal possibility that when you sit in the Toad Sofa, you are the toad.
Riera is a poet, photographer, sculptor and former medical-industry worker who has a studio in Cadiz, a historic naval port near the Strait of Gibraltar. The Toad Sofa is the latest in his line of animalistic furniture. He kicked off the bizarre series with the Octopus Chair, lifelike enough to make an old salt dash for the Kraken harpoon, and migrated to chairs mimicking a rhino, a walrus, an elephant and a whale. When your houseguest stumbles upon one of these faux wild animals on a midnight quest for water and begins to shriek, you can assure him or her it's a work of extraordinary craftsmanship: On average, one of Riera's pieces takes 11 weeks to finish.
As to why he's spawning this Noah's Ark of sittable beasties, the artists says:
Each creation retains the animal's natural vitality whilst being totally biological accurate in their appearance. This collection is homage to these animals and the whole animal kingdom which inhabits our planet, as an attempt to reflect and capture the beauty of nature in each living thing.
Okay, Riera. But answer the question: When you conceived of this weird sofa, were you in fact licking a toad?
The lovely view from behind:
From the side: