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Note: This piece was syndicated from our friends at Architectural Digest. Read the article on their site here.
“She’s so ahead of our time.” This is the top comment, liked over 26,000 times, on Architectural Digest’s TikTok video in which Emma Chamberlain shows off her poolside corn stool collection. “My thing with furniture is have fun with it,” she says. “I just choose things that make me smile and chuckle and start a conversation.” Though the starchy vegetable is largely considered a staple of the summer, corn’s unofficial PR department was seemingly working overtime last season when the influencer’s Open Door premiered.
The seven-year-old Tariq, now colloquially called corn kid, went viral following his declaration of his love for corn on the YouTube show Recess Therapy. “I can’t imagine a more beautiful thing,” he says between bites of a juicy, butter-covered cob. Like any good internet moment, the fun didn’t stop there. Parody music group Schmoyoho turned the interview into a song, giving corn another boost of public affection. Even today, the corn reverie continues with Shucked, a new corn-comedy Broadway musical, which opened at the Nederlander Theatre last week. And Emma, seemingly, was just a few skips before all of this.
Of course, open the replies to that comment, and another story is apparent. “I wanted one of these three years ago,” someone writes. “Girl no hate, but I know at least 15 people in LA who have at least one of these corn tables,” another user adds. While perhaps the highest honor on the internet—and source of pride—is knowing about something before it’s something, these people are right: The corn stool isn’t new.
Giant Corn Stool, as the piece is officially called, was designed over 10 years ago by Abi Crompton, the creative director and founder of Australian brand Third Drawer Down. However it didn’t gain major traction in the US until about three or four years ago. “When I first saw it online—likely on Instagram, to be perfectly honest—I was overwhelmed by this perfect union of whimsy, playfulness, and elegance,” says Janie Korn, a proud owner of the corn stool. While the artist doesn’t remember exactly when the piece first found its way to her feed, Janie estimates that it was at least four—maybe five—years ago. “I needed it badly,” she adds. Eventually, Janie obtained the corn stool in true New York fashion: It was left out on the curb during trash day, and her friend saved it from its dumpster fate before passing it off to her. “Every time I gaze upon it I chuckle,” she says. “It feels like an inside joke between me and my home, with the punchline being that I’m a Korn with a corn.”
The corn stool’s recent popularity can loosely be traced to its inclusion in design shops like New York City’s Coming Soon as well major retailers like Urban Outfitters. But it wasn’t immediately loved. “It wasn’t an easy sell,” recalls Helena Barquet, one of the cofounders of Coming Soon. She and her partner Fabiana Faria (the other cofounder) were originally drawn to the irreverent, whimsical aspect to the piece, though it was misunderstood when they first started stocking it in 2018. “People weren’t sure what it was,” Helena continues. “In the beginning, it was definitely slow.” Sales and interest started to pick up once the founders contextualized the stool more with photos of it in use.
Architectural Digest has published a humble collection of stories in recent years that feature the decor staple, which feels like it can be found all over the place if you know where to look. You’ll see it at author and social media star Lillian Ahenkan’s colorful home, inside the dressing room of Sandy Liang’s flagship store, and right next to The Circle contestant Yu Ling Wu’s one-of-a-kind bookshelf. On the Open Door front, it was most recently spotted in Debby Ryan and Josh Dunn’s treehouse-themed home in Columbus, Ohio. My colleague Sydney Gore even called out the item in her deep dive into the appeal of veggie decor last year.
In the era of microtrends, few pieces have had the kind of prolonged admiration that the corn stool has. The glow of neon signs has faded, millennial pink has long been painted over, strict color coordination is no more, amorphous blobs are being replaced by stricter lines, and bouclé is fleeting (more on these outdated trends, here). And yet, through all of these design moments, the corn stool persists. Perhaps one reason it still remains under the radar despite its seemingly immense popularity is that the corn stool maintains a cult status. After all, at least 26,000 people hadn’t seen it before Emma introduced them.
“I got my corn stool back in 2020, but I’d actually been eyeing it since it first came out,” Yu Ling writes in an email. “By that time it had already gained some popularity, I saw it at Coming Soon and Urban Outfitters.” For her, the stool is a bit like a grown-up toy and a constant conversation-starter in her home. It’s also useful since, depending on which way its turned (bite in or bite out), the piece can be as loud or quiet as needed. “It’s part of my decor—and life—ethos to not take anything too seriously,” she adds.
Helena thinks the corn stool has remained popular because of its versatility. “It’s useful in so many ways, which is probably why it’s grown in popularity,” she says. The conversation piece can be used as a stool, side table, nightstand, or standalone decor. “Fabi even exercises off of it,” Helena adds. “There’s just endless amounts of usages.” The stool is also extremely durable, according to the shop owners, and easy to move around for its various applications. These qualities, flexibility and quality, were also highlighted by Yu Ling.
Of course, having a glowing endorsement from celebrities like Emma Chamberlain or Debby Ryan doesn’t hurt—with their stamp of approval, the corn stool’s fate was signed, sealed, and delivered. “Emma is known for being relatable and having a sense of humor, so the corn stool was just one of many moments in the house that are so her,” says Ashley Drost, cofounder of Proem Studio, the interior design firm that dreamed up the star’s unpredictable space. At a relatively accessible price point in the range of $245–275, it’s a chance to outfit a home like the people you admire. “For most, it’s definitely more feasible to purchase a stool than it is to say, clad your bathroom in honey onyx or paint your kitchen cabinets apple green,” she adds.
However, perhaps the most alluring element of corn stool is its hyperrealism in an exaggerated size. For the same reason we love miniatures in their shrunken-down perfection, there’s something exciting about seeing a corn cob blown up. “It’s actually not corn,” Debby and Josh joke in their Open Door video. “It’s actually much bigger than corn would be.” But unlike other pieces of fun food furniture—like Third Drawer Down’s Apple Stool, Hamburger Stool, or Ice Cream Stool—a corn on the cob is naturally the perfect shape for a seat or side table (no creative reforming necessary). It scales up to stool size perfectly. “I do think that that has a lot to do with why people like it,” Helena notes. “It is absolutely the most realistic, and the details seem the most on-point.”
Will the corn stool always be as popular as it is today? Probably not—after all, nothing lasts forever. However, its tenure in the hearts of dedicated fans and newly won-over admirers proves that it will likely always have a seat at the table for a while longer. “It’s eye-catching, there’s an immediacy to it,” Helena concludes. “It’s whimsical and funny, and a little bit of a conversation piece. That’s what makes it compelling.”