ICFF–the International Contemporary Furniture Fair—and an ambitious roster of studio open houses, after-show parties and store showcases makes it widely regarded as one of the best design events in the country.
And, at times, we were certainly wowed: A minimalist console desk from salvaged hardwood beams crafted in a Pennsylvania barn; A self-contained cool—yes, cool—looking litter box by New York’s ModKat, ideal for tiny apartments; the colored cork bowls and chairs from DMFD in Brooklyn; lamps made of an oversized beaker by the new Milan-London designer Nicolo Taliani; the novel rain collector and air dryer by Canada upstarts Hero-365; the cork mosaic sideboard from Philadelphia’s Iannone, which continues to turn out striking furniture in eco-friendly materials; and the clever convertible furnishings by Corning, NY-based Offi.
But we came away from this latest weekend in New York sensing that not all of the best in design had its moment there.
Or, rather, that some of this stuff lacks a function—or enough of an aesthetic reason to warrant its existence.
Maybe it’s a sign of the economy when Designboom Mart, the usually compelling curated group of fledgling designers, has on offer Barbie dolls fitted with skirts of hot pink feathers for dusting—and inevitably destined for the shelves of the 99 Cent Stores. Or when too many companies on the main floor rehash now commonplace conceits (Animal figurines repurposed as lamps? Scratch-prone plastic lamps, chairs and anything else you don’t want to imagine). Or, gone were the vendors in an adjoining hall, in its place a gallery of the best in design from Japan—from the last five years. And the cute girls in geisha drag couldn’t even tell us whom we could contact to buy some of the newer stuff.
But for every chandelier made of black lace panties (Note to designer: This is neither edgy nor interesting), there was, say, the ultra-lithe Lim LED light by Pablo Pardo from San Francisco. In other words, there were innovations that grabbed our attention (and dollars) because they enhance life. As anyone who regularly reads this site knows, I’m no glutton for minimalism, either. Heck, the ankle boot made of loofah by Ian Horowitz in the RISD showcase may only be a prototype and a ridiculous one at that, but it reveals a kind of over-the-top, clever conceit that speaks to other applications. And, at least, he chose a shoe design that was modern.
And, for all our disappointment of Designboom this year–a showcase that we always beeline for and never walk away from empty handed—we did find some gems. Hiromi Kim from Japan offered luxurious titanium chopsticks and a porcelain carafe we will likely be adding to our own offerings. And we’ll be keeping an eye on the slipcast collection of glazed earthenware one-offs from Studio Make by the lovely couple Im and David Schafer; as well as the Dining Agenda by Sara Ferrari and Marcella Fiori, a witty take on a foodie diary, not ready for retail—yet. We also showed our love for Nervous System, the Boston-based line of jewelry utilizing rapid prototyping techniques. Amazing.
There was also plenty of action beyond the Javits Center, home to ICFF, to keep us equally enthralled and, at times, apathetic. In fact, some of the best in design often involves outside of the box thinking. And whether it was Patricia Urquiola's spectacular Tropicale series at Moroso or the high-concept, low-brow Kiosk mart, there was plenty outside the convention center to keep us going. More on all of that to come…
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