With furnishings that run the gamut from edgy to elegant, ethnic to otherworldly, the International Contemporary Furniture Fair is a favorite of serious design lovers.
Highlights at this year's fair, which was held last week in New York:
- Luminous Lighting
Several booths showed sculptural lighting that resembled clouds, puffs of smoke, or some evocation of a heavenly bird's nest. Vancouver-based Molo created LED-lit, honeycombed, polyethylene pendants in various sizes that could be clustered and even dimmed to create a stormy atmosphere. Interesting fibers were spun into cotton-candy-like fixtures at Hive. At DCS Corp, washi paper formed a table lamp complete with a "downpour" made of thin brass rods. At Aqua Creations, there were single and multiple pleated silk disks that created lit mobiles resembling an extraterrestrial midnight garden, or a flotilla of sea urchins. All were an inspirational take on an ethereal shape that worked perfectly for lighting.
- Cardboard's Cache
The lowly cardboard box has become the darling of eco-mindful designers looking for an intriguing new material. At Graypants, corrugated paper formed bulbous, textural pendent lampshades. At Molo, stiff unbleached Kraft paper was fanned into sturdy stools and loungers. The honeycomb layers of cardboard really amp up the textural element of these pieces. Most were left in their caramel color, which gave the furnishings a nice "patina." Graypants put Edison bulbs in their fixtures, which made them glow warmly; several other designers used the bulbs as well. Edisons are reproductions of early light bulbs; their carbon or tungsten filaments emit a pleasing, low-watt glow.
- Wood Laminates
Plywood was everywhere at this year's show. Designers like its versatility, so there were lots of interesting plywood chairs, tables and bookshelves. Brooklyn designer April Hannah's collection of treehouse-inspired kids' furniture included an eco-friendly, maple- or walnut-veneer play table and chairs. Philadelphia University's Industrial Design students used bamboo plywood to craft an array of furnishings with architectural flair. Laurie Beckerman's Ionic Bench for Voos Furniture was a curvy swoop of Baltic birch plywood. Wisconsin-based Drift Studio printed subway maps and other graphic motifs on plywood panels that were bolted together into versatile cubes; modular storage was another trend seen throughout the show.
- Industrial Chic
The chic edginess of industrial style continues to find favor with designers. In some hands, such as Chicago studio akmd, it had a mid-century vibe. They carved faux casters out of oak, oversized them, and put them on the legs of a dining table and beautifully dovetailed compartmental storage pieces. At Barcelona-based Arxe, the materials were work-worn and weather-beaten, yet fabricated into tables and countertops that gave them a sophisticated second life. Arxe also showed refurbished military, workshop and studio light fixtures, and wonderfully patinated vintage metal stools and chairs. Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek did clever wallpaper printed with planks of scrap wood.
- Geometry Class
Wood, laminate, and metal triangles and polyhedrons were used to create interesting seating and case goods, including a winning chair prototype designed by Rochester Institute of Technology student Dan Fritz as part of the School of Design's Metaproject with Wilsonart. Tom Dixon wowed the crowd with his futuristic, hive-like Etch light fixtures formed out of brass screens.
As always, the juxtapositions at ICFF made it so worthwhile: Kid-centric wall coverings printed with space-age toys or Japanese dolls were on one side of the aisle, while moody papers depicting fog-filled woods or time-ravaged gardens were on the other. Luminous mother-of-pearl bath fixtures shared acreage with pieces made out of tires or toilet plungers. Innovation is in the eye of the creative.