It’s Contemporary but Is It Good? Rago Reports From ICFF

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Designers and architects from all around the world flocked to New York City this past weekend for the 25th annual International Contemporary Furniture Fair.  It was a huge show —  featuring…

Designers and architects from all around the world flocked to New York City this past weekend for the 25th annual International Contemporary Furniture Fair.  It was a huge show —  featuring work by more than 500 international exhibitors — and the New York Times declared the show to be “muddled” overall with few exhibiting “the uplifting effect of groundbreaking design.” 

But the show did examine some of the latest trends in design and fabrication, reports Danielle Rago, from high tech digital processes such as laser cutting to more industrial and traditional craftsman techniques — most notably an Afro-Caribbean weaver who was creating tapestries with his feet.

IMG_3770I arrived in New York just in time for the start of NYCxDESIGN, a 12-day design initiative by City Council Speaker and mayoral candidate Christine C. Quinn as a way to help the design industry and economy in general. The program consisted of a variety of events throughout the city from different disciplines including design and architecture as well as art, jewelry and graphics; ICFF was among them.

Since its founding, the fair has provided a platform for some of the most well-known as well as emerging designers. This year’s show featured work by more than 500 international exhibitors who displayed contemporary furniture, seating, carpet and flooring, lighting, outdoor furniture, materials, wall coverings, accessories, textiles, and kitchen and bath for residential and commercial spaces.

I did, however, feel that there were certain studios and work that stood out amidst the variety and perceived incohesiveness of the show as a whole. Perhaps lack of unifying theme is the next “trend” in design and fabrication, anyway! Check out some of my picks below.

LA-based designers Iacoli & McAllister, known for their craft-based fabrication process, exhibited two great pieces (along with some of their furniture, lighting, objects and jewelry): the minimalist Frame Coffee Table in Copper and wirey Black Spica lamp (above, left). Brendan Ravenhill, interviewed on this DnA, showed utilitarian designs from lighting and furniture to objects including my personal favorite, the Long Chord Chandelier.

IMG_3765Other emerging designers to participate in this year’s fair included New York City-based designers Alexallen Studio, a collaboration between Alexandra Burr and Allen Slamic. Burr and Slamic met while studying at the Yale School of Architecture in 2005 and just began their practice in 2012 from their studio in Gowanus, Brooklyn. Their design for Lightbracket combines playfulness and utility to conceive a shelf bracket and under shelf light combined into one. The minimal piece adds a whimsical burst of color in the detailing of red, yellow, blue, green, orange or white nylon chords (shown right).

Some other young favorites to come out of this year’s fair were North Carolina-based Elijah Leed’s handmade, modern and sustainable furniture (right); and TJ Okeefe’s sculptural furniture and lighting, in particular their Powder-coated steel and LED light which looks more like an art installation that could be found in a gallery instead of in your living room.

The British invasion which was ever-pervasive throughout the show included standout pieces by designer Charlie Crowther-Smith whose playful architectural pieces of furniture such as Arc Bench and Tri-Ply chair are both cut by CNC then assembled, finished and hand-painted by the designer himself. Working with both traditional and new building applications and materials, Crowther-Smith creates beautifully simple yet unique pieces.

Chisel & Mouse, a design collective formed by UK-based brothers, are on a mission to “bring great architecture into the living room.” The brothers use 3D printing for rapid prototyping prior to returning to the traditional methods of sculpting, mould making and plaster casting to build the final product. Their display featured well-crafted architectural sculptures from public facades to private residences made of plaster and etched in metal. Some iconic designs produced in miniatures include Buckingham Palace and Battersea Power Station in London and the Guggenheim Museum and Flatiron Building in New York City (see top of page).

IMG_3739My favorite wallcoverings this year included work by New York-based decorators SISSY+MARLEY for jill malek. The collaboration featured modern wallcoverings for inspired children’s spaces; however these designs go beyond baby and translate easily into cosmpolitan design. Some of my favorite schemes played on typological studies of housing and cars to create sublime compositions that played with variations of scale and form.

Furniture and product designer Patrick Weder, formerly of Switzerland, best known for his inspired mid-20th century designs, departed from his traditional oeuvre by producing a strong digital graphic for the New York-based wallpaper company Calico, inspired by NASA’s photography of moonscapes and uninhabited space. The print also resembles the undulating surface of many 3d printed architectural models.

IMG_3755Lastly, veteran Wolf Gordon’s Exquisite Wink wallcovering system (right), originating from the exquisite corpse methodology of the Surrealists in Paris during the 1920s and 1930s, provides an interesting departure point for exploring the potential of Wink clear, dry-erase coating.

The collaboration asked 7 artists, architects and designers including Boym Partners, Michael Graves, karlssonwilker, Myles Karr, Ben Katchor, Snarkitecture and Ali Tayar to sketch the beginnings of drawings on the panels to which visitors would then take turns completing the artist’s respective drawings.