Have you had a chance to get to the phenomenal annual International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), held in both New York City and Miami? It’s an exhibit of the latest and greatest in design of high-end interior furnishings, ranging from furniture, lighting and wall coverings to floor coverings, fabrics and other fascinating materials.
Small artisanal workshops, international manufacturers and product designers with pieces close to or ready for market abound. Even if you were the most innovative and creative person in the world, you would be hard-pressed to not be agog at the human imagination in the show. Here are some of my favorites from the most recent New York show this month that reflect my personal aesthetic, some iteration of my own creative thought or things on display that just blew my mind.
I’m nutty for awesome materials (just ask my friends who have to wait while I pet a textured wall in Midtown!), and often wonder what I could do with these materials. I have samples of cool stuff at the side of my desk just to finger and fiddle with in my down time. I couldn’t drink in enough of the creative thinking at ICFF, so wide-ranging was the new and inventive uses of materials.
One of the first displays I encountered was glistening with exquisitely wrought, finely punched metal lighting pendants. They suggested Middle-Eastern-style origins but were so very modern at the same time. I think these may be the best of this style of lighting pendant I’ve seen because they were refined and cleanly executed, not a jot rough-hewn. They glow with more light that you would expect and without blinding glare. I can see them done singly or in combination in a number of interior styles, from starkly modern to the more transitional and the obviously exotic.
EXPANDING UPON CARDBOARD & RETICULATION
I have been fascinated with corrugated cardboard ever since I had to manage large rolls of the stuff to protect the stairway walls of a townhouse to accommodate a renovation on the top floor. I itched to “do something” with it. There is something about this material, the texture, the tensile strength and the color. People no less superlative than Frank Gehry have done extensive work with the stuff. (See his iconic "Wiggle Chair").
But at ICFF a veritable palace of corrugation came into view!
Molo Design has taken this material to the nth degree, it seems to me, expanding upon the concept of “folding” furniture and partitions with a line of cardboard creations that literally fan out to become your table, stool or partition. Or, choose a glowing orb light—reticulated cardboard fanned around a light source creating a pleasing floating glow-sculpture perfect for the right spot.
The Greypants' “Scraplight” Classic Series reconsiders corrugated cardboard from recycled boxes in a thrilling and inventive manner, revealing and emphasizing the textures and patterns inherent in the material.
The effect is contemporary yet reminiscent of ancient lace. Did you know ancient Egyptians were making intricate lace?
AND SPEAKING OF LACE
All things lace and lace-like have fascinated me since I was about five years old. I vaguely recall a wee-little-me attempting to wind string around nails hammered into a board in imitation of something I’d seen in a medieval castle on one of my family trips to Europe!
At ICFF 2017, I was intrigued to see how many laser-cut lacey materials were on display. We have been laser-cutting for years and it seems that more and more decorative materials are products of this process. The resulting grilles, screens, films and fabrics provide all sorts of new materials for designers to work with.
I was particularly drawn to the finely laser cut stainless steel lace-like window panels or room dividers. Produced in Italy by Caino Designs, these lengths of delicate filigree metal are shipped in rolls because they readily bounce back into a flat shape! In fact, you have to work at it to permanently bend the material.
I love the micro-precise marquetry work of artist Christy Oates. She's worth reading up on: Christy is a deeply inventive mind exploring the intersection of traditional woodworking and modern manufacturing.
The IppinProject booth also got my full attention. This Japanese group explores modern applications of traditional Japanese forms and materials. As you might guess, I love their exquisite hand-pieced grilles (now assisted with laser cutting) with their compelling, modern geometric and decorative sensibility (which may well be a more "traditional" style from the Japanese perspective).
But I was also drawn to their tile collection, based on traditional ibushi technique of dark smoke-colored kawara roof tiles. These modern highly textured tiles are contemporary conceptions of the very same 2,000 year old technique and material used for traditional Japanese roof tiles. This very company manufactured the replacement roof tiles used in the Himeji Castle, the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Such interesting bits of learning at every booth!
The possibilities for incorporating so many of these materials into interior or furniture design is very exciting. In truth, some of these "materials" are so lovely in their own right, one might just set them into a space as art.
I alway marvel at the humor behind inspiration, evidence of the quirky mind at work. This particular example had me chuckling right off the bat! I immediately recognized the joke, because when in my seamstress mode, I‘ve sewn on many, many buttons with a good strong thread shank. Who would imagine that as a viable concept for a light fixture? Well, Lukas Peet, apparently! The disc glows in a very un-button-like manner, as the "threads" of the "shank" are electrified and part of a simple system allowing adjustment of the tilt of the lit button surface. Of course, LED technology makes this flat button fixture shape possible. I love how LEDs have given designers a ginormous new space within which to invent, and ICFF was full of examples.
But, I'm not indiscriminately in love with all the LED light fixtures out there. Sometimes they’re just too minimalist or “stalky” for my taste. I would have passed by the next lighting display (below), except that I stopped to fish for my cell phone and the booth attendant took the opportunity to engage with me. Politely I indicated I wasn't interested, but asked a quick question: “That's a little LED behind the glass ball, right?” “Yes,” he replied, “but it’s magnified and refracted through the ball and again magnified and refracted from the ‘leaf’ above.” “You realize,” he said, “that the leaf is just a reflector. It’s not lit.”
I was stunned, really. I am fairly savvy about LED and lighting design, and how light can be magnified and refracted, but I don’t believe I’ve seen a fixture so completely engineered to embrace the science of light as this one. Jerry, the inventor-designer, is a highly regarded engineer of lighting optics and paired with his team Hoyt and Simon, the technology takes flight.
Again, I relearn the lesson: Often the very thing you think you’re not interested in is precisely the one thing you can’t forget. And to boot, I left feeling that this fixture is actually lovely in its contemporary, wing-shaped engineering.
Geometry and pattern in two dimensions is fascinating. In three dimensions, it can become mind-boggling. I couldn’t take my eyes off an exquisitely elegant chandelier where delicate brass chains suspended from metal circles challenged my perception. I tried to comprehend the path of each chain, with my mind just grasping that someone much more clever than I had described visually the underlying math of the path of a circle moving through space. I'm definitely a new fan of this French lighting design team Larose Guyon! Their work is deliciously sculptural.
The repetition of geometry is often a compelling design feature. We humans call it "pattern" and live with it constantly. Indeed, we are hard-wired to find it appealing. Non-random pattern manifest in many ways, from the spiral patterns based on the ratio Phi (see the "Golden ratio/ Fibonacci sequence) as seen in a pinecone’s seed pods to more obvious repetitions based on linear or radial arrangement. Much of design that appeals to us manifests repeating patterns: elaborate patterns in traditional area rugs, wall papers, fabrics and tiles.
Anne Kyyro Quinn does one of the most intriguing applications of repeating snips, tucks and folds in felted wool to create custom-made acoustic wall coverings. Begone the boring flat panel sound absorber! Do it with high style, texture and repeating pattern!
On the other hand, the serendipitous “non-pattern” catches my attention equally well, proving again my eclectic personal aesthetic and my predilection for whimsy. Here is an example, a veritable wall garden of sculpted wool art.
Belying its artistic sensibility, this wall installation is also designed to provide measurable sound absorption. What a sweet solution for that public spot where the din of bouncing sound waves makes meaningful conversation nearly impossible! Inspired by the flora of her native South Africa, felt artist, Ronel Jordaan, has taken advantage of the natural fire resistance and sound-absorbing qualities of wool to create entirely useful art.
My brain is afire from all the inspiration taken from this year’s ICFF. I am eager to design with these fabulous materials and furnishings to create awesome, utterly contemporary, yet inviting and functional interiors!
Bring ‘em on!
Jacqueline Hosford, ASID, principal of Jacqueline Hosford Interior Design, loves working with clients to design their spaces for optimum function and each client's ultimate delight. Jacqueline is a professional member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID); is certified by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification; and is an adjunct professor of interior design, State University of New York (Purchase). Jacqueline is a graduate of Barnard College-Columbia University, and the New York School of Interior Design with highest honors. She can be reached at Jacqueline@jacquelinehosforddesign.com.