Sunday, May 24, 2009


Mouse did not get to New York for this year’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), and so the task falls to this author to report back. A wonderfully odd sort of fair, ICFF attracts both big industry giants and individual artisans looking to get discovered. Booths range from big and glitzy installations to a two-panel, two prototype light fixtures setup that the maker all but prays will not fall down. (Yes, we did see one fall). 

The audience is equally varied. Design curators search for objects relevant beyond their esthetics or use, hipsters hunt the irreverent, retailers source new inventory that will actually sell, and architects and designers expect fresh inspiration. The eclecticism of the event means that, usually, all can find a little of what they’re looking for. Yes, we spied knife-form coat hooks and nasty lingerie-draped chandeliers. But what struck me while looking at such a wide and varied gathering of product and manufacturers was this common thread: Whether their target is our senses or our sense of humor, designers are getting alot more personal with product. Mostly, they want us to feel good about it. And why not? No one's looking for another acquisition. But then there's those objects we just can't resist...

Even the most high-tech, precisely made objects aimed not to be. There were memories of kindergarten craft projects conjured with (very sophisticated) chairs, rugs, and wall art of laser cut felt. Bocci dressed its new 25 bench well in loosely folded pleats upholstery below, right (Mouse imagined these in an Alberta Ferretti boutique). Not just pretty, its pleats create comfortable cushioning on a thin, sleekly wrapped structure and avoids environmentally precarious latex foam. 

Computer keyboards masqueraded as low tech in warm wood, and fixtures filtered light through pillowy bouquets of (emptied) silk cocoons. I loved Joel Escalona’s "Dancing Table" below, an imaginative retake on Saarinen's iconic tulip table. Its rigid top is rendered in ruffles to evoke the swirling, high-flying skirts of Mexican traditional dances. (An equally ruffled carpet exhibited underneath added to the festive theme, but Mouse remarked she could lose a bone under there, and I wasn’t too sure its flaps wouldn’t trip me up). A high pile, creamy white area rug with Swarovski crystals woven into its fibers above caught our eyes instead. Says Mouse, "This must be wall-to-wall in heaven."

Fun and flirty, elegantly ethereal, or soft and nubby, this year’s overall shift is not a bold new direction in style. Instead, it boils down to an ever more thoughtful exploration of how materials, craft, and form can forge a greater emotional connection between a design and its user (canine or otherwise). Our next couple blogs hope to show a few examples of that in detail, as well as a few mini-trends. For how these affect kitchen and bath design, check out Karin's upcoming posts on access.decorati.com.


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