I’ve just returned from five days in New York, where I took in the International Contemporary Furniture Fair.
The ICFF is one of the two marquee modern furnishing shows held abroad each year. The larger Milan show takes place earlier in the spring; New York’s is where the leading lights of furniture design show their wares to the thousands of retailers, designers and architects who fly in for the event. The air crackles with industry and deal-making.
Design-wise, I’d been feeling listless, and I went to the show looking for a tonic. And while I found much of the edge and innovation I was seeking, the pieces that most that excited me were simple and beautiful, with broad market appeal.
Here’s a selection of my favourites. I’m looking forward to using them all this year. (I have no commercial relationships with any of these vendors.) Since ICFF is for industry types, the pieces below may not yet be priced – or even released. If any catch your fancy, visit the company website or speak to a retailer near you.
Lithophane Hanging Lamps by Lladro
Widely known for fine figurines, the Spanish company Lladro has carried its porcelain expertise into interior lighting. The result is clearly delightful. This series of delicate pendant lights distinguished itself from any other lights I saw at ICFF. Their teacup form is playful, with the whimsy underscored by the apparent fineness of the porcelain.
Where I’d use it: Two of them over a condo-sized kitchen island or above the vanity in a quirky powder room. www.lladro.com
Dang Media by Blu Dot
This media cabinet has great character and makes a refreshing move away from the generic dark lacquer you see too often. The Dang’s retro feel is articulated by the perforated panels, which allows remote controls to work – and AV equipment to stay cool – with the doors closed. The army grey is conservative, but Blu Dot’s designers took well-calculated risks with the brass pulls and feet. I love it.
Where I’d use it: In almost any room of any home, modern or traditional. www.bludot.com
Wingback Chair by James
This mid-century inspired wingback is sultry, well made, and comfortable. The handmade chairs come in a double seat, opening up the potential for a sensuous settee in a room designed for repose. For colours, you simply can’t beat the classic black leather on walnut.
Where I’d use it: In the study or master bedroom of someone who aspires to sophisticated and reclusive billionaire bachelorhood. www.jamesuk.com
Wave Armchair by Manulution
I’ve been following Manulution for some time. Established in Bosnia in 1927, the firm has a history of innovating with hardwood furniture. Today they’ve integrated hand carving into their modern builds. The resulting line is wonderfully human and restrained. The Wave Armchair is my favourite; made from lightwood, with metal legs, the darling piece has a simple profile and a playfully perforated carved back. It’s as much art as it is functional object.
Where I’d use it: As an accent piece, the Wave Arm would brighten any bedroom or living room. www.manulution.com
Handle Me by Angell Wyller Aarseth
Although these pieces are still prototypes, I’m hoping they’ll be picked up by a manufacturer – and soon. Designed by the Oslo firm Angell Wyller Aarseth, Handle Me is crockery that delights with its organic form, austere (and yet warm) Scandinavian style, and clever use of cast iron, wood, and enamel.
Where I’d use them: In my kitchen. In your kitchen. In any kitchen. www.awaa.no
Feudal Facet Wallpaper by Eskayel
There were aisles and aisles of wallpaper at ICFF, but none so soft and feminine as those of Brooklyn’s Eskayel. The watery patterns, sweet and sumptuous, sucked me into a 15-minute reverie at their booth. The wallpapers are gorgeous, and pair easily with the firm’s broad line of printed linens.
Where I’d use them: A Bohemian bedroom or powder room that needed a hit of Parisian moodiness. www.eskayel.com
The Sidebar Project by Crafted
A clever nod to 1930s Art Deco, this apartment cocktail bar stole my heart. It has embossed Corian doors, a solid walnut interior, and comes with matching glassware. (The cabinet and glasses were developed in tandem with the American firms Urbancase and Teroforma, respectively.) While poignantly modern, it retains its full measure of Gatsby – three-finger whiskies in leaded crystal tumblers, to the strains of jazz and a looming war. Glorious.
Where I’d use it: A universal donor, the Sidebar will do well in any living room, with any furniture, modern or traditional. www.craftedprojects.com
Emilia by Weplight
This wood veneer chandelier comes in four sizes and several different tones (including delicious graphite). The Emilia is but one shape in a series of four introduced by Argentinean firm Weplight, but she’s my favourite. I love the multiplicity and delicacy of her layers.
Where I’d use it: I’d love a cluster of large-format Emilias in a double-height entry or large restaurant. The smaller version makes a perfect feature light over a modern dining table. www.weplight.com
Bride’s Veil Stools by Phase
We’re always looking for an alternative to the hoary old bar stool. The Bride’s Veil series plays smartly with the design cliché. The wire frame is available in polished chrome, a number of powder-coat colours and, my favourite, brass. Brass is coming back – don’t be scared! It’s sleeker and more sophisticated than what we saw in the 1980s.
Where I’d use it: Any bar or high counter not addressing solely to the playoffs (go Canucks!) www.phaseonline.com
Kettal Bitta by Kettal
Kettal designs and manufactures exquisite outdoor furniture and this series, designed by Rordolfo Dordoni, is a superb example. The fabric is a refreshing change from the plastic cane we’ve seen for years; the curved metal frame is wrapped in deliciously ribbon-like outdoor rope.
Where I’d use it: Both transitional and modern spaces. The ideal? A poolside cabana in Turks and Caicos. www.kettal.com