ICFF 2011 Highlights

Elli Popp creator, Katja Behr

Every year, New York does its own scaled-down version of the Milan furniture fair to introduce the newest in contemporary design to designers and the media. While the Milan show in April is absolutely overwhelming (five days of mall legs), New York’s event in mid-May can be done in a couple of hours. Big names always show up at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) — Dornbracht, Jonathan Adler, Baccarat — but I have the most fun with the startups. These include one-person operations in tiny booths showcasing a couple of prototypes, hoping to get picked up by a major manufacturer.

Most charming, I find, are what I like to call the British Invasion Wallpaper Ladies — graphic design school grads who come up with the funkiest, quirkiest patterns, influenced by their proper London upbringings (check out www.ellipopp.com). There are quite a lot of them every year, herded into one corner reserved for British artists. Also doing topnotch wallpaper design: Brooklyn-based Flavor Paper, originally from Louisiana. They produce seemingly endless gorgeous works on a great variety of substrates, all PVC-free. Check out their scratch ‘n’ sniff banana paper. Good for a bathroom, perhaps?

Molo pendants and partition

Now that manufacturers have mastered custom rug production overseas, the industry is booming with options featuring organically shaped edges (see www.topfloorrugs.com), brilliant colors (www.najautzonpopov.com) and innovative patchworks of scrap rugs (www.nomadictrading.com).

Flavor Paper wallpaper

This year’s lighting introductions ranged from elaborate (and fabulously expensive) Philipe Starck chandeliers by Baccarat, to Seattle-made pendant lamps made of recycled cardboard boxes (www.graypants.com). I was also happy to see Vancouver’s Molo, a personal fave, which creates ethereal seating, walls, and cloud-like pendants from cellular structured Tyvek and paper.

In the furniture category, Kindel Furniture made a nice showing with its exquisite Dorothy Draper-licensed couture pieces made in the USA. There was plenty of repurposing among the younger set, like the arty pieces by South Carolinian Benjamin Rollins Caldwell, made of old pianos, weaving looms, electronics, and currency.

Wang's drum kit speakers

Likewise, Wang Jinsheng has spent the recession experimenting with audio equipment in his Brooklyn studio, ultimately producing impressive sounding speakers built into old tires, seated on drum stands. And in the “why didn’t I think of that” category, Rabbit Air has created elegant air filters with snap-on fronts so that you can get the look you want. I wish they made air conditioner covers! Brasa ventless fireplaces use bio-ethanol so that they can be used anywhere, even on the dining room table, but perhaps sticking it in an old bricked-out fireplace is a bit more sensible.

And finally, Seletti has come out with a brilliant set of chinaware that, when put together, becomes a piece of neoclassical architecture.