What used to be a few days of New York City design events centered around the annual furniture fair each May at Javits Center has now sprawled into a full month of happenings, officially called NYCxDesign 2018. This week, as Curbed editors emerge from the frenzy of showroom appointments, exhibitions, talks, and the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, we’re rehashing the design moments that we can’t stop dreaming about, fuming about, #latergramming—you get the idea.
So, without further ado, here are the standout projects and trends to know, from perfectly plump furniture to a growing focus on circular design in home goods, architecture, and more.
Most eye-popping design of the week
We’ve been highly enthused about the tropical modernism trend for a while now—in fact, editor in chief Kelsey Keith called for a rattan resurgence after Salone del Mobile in 2015—and Chris Wolston’s Tropical Cabinet, shown at the Future Perfect in all its anodized aluminum, rattan, and powder-coated-steel glory, is the answer we didn’t know we needed. Wolston spent much of the past year working in Colombia on a Fulbright grant and worked with manufacturers and craftsmen there to produce the cabinet, which is not so much a piece of industrial design as it is high art—and a moment of contagious joy.
Best new trend: Chub!
Call ’em chubby, chunky, or thick, indulgently plump pieces stole the show this month. We spotted irresistible entries from Objects Of Common Interest and Falke Svatun, who designed the marshmallow-like foam and fabric chair above for Sight Unseen Offsite’s annual Norway x New York exhibition. Other statement chubs include the tubular, heavy-duty steel Neotenic Lounge chair from (appropriately named) new design practice Jumbo, the debut collection from Oōd Studio, and new ceramic lamps and fabric poufs from Eny Lee Parker.
Women out there doing design
Aside from the usual NYCxDesign events, LA-based designer and artist Tanya Aguiñiga opened her first solo show at the Museum of Arts and Design, a can’t-miss exhibition on view until October 2. On full display is her Art Made Between Opposite Sides (AMBOS) project, an ongoing investigation about what it means to live around and cross the U.S.-Mexican border. Here, colorful knots in the Border Quipu collection become a particularly compelling representation of individuals who have crossed the border.
We expected Egg Collective’s second Designing Women show to shine, and stellar it was. Incorporating work by both contemporary and 20-century female designers, this year’s exhibition had plenty of show-stopping moments, including the scene above featuring marble lighting by Kristin Victoria Barron, a ceramic piece by Bari Ziperstein, and the Phillips credenza by Egg Collective made of white oak, stone, and brass.
Block Shop, a textile company founded by sisters Lily and Hopie Stockman, also set up an unmissable “reading room” at Sight Unseen Offsite, showing off its latest rugs and pillows, like the hand-dyed and hand-tufted wool weave Phlox rug below.
Circular design on the rise
Ahead of Salone del Mobile 2018, the Milan fair issued a manifesto of sorts calling on designers to embrace the circular economy and innovate on sustainability. Those themes were also palpable at WantedDesign Manhattan, where the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York and Helsinki’s Restaurant Nolla presented the excellent Zero Waste Bistro, an eye-catching pop-up café designed by Linda Bergroth and co-curated by Harri Koskinen.
The draw here wasn’t just the bistro’s social media-friendly interiors (though they were extraordinarily Instagrammable), but also its serious sustainable design cred: The pop-up restaurant was made entirely of reused materials, including recycled takeout containers (for the walls and archways) and granulated post-industrial refuse (for the table and chairs) called Durat. It didn’t hurt, either, that the food served (in tableware by Iittala) was downright delectable.
Another intriguing sustainability initiative comes from womenswear label Eileen Fisher, whose DesignWork project works with artists and makers to felt and stitch used garments into wall hangings, upholstery, pillows, and more.
We’re still trying to make athleisure furniture happen
We loved An Aesthetic Pursuit’s second collection for their home line Pieces. Inspired by sports culture and playing fields, the Court Series pays homage to the lines and shapes of basketball courts, tracks, and tennis courts in a jaunty and graphic collection of dining and coffee tables, rugs, and seating that vibe both the ’70s and ’90s simultaneously. Perhaps it’s finally athleisure furniture’s moment to shine?
Best Memphis throwback: The Camille Walala mural at Industry City
I am legit so excited for this ⚡️Camille Walala building mural⚡️ in Sunset Park. (And it's a permanent thing! Address is 274 36th Street, Brooklyn.) pic.twitter.com/37zwZcV9SX— Kelsey Keith (@kelseykeith) May 17, 2018
Camille Walala is the London-based artist known for her infectious, graphic murals that blend Memphis and Op-Art patterning. Her work was all over New York in May—with the most dramatic impact on Sunset Park, Brooklyn, where she painted a permanent mural on the side of a building located at 274 36th Street. Design
week month may be through, but Walala lives on! Even our critic was charmed.
Most disappointing Memphis throwback: @ettoresottsass feed comes to life
Is cramming stuff into rooms, sans any context beyond a designer’s name, really what original Memphis deserves when presented to the mass public? Raquel’s Dream House may have boasted an impressive array of blue-chip, gallery-loaned furniture in a full SoHo cast iron—but the lack of curation or education around what the designers were up to and why left us feeling like we’d just gorged on empty calories. Just like the first round of Memphis, there’s a time limit to the Postmodern revival—and relying on the same pool of recycled archival images and objects is getting tired, y’all.
Most unexpected installations
The Unconscious Forms collection by John Sorensen-Jolink of @coilanddrift. Presented by @hotelparticuliernyc. Collection of 3 available on Sedition. #newrelease #seditionartist #johnsorensenjolink #unconsciousforms #design #designinspiration #designer #designandperformance #homeunimprov #hotelparticuliernyc #liveperformance #limitededition
It’s not often during NYCxDesign that one finds an opportunity to let out a meditative “ahh.” But in the bustling Soho design district, Brooklyn-based modern dancer-turned-industrial designer John Sorensen-Jolink created an installation for his brand, Coil + Drift, that fused choreographed movement, furniture, and video to contemplative effect.
Presented in collaboration with New York “curatorial agency” Hotel Particulier, the installation, titled Home Unimprov, included three short films by lensmith Charlie Schuck, and real-time dance performance by Marla Phelan and Stephen Xue, who navigated a darkened gallery while interacting with a trio of limited-edition Soren chairs—and each other.
At ICFF, Vipp also surprised. The Danish company’s booth, curated with Harry Nuriev of Crosby Studios, included a scene that was one-part Scandinavian cool, one-part mad scientist, and featured a sleek all-black Vipp kitchen system topped with bubbling beakers and pink-painted flora. The installations at ICFF can be snoozy, but this one woke us right up.
The Wish You Were Here Award goes to...
Roll & Hill, a New York design scene mainstay, manufactures lighting fixtures in Brooklyn and shows in Manhattan. Their Soho showroom on Mercer Street was roiled by a fire on May 3, so the brand is pushing the debut of its 2018 collection—and a collaboration with Alex Proba, engineered by Sight Unseen Offsite—to June.
While Roll & Hill unfortunately had to sit this one out, there was still plenty of marvelous new lighting to ogle. A collaboration between Bec Brittain and John Hogan combines impressive aluminum engineering with ethereal glass prisms. We also loved this alabaster totem from Allied Maker, Workstead’s new Park Collection featuring metal and hand-blown milk glass pieces referencing prewar modernist porcelain fixtures, these hand-stained pendants and sconces from Pelle, and jewelry-inspired designs from Larose Guyon—all spotted at ICFF.
The significance of designing with
I'm so excited to announce WITH, which is a program that will place New York City’s creative disabled talent into the city’s top design studios through a 3-month Fellowship. The goal is to create new pathways into design for disabled people. Check out the link in my profile for more! . . . [The stunning work of art on the right is a collaboration btw @rhartleysmith and @jerronmarcel]
An illuminating talk hosted by Inclusive Collective founder Liz Jackson made the case for designing with, as opposed to merely designing for, people with disability. One memorable example comes by way of the beautiful poster shown below, a collaboration between illustrator Ryan Hartley Smith and dancer Jerron Herman. At the event, Jackson called people with disabilities the “original lifehackers,” and argued that when invited into the room, they’ll create things that are better for everyone.
The best part was that it was not all just talk—the event preceded the launch of the With fellowship, a three-month program that places New York City’s “creative disabled talent into the city’s top design studios.” The application closes July 1 and the fellowship begins September 10.
Handcraft never ceases to impress
Lovers of craft had lots of savor at NYCxDesign this year. Seen above, a new piece from textile artist and designer Hiroko Takeda was a highlight at Colony’s “Balance/Unbalanced” show, which also featured an incredible wallhanging by Grain Design and new quilts from Meg Callahan.
Over at WantedDesign Manhattan, Studio Lani debuted “Talking Stools,” which feature floor mats sculpted into an upholstery fabric. The result is visual lightness meets whimsical charm meets functional seating.
Launching the 'Talking Stools' this year @wanteddesign #wanteddesign. This was an exploration.... to find other functional ways to use floor matts....... [connecting to the larger dialogue on finding possible ways to sustain the 'declining crafts']. I was quite intrigued by the actual material used to make this mats, 'Iran Plant' (the leaf is used to wrap Moi Moi). For the last couple of months, we've been prototyping this seemingly simple stools. Worked with different types of craftsmen. To sculpt the matts, to perform as upholstery fabric. The pieces are meant to convey a certain visual lightness yet function effectively as stools. Thanks to everyone who worked with me on these pieces. (Side note: it's been really nice watching people smile when they realize it's actually a really comfortable stool :) )
At ICFF, we especially liked the stools produced by Calicoon & Company in collaboration with Calla Hynes. The made-to-order stool (or a longer bench) involves twisting recycled fabric scraps from French luxury fashion houses into traditional Moroccan rag cord.
Finally, Brooklyn-based designer Pat Kim unveiled a collection of wood-based sculptural objets that are simple in their silhouettes but moving in their impact. Titled Formations and on display at Still House, the 10 pieces are a return to material and, well, form, comprising ziggurat-inspired shapes, rounded totems, notched geometries, and kinetic sculptures. Kim used a range of materials including vinegar and sumi ink to “shade and shape” the objects, which were made from different types of wood, some of it reclaimed.