New York City’s annual celebration of all things design, NYCxDesign, has officially wrapped for 2019. Over the last month, Curbed editors have been pounding the pavement, scoping out design fairs, exhibitions, installations, and product launches popping up everywhere from bustling Times Square to many a off-the-beaten-path Tribeca gems.
What stood out? What’s trending? What’s next? We’ve reviewed our notes—and our overloaded camera rolls—to bring you this highlight reel. And do stay tuned for more NYCxDesign coverage here in the coming weeks.
I’m sorry to report that ICFF, arguably the anchor of New York’s May design season, did not thrill me in 2019. Contrast the energy-devoid exhibition hall with a district to the south—Tribeca—and you get a whole different perception of NYCxDesign. (I’m curious about the economics; my hunch is that potential exhibitors who are already based in New York are more interested in a sustained investment—i.e., a showroom—rather than the exorbitant cost of showing at Javits for five days. Whereas international companies, particularly upstarts, are looking for the market entrée that a trade show provides.)
Anyway! Tribeca played host to showroom new (Orior) and new-ish (Viso Project), and a refresh of an already excellent hidden space (Arcade Bakery, with updated lighting by its original designers, Workstead, plus wallpaper by Calico Wallpaper). Best in my book was Egg Collective, the three-woman studio founded in 2011 who saved the debut of their brand new space for this week—worth the wait. They designed a complete, new furniture collection in tandem with the interiors (imagined by co-founder Crystal Ellis), and complemented by like-minded work from Callidus Guild (who did all the wall treatments), Hiroko Takeda, and Mimi Jung. —K.K.
Honorable mention: Times Square. Yes, seriously! Everyone’s love-to-hate-it tourist trap hosted an enticing roster of installations as part of the Design Pavilion exhibit, including a tiny house made of sand and recycled glass by Fernando Mastrangelo, a solar decathlon-winning prefab smart home from Virginia Tech, and School of Visual Arts’s “Chairousel,” a refurbished 1960s carousel outfitted with sculptural chairs and topped by one oversized chair—all spectacles befitting of the site. —J.X.
Burgeoning destination: WantedDesign Industry City
Industry City, the former shipping and warehouse complex in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, has been in the midst of redevelopment for years and now it feels like a design destination in its own right. When WantedDesign Brooklyn first appeared in Industry City in 2015, the place was still in its nascent stages. Now, there are a number of shops, restaurants, outdoor spaces, and thriving fabrication shops and design studios in the complex, many of whom exhibited at WantedDesign Brooklyn this year.
Timber, an exhibition guest-curated by Architectural Digest design writer Hannah Martin, included over a dozen pieces from local designers and fabricators, like Ath Studios, Egg Collective, Lindsey Adelman, and more. WantedDesign also convened work from 28 design schools, commissioned an original project from the Campana Brothers, and hosted an interactive clay studio. In years past, Industry City felt like the satellite show to the much more established Wanted Manhattan, but this year the clear center was Brooklyn. —D.B.
Newcomers in the absence of Sight Unseen Offsite
Sight Unseen Offsite has been a reliable source of fresh (and ‘grammable) contemporary design each NYCxDesign. With the show taking a break this time around, what could fill in the gaps? I found some answers at Next Level, the designer-led showcase now in its second year. There, work from more than 35 independent designers are seamlessly installed in a lap around a cavernous NoHo space, making for one satisfying stroll.
And over in Brooklyn, “Inside/Out”, a more focused exhibit curated by Kin & Company and Asa Pingree, challenged the independent design community to create inventive outdoor furniture. More than 20 pieces of varying shapes and colors were scattered across an elevated public green space at the William Vale hotel. Now that’s bringing design to the people! —J.X.
Offices were all work, all fun
Design weeks everywhere are, in part, about voyeuristic pleasure: In Milan, there’s the satisfaction of getting inside the city’s private villas and courtyards. This year, in New York, offices offered a similar frisson. Yes—offices. In the Flatiron District, design studio Pelle hosted an evening celebrating new works of lighting and furniture. Swedish brand Hem showcased a new table by British designer Max Lamb in media agency Chandelier Creative’s NoHo office.
Mainstay Lindsey Adelman expanded her Lafayette Street workshop to include a new showroom filled with handmade lighting and other treasures. And as the month of events wound down, Rapt Studio welcomed guests for a garden party at its New York HQ in an elegant brick townhouse on 20th Street. We’d never been happier to leave our office for another office. —A.S.
For all my Brutalism haters out there: a more digestible take on the divisive, austere gray stuff. Dyed concrete was a big move on the ICFF floor this spring, between two separate concrete basin manufacturers (Kast and Nood Co), plus a tasteful new line of tile by interior designer du jour Sarah Sherman Samuel for Concrete Collaborative. (Also noticed a tendency toward architectural concrete side tables, as spotted at Phase and Crump & Kwash.) I don’t think I’ve ever gotten so many DMs as I did when I posted the Kast concrete sinks on my Instagram. The people demand more! —K.K.
You heard it here first: Screens are trending. We spotted a five-panel room divider in sumptuous planed oak, dubbed Hex Paravent, from Irish furniture brand Orior. Also in Tribeca (see above!), Viso Project collaborators Giancarlo Valle and Andrew Mellone both presented screens as part of their installations in the group show. The Studio Mellone offering, a crimson plaster-on-birch number by artist Rebecca Spivack, had this green-loving editor inspired to check out the other side of the color wheel.
And at a wan ICFF, Molo Design brightened things up by showing an update to its “softwall” partition systems of pleated paper: an aluminum-coated softwall with a subtle, seductive shimmer. —A.S.
In the language of fabrics, “hand” is used to describe how a textile feels against your skin: how smooth, coarse, crisp, rough, bumpy, rigid, stretchy, or slick it is. Throughout NYCxDesign, this quality came to mind not by how a design object felt, but how it looked like it would feel, which often belied the reality, almost like sensory dissonance.
Today, when much of our time is spent tapping and scrolling on glass screens in a virtual world, this hyper-tactile design was irresistibly delicious. Like visual ASMR. It amped up materiality in an almost campy way.
At Object & Thing, a new art and design fair held in Bushwick, founder Abby Banger assembled an impressive roster of work from design’s elder statesmen and emerging talents. These pieces oozed, drooped, blistered, metastasized, and folded. I admired Gaetano Pesce’s resin vases, which looked hard and rigid like stained glass but were actually kind of rubbery with a soft-touch feel. One of Takuro Kuwata’s glazed ceramic objects looked like blood-red blisters ready to burst. Then there were Anton Alvarez’s extruded ceramic totems that still looked as viscous as when the clay emerged from his custom machine. John Zimmerman’s glass vessels looked like inflatables slowly losing air.
At the Tribeca design gallery Colony, founder Jean Lin explored the intersection of art and design in an exhibition called Pas Deux. The Ame/Natural chair from Studio Paolo Ferrari and textile artist Hiroko Takeda riffed on ancient Japanese raincoats made from straw, with long fiber strands growing from the taut beige upholstery.
In Deeper than Text, an exhibition of contemporary works by women presented by the Female Design Council and 1stDibs, curator Lora Appleton included screens (yes, more screens!) by Liz Collins. Made from selvedge loom waste, a byproduct of industrial weaving, the pieces looked like fringe and faux fur. At Jonald Dudd’s group show of conceptual design, designer Ry Deck coated a table and stools in Styrofoam beads; it was an Instagram slime video in furniture form.
And this new tactility wasn’t just in the world of objet d’art and collectors items. At ICFF—known more for commercially oriented products than experimental forays—this sensibility made an appearance in Färg & Blanche’s Melting candle, part of Bernhardt Design’s booth, and Inigo Elizalde’s rugs, inspired by graffiti in Brazil. —D.B.
Design for sale
We’re in an era of shoppable everything—restaurants, hotels, townhouse showrooms. NYCxDesign festivities were no exception. Gorgeous ceramics, homewards, and furniture shown at the Tribeca standout Viso Project were for sale on e-commerce sites like MatchesFashion and Moda Operandi or by inquiry.
Design Within Reach, in collaboration with clothing brand Entireworld, conceived a “Dome Life” pop-up inside its Soho location, featuring three themed geodesic domes decked out in products you can buy from the two brands. Also notable on the shoppable front: The inaugural Object & Thing art and design fair, which featured 200 objects from 32 galleries, came with an online website where you could read more about the works and, yes, buy them. —J.X.