Wall-to-Wall Carpeting Is Back, and Other Surprises from ICFF
For three days in May, New York City does its best to show up and show out for design. While there are events all over the city for Design Week, one of the main draws is ICFF, a massive furniture and design trade show held in the cavernous sprawl of the Javits Center. In addition to the general exhibitors, the Javits Center was also the site of WantedDesign’s showcase and The Crossroads, which featured up and coming designers, student work, and some of the more exciting projects I saw.
But before throwing myself into the fray at the Javits, I stopped at Artemest Galleria in Chelsea to see an entirely unexpected installation by Dimorestudio. Join me on my journey.
A little taste of Italy (and wall to wall carpeting) comes to Chelsea
Generally speaking, most galleries are blank white cubes, essentially meant to serve as open air vitrines for the work within. At Artemest Galleria in Chelsea, Milan’s Dimorestudio transformed the space into something warm, inviting, moody, and sensual—the lobby of an improbable, erotic office building or a would-be lothario’s penthouse suite. Emiliano Salci and Britt Moran took inspiration from movies The Apartment and, somewhat surprisingly, Nine to Five—two particular examples of the American office aesthetic, seen here with a decidedly Italian twist. (That Nine to Five is ultimately a second-wave feminist revenge fantasy about sexual harassment and male chauvinist pigs tracks with the general mood set by Dimore’s interpretation of an American office.)
The furniture itself was breathtaking, but the most arresting piece in this installation was carpet—not a tasteful flokati here and there—but wall-to-wall, like your grandparent’s rec room, covering the entire gallery floor. Designed by Pierre Frey, the carpet was meant to evoke a timeworn surface, and to me, it looked like a forest floor.
A standout at Artemest was the lighting. Consider the Pizzo floor lamp, a lacquered wood pole festooned with rotating brass arms and bulbs covered with floaty lace lampshades. Perched in the window, atop a platform covered in low-pile magenta carpet, the lamp caught my attention in a way that most lighting does not; playful and elegant and a little bit naughty, the Pizzo anchors itself in the space like a stripper pole—secured to the floor and the ceiling like a tension rod.
What's not to love about a lighting option that feels a little dangerous? I was assured that the structural integrity of this dramatic floor lamp was such that it would not cause bodily harm, but the tension inherent in the piece made it that much more alluring.
Before making my way out of what was essentially the most sensual office space I'd ever been in, I took one last moment of appreciation for the huge lacquered screen that, if you were creative, could be used as a room divider, a maximalist storage unit, or a very luxe headboard, depending on your vision.
Chairs of distinction and other curiosities at ICFF and WantedDesign
The Javits Center was a brisk change of pace from the hushed quiet of Artemest Galleria, but armed with a plan and a list, I breezed through the aisles, stopping at whatever caught my fancy.
Zieta Studio, based in Poland, featured donut-shaped, iridescent metal mirrors and organic, blobby chairs and stools that are made of steel and hold their shape via forced air. (Each piece has a valve on the underside, like a pool float.)
Before making my way to The Crossroads, an immersive installation of new design organized by David Rockwell and curated by Pei-Ru Keh I was enticed by the mustard yellow Ligne Roset lounge, which featured a swath of the company’s iconic Togo sofas for weary fairgoers to rest. Having only heard of the Togo’s legacy, but never actually had the opportunity to sit in one myself, I took advantage and found myself pleasantly ensconced in the firm embrace of a legendary sofa.
The Javits Center doesn’t quite lend itself to architectural innovations in the trade show booth space, but The Crossroads felt like a distinct set piece within the dreary confines of the Javits.
Invigorated as I was by my restful time in the Togo, I trotted through the installation and found myself transfixed by a chair designed by Liam Lee. Constructed of hand-felted merino wool on a poplar frame, the piece looked like coral or the throne for an otherworldly being. In short, I found it to be so compelling that I returned to look at it multiple times.
Furniture should be interesting! It should feel slightly dangerous, but most importantly, there should be an element of the unexpected. Lee's work made me think about what a chair is, what it should be, and the possibilities for what it could be, and what else can you ask for from good design?
Understated lounge chairs at Forces at Play
Though I understand that the point of carpet in a situation like a trade show is to define the space of a booth, I maintain that the preponderance of textiles that would otherwise be considered wall to wall means that this finish is coming back with full force.
That aside is relevant to Forces at Play, a design collective composed of Hines Fischer, Ruoxi Wang, and Chuan Wang. These three friends have a vast amount of experience designing for the hospitality space; their debut collection is a tight edit of just five pieces, including a bench, a coffee table, and a wall mirror. But the standout for me was the Tortoise chair, a soft and welcoming blob. Sitting in it was like sinking into a cloud.
The future of sustainable furniture is… compostable?
Fast fashion is bad for reasons we don't need to enumerate, and fast furniture, more so—that's why this chair from Samindaman, who showed his work as part of RISD's group show, "Rewilded Domesticity," at WantedDesign, is so exciting. Made of postconsumer paper pulp, corn starch, and woven cotton, the piece was surprisingly sturdy but also light: I was able to hoist the work high into the air with one hand. Sitting in the chair, I imagined a near future where we could actually dispose of old sofas and the like in a way that wasn't filling landfills and felt something akin to hope for the future.
Bucking trends as both concept and practice with Nteje Studios
If there's a single trend to be plucked from WantedDesign, it's largely the absence of anything outwardly trendy—nary a checkerboard pattern or anything overtly neotenic in sight. Case in point? Nteje Studio's Ozo chair, a true labor of love, conceived by Myles Igweuike. The chair’s name is a phrase that denotes a high rank in Nigeria's Igbo culture; Igweuike told me that he's next in line for a chieftancy after his father and his grandfather, and this chair is a tribute to that waiting process. I appreciate the story behind the piece as well as the piece itself, which was handmade in Nigeria over six months and is truly special.
Lights! Rugs! And a chair to win them all
I find it hard to resist the siren call of a well-designed light, especially if it’s curvy, loopy, and features a neon tube. D'Armes, a design studio out of Canada, showed some lighting that scratched all of my specific itches, including the Ra wall sconce, which looks like neon but is actually an LED tube that's been bent.
Other items of note at WantedDesign included an intricately constructed tableau from NJ Roseti, featuring a lamp and a chair made of pieces of wood veneer. The color itself is arresting, but the construction deserves closer consideration. (Please note the lush, Cookie Monster–adjacent carpet that, again, speaks to wall-to-wall's resurgence.)
Another innovation in the carpeting space came out of Fefostudio, a ceramics, textile, and tableware practice run by Argentinian artist Fernando Aciar. Aciar’s ceramics work is characterized by organic shapes and glazes, and his foray into rugs is reflective of his particular point of view. Done in collaboration with Déjate Querer, a design studio based in Mexico City, Fefostudio's new rugs are felt masterpieces in soft and curving shapes, topped with felted wool that's reminiscent of topographical drawings or whimsical fantasy islands as drawn by children.
But of all the items I touched or sat on at ICFF, the piece that took me by real surprise was the Amadeus Chair by Wang Yichu, shown as part of WantedDesgn's Launchpad presentation. Wang told me that the chair's design was inspired by Mozart, and even though it's made of a material you'd expect to see in an HVAC system or extending out of the wall of a factory, there's something regal about the chair's lines.
No one would expect a chair made to look like a child's drawing of a robot to feel like anything other than a difficult piece of art, but Wang innately understood what makes good design—the element of surprise.
Check out the rest of our NYCxDesign coverage:
From Shaggy Rugs to Breccia Stone Tables, Here’s What I Saw in an Afternoon of NYCxDesign
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