NYCxDesign 2017: Highlights and the trends to watch

Like New York Design “Weeks” past, this year’s festival of all things furniture, lighting, art, and objects spanned a length of time longer than a mere seven days. But few expected to ping between events, installations, openings, and parties for what was essentially a full month.

With such a wealth to see, Curbed editors divided and conquered, taking in the major shows (we’re lookin’ at you, Collective Design Fair and ICFF) and heading to the best satellite exhibitions, including Sight Unseen OFFSITE and ace shows at Colony and more.

Below, highlights from what we saw all month long—from the futuristic and outlandish to the minimalist and refined—as well as design trends to watch as 2017 rolls on.

Satellite exhibitions and installations stole the show

Yes: ICFF, by and large, is still the center of all things Design Week. But this year, as in past ones, satellite shows offered the most frisson.

At the top of the month, Collective Design Fair turned its spotlight on works by the likes of Rockwell Group (who created a cave-like pavilion hung with reflective streamers for the entrance), Apparatus Studio (whose lacquered-wood tables practically called out to be Instagrammed), and 3D-printing brand OTHR, which asked architect Annabelle Selldorf, interior designer India Mahdavi, Felix Burrichter of PIN-UP magazine, and more to nominate emerging talent—like Egg Collective and Chen Chen & Kai Williams—to design next-level 3D-printed objects.

Chamber_David_Brandon_Geeting_installation_4_6

Chamber’s “Room With Its Own Rules” show also impressed. There, 21 designers—all women—went toe-to-toe with notions of domesticity and power in a series of works of sculpture, photorealistic painting, seating, and more curated by Matylda Krzykowski. I was especially awed by Johanna Grawunder’s outsized Pussy Grabs Back—a lighted work in powder-coated-aluminum with fluorescent tube lights in three shades of pink—and Falling Rock, by Buro Belén, with contrasting textures of velvet and stone, also rendered in a dusty pink du jour.

There were also great pop-up shows. At Wanted Design, Dutch designers took over a room at the show for “Human Nature,” an installation of work by 17 designers, curated by Margriet Vollenburg for Ventura New York. Across town, Stockholm-based furniture company Hem, commissioned the ubiquitous Philippe Malouin on a series of experimental “screens,” which divided an high-ceilinged event space in WeWork’s Bryant Park location in Manhattan. There, ornate coffered ceilings and molded walls met Malouin’s improvisational room dividers, rendered from cinderblocks and polystyrene packing peanuts, among other workaday materials. The contrast was as intriguing as the components were simple. —Asad Syrkett
Sight Unseen founders Monica Khemsurov and Jill Singer have, in turn, predicted and promoted the unicorn palette so prevalent in today’s design and art worlds—color-blocking, iridescence, pastels rendered in velvet, they’ve covered it all. For their signature May show, Sight Unseen OFFSITE, Khemsurov and Singer advised exhibitors on a harmonious palette that’s looking a little more sophisticated than years past: duskier pink, mossy green, deep navy, and muted purple. —Kelsey Keith

Carved-alabaster totem light by Allied Maker at Colony Kelsey Keith
It wouldn’t be design week without a few moments of heart-stopping beauty. Mine came on the last night of a grueling schedule, just before speaking at Colony’s closing reception. Long Island-based Allied Maker knocked it out of the ever-loving park with a totem made from carved alabaster. That is absolutely as decadent and jaw-dropping as it sounds, and it’s like a lamp version of Yale’s Beinecke Library. Consider me in love. —KK

Tech and design: Still bosom buds

Virtual reality: Everybody’s doin’ it. From Ikea to brokerages across the U.S., VR tech is slowly infiltrating the mainstream. The worlds of design and architecture are jumping into the fray, too, as evidenced by thought-provoking uses of the technology during NYCxDesign.

A “‘70s chic” room by Tom Hancocks and Twyla, with direction by Jill Singer and Monica Khemsurov of Sight Unseen. Rendering courtesy Twyla
At Sight Unseen OFFSITE, online art-buying platform Twyla worked with designer and art director Tom Hancocks and Sight Unseen to create seven VR rooms embodying today’s trends in interiors (hello “’70s Chic” and “Muted Scandinavian Pastels”). It’s one thing to know what the trends are—and maybe have a vague sense of what they look like—but it’s another to be able to experience them in such an immediately immersive way.

And at The Future Perfect, owner David Alhadeff used a trio of VR headsets to transport visitors from his NoHo space to Casa Perfect, the gallery’s drop-dead gorgeous L.A. outpost in the Hollywood Hills. Browsers ogling work by glass designer John Hogan—who showed a glass-top table balancing on a silvered-glass base reminiscent of a clutch of eggs—could see the work IRL and as it appears at Casa Perfect.

“Interactive” design can be pretty hit or miss, IMO, but I couldn’t get enough of UM Project’s conductive and kinetic wallpaper installation for Flavorpaper at Collective Design Fair. Is this real life? Is this fantasy? I don’t care, but I could have stayed in that booth for hours. 

Resident
This year I noticed a spate of solid wood side tables that eschew the spindly, delicate proportions found in the midcentury-influenced silhouettes of late. These mini-monoliths are just blocky enough to feel substantial but polished, with nary a sign of rusticity. A special shout-out to Phase Design and Philippe Malouin for Resident. —KK

Tables, chairs, and stools by Rooms, a Tbilisi, Georgia-based design studio whose work is now represented by Manhattan design hub The Future Perfect. Photo courtesy The Future Perfect Speaking of solidity, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Rooms, the Tbilisi, Georgia-based design studio helmed by Nata Janberidze and Keti Toloraia. Their rough-hewn wood chairs, brass-and-metal tables, wallpaper, and lighting were (also) on view at The Future Perfect, and it all had a captivating, elemental beauty. The installation, “Alchemy”—an amalgam of influences from east Asia to Soviet design—was a sight for sore eyes in a month all too often too refined—and too reliant on things trending in Milan and Paris to look a little further east. —AS

Long live print(s)

Two new design mags—August Journal and MOLD—held events this May, and I particularly enjoyed MOLD’s mini-exhibition at Canal Street Market exploring the connection between design and yogurt around the world. (What’s more of a common denominator than food, honestly?) LinYee Yuan commissioned designers from Greece, Jordan, Kenya, Russia, and the U.S. to make bespoke objects that speak to their country’s yogurt-making process, and the results are surprising, quirky, and beautiful. Also straddling the line between quirk and beauty was a print-heavy pop-up engineered by ceramist Helen Levi and pattern designer extraordinaire Ellen Van Dusen.—KK

New design destination

Emerging voices come from diverse backgrounds

Some of the most eye-catching works I caught this year were from designers who got their starts in another field. Consider the atmospheric lighting from Aussie studio Articolo, founded by Nicci Green, a former chef whose first designs were props for styling food. The brand made its U.S. launch at ICFF this year, where I saw and fell in love with the celestial Fizi and Scandi sconces and “Drunken Emerald,” a gorgeously on-trend pendant lamp that’s part of the newly launched Float line.

BKLYN Designs was also where local firm Frederick Tang Architecture showed off its irresistible (read: Highly Instagrammable) first take on furniture featuring pink marble cloud tables and a cactus console. Honorable mentions: An expanded collection from Coil + Drift, founded by dancer-turned-designerJohn Sorensen-Jolink, plus furniture debuts by NFL-player-turned-actor-turned designer Terry Crews, and Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia, both realized by Bernhardt Design. —Jenny Xie

Last but not least, yours truly had the pleasure of moderating a panel about Shaker design influence at the Design Within Reach store in Soho last week. Furnishing Utopia is a collaborative project—14 international design studios and counting—which brings designers to Shaker communities in the Berkshires to study historical objects and translate core Shaker values for a contemporary audience. As an addendum to the project’s second exhibition, we talked about everything from paint colors to cultural appropriation, and honestly I could have listened to the two curators—Lesley Herzberg and Jerry Grant—for hours. (Feel the magic yourself and schedule a trip to Hancock Shaker Village this summer!) —KK

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