National and global brands catering to lovers of modern design and contemporary furniture exhibited their hottest wares last month at the 27th annual International Contemporary Furniture Fair. Held annually in New York, the fair is the most important design show in the country, the place where U.S. trends are revealed.
Modern comes in many forms, but here are seven developments to keep in mind:
▪ Retro: Mid-century modern is having a moment, but it’s not all about Mad Men. Americans, it seems, are feeling nostalgic, which may account for the popularity of Edison light bulbs, Mason jars and handlebar mustaches (at least among the hipster set).
Manufacturers are meeting this demand. One Collection has revived the 45 Chair from Danish designer Finn Juhl, and M2L has reissued the discontinued 1972 Deep Tuft sectional sofa from designer Harvey Probber.
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“The real test of great design is time,” says Michael Manes, president of M2L. “Harvey Probber was a true American design icon whose brilliant, modern design spanned four decades and continues to age gracefully today.”
▪ Bold colors: Just because you’re a modernist doesn’t mean your only option is white. Colored chairs from Bernhardt, bold wallcovering from Trove and vibrant lighting from Niche Modern were among the many bright-hued options at the show. Contemporary colored lighting is especially strong.
“I think there are so many architects and designers wanting and searching for good lighting, and they are creating a market, maybe one that didn’t exist before,” says Jeremy Pyles, Niche’s co-founder and creative director.
▪ Multifunctional design: Architects often talk about rooms that accommodate multiple functions, and industrial designers are taking note. Products at the show included Ecotono’s Feeler pendant light with an integrated Bluetooth speaker, Mio Feltforms decorative panels that double as acoustic tiles, and Oso Industries’ concrete Rollerboy rolling table/stool/ottoman.
▪ Wood: Warm and attractive, wood is the preferred material for furniture makers; modern designers are simply playing with new forms. Examples of this strategy include Todd St. John’s Relief credenza, Benjamin Klebba’s Swift chair and Thos. Moser’s Cumberland chair, among many others.
▪ Minimalism: Industrial designer Dieter Rams once said, “Good design is as little design as possible.” Some designers take this literally, introducing products that seem barely designed and barely there. The Zelda 2 pendant from Bec Brittain, for example, is a slim fixture made of brass tubes and thin LED bulbs. Bocci expanded the Series 22 minimalist flush-mount outlets, and Hollis + Morris introduced the ultra-minimalist Bennington pendant.
▪ Geometric forms: Not all modernists prefer straight lines; angles and geometric shapes are trending. At the show, Westkill offered its Drift screen-printed clock, Nanoleaf premiered the Nanoleaf One geometric LED light bulb, and Tagina showed its large-format Details hexagon tiles.
“There’s been a strong return to geometric forms across furniture, lighting, textiles and surfacing, which can also be seen in the new collections from Italian tile companies,” says Armando Cafiero, managing director of Confindustria Ceramica, the trade group representing Italian tile manufacturers. “In particular, hexagons are experiencing a kind of rebirth.”
▪ Industrial chic: Products catering to consumers looking for an authentic industrial vibe have been growing in popularity for years. Sun Valley Bronze showed the solid bronze Pendant Pulley light, THG offered the Beaubourg collection that pays homage to vintage hub-and-pipe system, and Watermark Designs expanded the Elan Vital industrial line for the kitchen.
“We see an interest in more industrial looks and more natural finishes,” says Avi Abel, president of Watermark. “Pieces that are more in tune with the way things were way back when, where simplicity and quality mattered most.”