Contemporary wood designs highlight Furniture Fair

Everything Michael Robbins designs is handmade in an
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Everything Michael Robbins designs is handmade in an old barn in upstate Germantown. This Taza Lounge Chair ($2,850) is no exception. Available in russet, chestnut or black leather, and bleached ash, walnut or dyed ash, from mchlrbbns.com(Credit: Michael Robbins)

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Trends to watch at this year's International Contemporary Furniture Fair, which opens Saturday, include a return to wood as the material of choice. New technology has allowed wood to be molded, twisted and curved like never before, so extraordinary new shapes are possible.

In contrast to the dramatic new silhouettes, natural wood tones and grains also are popular, bringing a bit of a down-to-earth feeling to otherwise otherworldly pieces.

Additionally, quirky touches will be everywhere, highlighting the individuality designers continue to bring to the fair. From shocking pops of color to clever and unusual prints, designers are taking bigger and more elaborate chances with their lines, and they bring a sense of unabashed whimsy to the show.

Many of the brands showcasing their wares at the international fair are very small, and come to New York City seeking retail and manufacturing partners. Others are established, and attend the fair to show off the newest and most extraordinary pieces in their lines. Prices vary from "surprisingly affordable" to "strictly aspirational," with every permutation in between. Even if you're not there to shop, it's worth going just to meet and talk to the designers and gain insight into the contemporary design process.

Here are a few of this year's standout stars, all of whom will be showing at the fair for the first time.

TREND: NATURAL CURVES

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Natural wood gets bent and twisted into curvy, sexy shapes, and a classic material feels fresh again.

Free Style

Bent ash wood brings a softness to the Freeform Lamp by John Procario at Procario Designs ($1,500; to order, email johnprocario@gmail.com). The upstate Cold Spring designer began his career as a sculptor. Each piece is crafted individually.

Rocker Chic

The high-tech process used to create the swirling style of Wintercheck Factory's #105 Curved Wood Rocker ($2,250;

wintercheckfactory.com) is almost as fascinating as the resulting design. Using a process called Radio Frequency Gluing, maple and birchwood veneers are pressed together over an electrified four-part mold, allowing the adhesive bond to set in minutes. The resulting 34-inch-wide chair, manufactured in Lenoir, North Carolina, features seamless curves. It will be available this summer.

Round Table

Balanced atop its delicate feet, the Darcey Table by Steuart Padwick (from $3,995) looks almost like a dancer standing en pointe. But don't let the sleek lines fool you. This sturdy dining room table, manufactured in Canada by Speke Klein, is made of solid American black walnut and hand-finished with a smooth satin lacquer (other woods and finishes available). The oval table comes either 84 or 94 inches long and is available at steuartpadwick.com

Making Waves

Four undulating birch ply and wood veneer laminations combine to form two intersecting pieces whose curves mirror each other in the Wave Coffee table by Alex MacMaster (about $2,520, including delivery). Manufactured in the United Kingdom, the glass-topped table is available with either an oak or walnut finish from macmasterdesign.com

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TREND: CLEAN LINES

Minimalist contemporary aesthetics blend with midcentury Modern lines, creating quietly powerful pieces that make bold statements without cluttering up living spaces.

Soft Saddle

Everything Michael Robbins designs is handmade in an old barn in upstate Germantown. This Taza Lounge Chair ($2,850) is no exception. Its lines are inspired by midcentury pieces and its seat is made from English bridle leather. It is available from mchlrbbns.com in russet, chestnut or black leather and bleached ash, walnut or dyed ash. Be advised that most pieces are made to order and require an eight- to 12-week lead time.

Hang Time

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Create simple yet striking angles with the Pennant Light by Andrew Neyer ($199-$275). The reasonably priced fixture comes in lengths ranging from 2 feet to 6 feet, and the shape allows for an almost endless array of dramatic heights created by varying the space between the wall mount and canopy. Additionally, the light is designed to function as a basic wall sconce when installed in the level position. It is made of powder-coated steel and oak and available from andrewneyer.com

New Media

Showcase your favorite objects and hide your clutter in the same sleek unit from Wren and Cooper. The Bucks Media Console ($2,950), designed and built in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, is made of maple and walnut with removable handturned legs. Available from wrenandcooper.com

Side Project

A masculine side table that doesn't overwhelm a room is no small feat. But this 18-inch-square Visalia End Table ($2,450) by designer Jerry Nance manages to expertly combine a steel case with tapered wood legs and delicate, handmade hardware, bringing out a vaguely vintage vibe. Nance, who has a degree in architecture, crafts each piece of these tables by hand in Brooklyn. They are available in oiled black walnut with gunmetal steel and bronze hardware, or oiled ash with gray enamel steel and nickel hardware, from jerrynance.com

TREND: EXTRA SPECIAL

Designers are creating unusual, quirky and highly individualistic pieces that represent not only their own creativity, but an increasing desire on the consumer market for home decor that really stands out.

Good on Paper

Wallpaper is becoming extremely popular, and the more unusual the design, the better. This Wundt nonwoven wallpaper by British manufacturer Quirk and Rescue ($152 for a 10-meter roll) is inspired by 19th century optical illusions and digitally printed in the English town of Macclesfield. It is available in four color combinations from quirkandrescue.com

Horn Section

There are lots of ways to brighten up a garden, but few hoses can actually brighten up your day as well. The garden hoses, nozzles and wallmounts from Sweden's Garden Glory (from $199) feature whimsical antlers, bright colors and an element of playfulness rarely seen in outdoor accessories. The wall mounts are made of aluminum, the hoses are made from PVC and are lead- and cadmium-free, and the nozzles are made from plastic or brass, depending on the model. They are available at Gracious Home, 1201 Third Ave., Manhattan, or at gardenglory.se/en

TREND: COOL CONVERTIBLES

Smaller homes often require pieces that can serve more than one function and can be easily rearranged to do that.

Table the Issue

No room for a traditional dining room table? No problem. The Kameleon Table from Nester Furniture (about $2,725) spends most of its life as a 61-by-15-inch console table but can easily expand to three different sizes, the largest of which is a whopping 96-by-42-inch dining table. Nester, based in Canada, allows each customer to choose a style of leg and caster as well as color, and manufactures all its furniture in its Kitchener, Ontario, shop. Available at nesterfurniture.com

Shelf Control

As a family's life changes day to day, so does its need for space and storage. That's where the clever Riveli Shelving System ($150 per shelf) from Chicago-based Lake and Wells comes in. The modular system, designed by Mark Kinsley, is made from recycled aluminum (and can itself be recycled) and features architecture-grade anodizing. It is manufactured in the United States and is available in silver, black, copper and champagne gold. Each shelf front is easily decorated with magnetic artwork or alternate satin finishes; reveli.net

Making Arrangements

Together or separately, the pieces that make up MD MOD's Soft Stone seating ($9,800 for eight) provide ample space for lounging while making a bold visual statement. The pieces can be used as seats, stools or tables, and stacked, grouped or separated in any formation. They are made in San Francisco from steel, foam and upholstery fabric, and available beginning in July from mdmod.com

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