The 24th annual International Contemporary Furniture Fair begins Saturday at Manhattan's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center (11th Avenue at 38th Street), and runs through Tuesday, when it opens to the public. The event is considered North America's most important modern design showcase, with more than 500 exhibitors from around the world on hand this year to showcase their latest wares.
Here are some of the most impressive pieces debuting. All use Earth-conscious elements to create clever, functional and thought-provoking contemporary products.
For photos of all of these items: newsday.com/home-and-garden.
If you're looking to add just a touch of contemporary design to your home, these pieces are small enough to fit almost anywhere and won't break the bank.
Who says contemporary design has to be serious? The Tokyo lamps, new from Milwaukee-based Misewell ($245 and $305), are examples of sweetness paired with usefulness. Misewell uses local materials to create sustainable pieces. The lamp's neck and legs, for example, are made from recycled steel. The shade pivots, and the neck angle can be adjusted to give the lamp whatever stance suits your lighting needs. The lamps take standard 25- to 40-watt frosted bulbs (which are recommended), and available in an 18-by-14- by-11-inch version and a smaller, 13-by-9- by-8-inch version from misewell.com.
Pairing hard lines with natural materials helps soften the coolness of the modern aesthetic. This is certainly the case with the Hitch mirror from Washington state-based Grain ($515). Partners Chelsea Green and James Minola designed the mirror after being inspired by the process of making hang tags. Available from graindesign.com.
The lines of this chair aren't the only clean elements here. In fact, the Broom Chair, new from Emeco ($195), is made from a mix of 75 percent reclaimed polypropylene and 15 percent reclaimed wood fibers salvaged from pre-consumer waste materials taken from plastic and wood factories in the United States. The Philippe Starck-designed chair is stackable and comes in six colors, all but one of which are suitable for outdoor use (keep the orange version inside). Available in June from emeco.net, with other retailers coming this summer.
If you're already sure you love the modern aesthetic, explore it further with one of these pieces, perfect for design enthusiasts with deeper pockets who want to make a statement.
Heart to hold
Sometimes modern design is as much about helping others as it is about being beautiful. The In Vino Vitae wine rack from Huntington-based Akke Functional Art ($6,000) was created for Long Island cancer survivor Erin Zammett-Ruddy, with 100 percent of the profit donated, through Zammett-Ruddy, to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. All the plumbing fittings and oiled wormy maple wood are reclaimed, symbolic of a second chance at life, and the heart-shaped design represents love. The 44-inch-tall piece is available as a custom order from akkefunctionalart.com.
The problem with most bookcases is that they serve only one purpose. Bookseat, from Toronto-based Fishtnk Design Factory ($1,900, with $100 flat-rate shipping), provides seating and storage in one unit. Handcrafted from Canadian maple, all the materials used to create the piece are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council to be environmentally sustainable; everything is sourced and manufactured 100 miles from the Fishtnk studios. From fishtnk.com. Optional cushions are available for $250 (felt) or $450 (leather and foam).
Brooklyn-based designer Susan Woods of Aswoon takes abandoned upholstery springs and turns them into surprisingly comfortable seating. New to her Spring Line recycling are these Spring Dining Chairs ($4,000 each), custom-made by request. Woods' chairs are currently on display at Manhattan's Bergdorf Goodman, in the Seventh Floor Loft, and are available at Bergdorf Goodman, 754 Fifth Ave., 212-872-8977 or through aswoon.com.
Not all the companies showing at the furniture fair are ready to sell their goods in the United States, but if you don't mind waiting a while, or if you want to be certain no one else will have what you've got, check out these designs coming to a store near you ... one day.
Bring a huge and functional piece of nature into your home, office or business with the iTree from KMKG Studio (starting at about $14,200, plus about $1,300 in shipping). These high-end docking stations for iPhones, iPods and other devices are custom-made from your choice of wood, though normally the trunks used to create these masterpieces are between 80 and 150 years old. The speaker system inside is from Trenner & Friedl, and just one iTree produces enough sound to fill a 200-person venue. The iTree is fully customizable, but the fair is currently the only place in the United States to see one in person.
Among this year's fresh crop of emerging talent is Matthew Plumstead, whose Clip Tree (prototype only, price to be announced by manufacturer) valet takes its inspiration from vintage coat stands. The easily and endlessly configurable design features hard rubber components that can be clipped onto notches that run the length of each wooden post, allowing for what the designer himself calls a "way to elegantly frame our possessions." For more information, go to matthewplumstead.com.
Off the hook
Finnish design company Season One felt that most racks were poorly designed, featuring only hooks and pegs, when most towels don't come with loops. That's why designer Ida Jelena Utriainen created the Risto rack (no price yet, not available at market). The head-slappingly simple design uses friction and rubber to hold towels in place, and the surrounding assembly is made from Finnish birch. Information about the line can be found at seasonone.fi.
WHAT The 24th annual International Contemporary Furniture Fair
WHEN | WHERE Opens to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday at Manhattan's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center at 11th Avenue at 38th Street
INFO Tickets for that day are available for $60 through ICFF.com