New York Design Week—programmed as NYCxDesign—is an annual festival that permeates every corner of the city. While established manufacturers debut new products, independent studios and grassroot collectives mount thematic exhibitions exploring themes as varied as adhocism and identity. This year across these different offerings, a sense of playfulness and irreverence anchored in demonstration of high skill and the use of quality materials abounded. The furniture, lighting, and accessories on view ranged from one-off collectible pieces and conceptual proposals to mass-produced wares for the contract market. Held from May 15 through 25, NYCxDesign 2023 followed April’s Milan Design Week—the largest and most prestigious event of its kind—but matched it with a new level of esteem and excellence. Below is RECORD's selection of standout design showcases and product launches.
ICFF and WantedDesign Manhattan
Photo © Jenna Bascom Photography
At the core of New York Design Week is the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), which for the past few years has been paired with former offsite fair WantedDesign Manhattan at the Javits Center. Held from May 21 to 23, this year’s edition featured hundreds of exhibitors, including a slew of independent studios hailing from across North America. Returning to its pre-pandemic size and timing, the fair featured a number of dynamic, color-coding break-out spaces conceived by interior designer Rodolfo Agrella and sponsored by the likes of Material Bank, heritage French furniture producer Ligne Roset, and Chicago-based acoustics innovator Turf Design.
This year, ICFF’s prestigious Designer of the Year Award was bestowed to Morris Adjmi, founder and principal of the New York–based multidisciplinary design studio Morris Adjmi Architects, in recognition of his dedication to “understanding the history and complex forces that shape cities to create buildings that are contextual but unmistakably contemporary.” In addition to the Designer of the Year Award, other major accolades announced during the run of the fair were the ICFF Interior Awards and ICFF Editors Awards.
Highlights from ICFF and WantedDesign Manhattan include:
At the Crossroads of American Design
Photo © Jenna Bascom Photography
At ICFF and WantedDesign Manhattan, the dynamic output of 17 American designers who came onto the scene over the past decade was on display in a special showcase pavilion entitled At the Crossroads of American Design: Celebrating the Established and the Emerging. Staged at the center of the fair in a space decorated with atmospheric wallcoverings by Drop it Modern, the group show brought together era-defining designs by the likes of Brooklyn’s Fort Standard, New Orleans-based heavyweight Bradley Bowers, and established Chicago practice Norman Teague Design Studio. Curated by architect David Rockwell and editor Pei-Ru Keh, the presentation extrapolated on two pillars of American culture: the great outdoors and the homestead. The immersive environment revealed a diversity of styles and approaches while highlighting the value of collaboration.
Knitty Lounge Chair by Nika Zupanc for Moooi
Photo courtesy Moooi
Maverick Dutch furniture, lighting, and textile brand Moooi debuted Slovenian powerhouse Nika Zupanc’s Knitty Lounge Chair at ICFF. Hued in striking pastels, the new chunky weave design plays on the furniture industry’s growing proclivity for deeply textured fabrics. The “oversized yarn” used to form the furnishings takes on a neotenic quality while offering comfort and support.
Tall Cassette Folding Screen by Dumais Made
Photo courtesy Dumais Made
Making the leap from experimental concept ideation to marketable product engineering remains one of the design industry’s biggest challenges. Bridging that gap successfully is Connecticut-based ceramic practice Dumais Made, making its return at WantedDesign Manhattan. Among a collection of deeply striated and gridded lamps, stools, and tables, is the Tall Cassette Folding Screen. The architectonic design was developed as an ode to Anni Albers’s tactile tapestries and Josef Albers’s tessellating fireplaces (both long-time Connecticut residents).
Default collection by Jialun Xiong
Photos by Ye Rin Mok (1), Jialun Xiong (2)
Los Angeles-based up-and-comer Jialun Xiong debuted her new minimalist Default tableware and lamp collection as part of WantedDesign Manhattan. Glazed ceramics are emblazoned with technique-defying lines and dots for the Symmetry line while the Half Lamp fixtures, inspired by the different phases of the moon, play on the formal qualities and functional modalities of clean geometric shapes. In keeping with her pared-back aesthetic, both offerings are rendered in moody grays, blacks, and whites.
Swell by Anna Dawson for Heller
Photos courtesy Heller
Long-time accessible accessories and furniture innovator Heller took WantedDesign Manhattan by storm with the debut of Anna Dawson’s surf-inspired Swell coat hanger. The first product developed by the recent Rhode Island School of Design graduate takes on a sculptural quality as it accommodates the shifting needs of our increasingly fluid domestic spaces.
Sight Unseen Collection at Voltz Clarke
Photo by Sean Davidson, courtesy Voltz Clarke
Outside of ICFF and WantedDesign, New York Design Week encompassed a raft of special displays at individual brand showrooms, installations, and a number of group shows that further demonstrated the collaborative nature of American design. Leading the charge was independent platform and incubator Sight Unseen, which remains a major voice in the emergence of the Brooklyn-based maker movement and the subsequent post-2008 recession evolution of self-producers. The Sight Unseen Collection paired works by 23 contemporary talents with works by French painter Heather Chontos. Presented at Lower East Side gallery Voltz Clarke, the comprehensive showcase incorporated works by recently established studios like Alexis & Ginger and Astraeus Clarke alongside the more established JUMBO and Laun.
The Next Generation of Modern | Heller at Heller Gallery
Photos by Studio Caribe, courtesy Heller
In addition to its showing at WantedDesign Manhattan, Heller also called on New York-based Venezuelan designer and architect Rodolfo Agrella to mount an immersive showcase entitled The Next Generation of Modern highlighting new releases and relaunches of its highly sought-after plastic chair designs developed by Massimo and Lella Vignelli, William Sawaya, and others. The mirrored display took over the aptly named Heller Gallery, a leading (and unrelated) New York purveyor of collectible glass art and design.
Make Do | Marta and Catalog Sale
Photo by Jason Lê, courtesy Marta
In response to mounting global challenges, young designers are becoming increasingly shrewd in how they develop new concepts. Adhocism—or pulling found materials together—is often joined by modularity and a DIY approach that turns a consumer into a designer. L.A.-based collectible design gallery Marta teamed with recently established New York auction house Catalog Sale to highlight this trend in an exhibition titled Make Do. The creators—including Chen Chen and Kai Williams, Minjae Kim, and Kirsten Wentreck and Andrew Zebulon—were asked to take an improvisational approach to the crafting of one-off concept chairs. They were given a strict schedule of three days to identify and gather material; design and plan; craft and assemble. The ad-hoc results were staged by rising New York design star Cat Snodgrass in a repurposed Chinatown bank alongside historical pieces from Marta gallery founder Avi Kovacevich’s Ebullient collection.
Sieni by Michael Yarinsky for Made by Choice
Photos courtesy Made by Choice
Presented at the Residence of the Finnish Consulate for one night only on May 22, Helsinki-based furniture producer Made by Choice debuted two new collections conceived by Michael Yarinsky, interdisciplinary designer and founder of Brooklyn-based Office of Tangible Space, and artist Matthew Day Jackson. The former’s Sieni collection further hints at a push toward flexible furniture that can facilitate different uses. Modular in nature, the series features forms that resemble fungal structures: stems, hypha, caps, and gills. The name Sieni itself is Finnish for mushroom.