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ICFF 2003
A review of the 2003 design fair in New York City

By Aylin Sayek

For the 15th time, Jacobs K Javits Convention Center welcomed design fans with all the necessary ingredients: great design, drinks, education and a little shopping (Butter had a vending machine at the bookstore). With all those seminars and offsite events competing for attention during the four-day fair, everyone did their best to be everywhere.

This year, we noticed an emphasis on designs that are affordable and approachable. In particular there were many instances of furniture designed to ship flat, with assembly done on-site by the consumer. In general, these designs were clean and clear, with an honest display of connections, and materials. Manufacturers seem to be paying particular attention to maximizing efficiency in the production, storage, shipping and selection of their wares. This trend mirrors overall directions in marketing and design, reacting to consumers' desire for simplicity, sincerity and transparency in products and services. Some of our favorite items are highlighted below.


Knocked Us Down
A brand new company debuting their entire self in ICFF was Material Furniture (http://www.materialfurniture.com). Designer Christopher Douglas wants us to flatten our furniture and tuck it in the closet--taking itout whenever we need it. His line of collapsible furniture, the Knock-Down / Drag-Out line, includes tables, a chair and a screen. These temporary furniture pieces look just as well as permanent ones. The table with the slot-together design seats up to eight, in case of a dinner emergency. The Knock-Down/Drag-Out Jr. is the coffee version of the clever dining table. The Flipper screen has circular cutouts, which can be locked horizontally to serve as shelves, or closed for more privacy. Coming soon: the Knock-Down/Drag-Out bed.


Fold along the dotted lines
This year's furniture awardwent to Bludot (http://www.bludot.com), the Minnesota designers who vowed to bring us “design that we could actually afford.” Their clearly functional and elegantly modern furniture collection includes the smart 2d:3d line. “From flat to fabulous in no time,” the sheets of metal fold into magazine racks, CD holders, coat racks and trays. The metal origami line ships flat in the award-winning packaging, and you do the assembly. Bludot also showed their Eames-like Buttercup chair, due August, with all the design stages from the form model to the prototype. Utility, affordability and modernity, all in a blu package.


Flippity Flip
In the midst of changeable furniture, one student’s chair caught our instant attention. Art Center (www.artcenter.edu/furniture) student Shawn-Ian Bruce says his Flip chair has multiple personality disorder. Flip it and it becomes a lounge chair, flip it again and it becomes a magazine rack. Flip can become five different pieces of furniture with this one simple action.

Other young designers from Art Center were also having fun with design. Sun Han’s Fun seating, a two-seater which seats four when the cushions are separated, offers a “rocking and swiveling” experience.


Their name was Lolah
Last year, Lolah (http://www.lolah.com) stole our hearts with the Swell table, Cache bench and all those yacht-inspired designs. This year, once again, it was all about water. We loved their water coolers and Glide chair. The Tower water dispenser and Spout water pump cover the ubiquitous yet ugly office water coolers, and brings great design to our daily lives. Glide chair, with its comfortable and smooth motions, took us away from the noisy fair ground to a serene summer day on the porch. The yaghting reference? The white seat is made of fiberglass, supported by a nautical cord.


Let’s have a little bit of nuf…
Nuf’s Grid modular table system consists of identical folded aluminum sheets, where the user assembles the pieces together to make a coffee table or other configurations. The pieces come in four colors: red, yellow, beige and white, giving freedom to create one's own custom Grid table. Nuf’s other designs included the organic, flower-like Ori and the bending trash can, Straw. Nuf is “fun” spelled backwards.


Pause for a second
Welcoming our very tired selves at the press center were the canary yellow stools by Designframe (http://www.designframe.com). Probably the simplest designed booth of the ICFF, Designframe presented us with the lightest of all collapsible stools, Pause. Like our other collapsible favorites, Pause also folds up for storage, folds open for action, all in a second. Made entirely of recycled corrugated cardboard, Pause comes in both natural and colors.


Behind the Music
One of the fair's most lyrical chaises came from Ensconce (http://www.ensconcedesign.com), a lighting design company from San Francisco. Designed by Robert Dombarski, the Cello chair wastes no material. The complicated-looking chaise is basically three identical rings, cut from the same piece of wood. The knot-like structure of the chaise joins the cello-shaped pieces and the fabric together in a way such that no hardware is needed.


Change is Good…
Joshua Howe of Parsons School of Design (http://productdesign.parsons.edu) makes us think we’re all lighting designers with his Onute lighting system, comprised of “nutes” that can be rearranged easily. These individual light sources with magnetic bases float over wall studs or a metal rod, at your desire. Another young Parsons designer who lets the user play and change their furniture is Sara Michael Miller. “reForm” is a piece of stretchy material that transforms any object you are bored of seeing, stretching over, covering, and reimagining.

Aylin Sayek is a design writer and regular contributor to Core77.

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