While sailing the East River one morning, Brooklyn designer Bowen Liu began to think about translating the Hell Gate Bridge’s structural forms into wood. Her solid oak Helle collection, with its robust, angular base, is the outcome. “I started with a dining table, because I love hosting dinners, but my wife and I have a lot of nice ceramics, so a cupboard came next,” says Liu, who won the 2021 ICFF Editors Award for Furniture. By incorporating subtle reveals between the cabinet’s push-to-open doors and drawers, she contrasts the piece’s hefty base with a clean grid of fine lines. “I developed the proportions to create really deep drawers,” she says. “I was thinking of storage for a bamboo steamer and other big kitchen things.”
Even before the pandemic’s stay-at-home orders, Simon Johns found inspiration in his rural Quebec surroundings. “Where I go to get the mail, there’s a cliff with all of these layers peeling away,” he says. After first translating that pattern into a solid ash credenza back in 2017, then a wall-mounted console in 2019, Johns set to work scoring and carving a follow-up dry bar. Completed in early 2020, the piece made its long-awaited debut this past fall. Rather than introducing a base for support, Johns opted to keep the cabinet wall-mounted — which, admittedly, makes installation a bit of a feat. “I wanted its weight to be part of its presence,” he says. “It creates this tension that’s similar to when you’re facing a cliff.”
Eventually, we all become our mothers. For Toronto designer Mary Ratcliffe, that means finally embracing a piece of furniture that was a fixture of her childhood home. “My mom collected candlesticks, so she had all of these cabinets that were rammed full,” she says. “I find furniture’s ability to showcase things like that really special. It adds another layer to a room by creating this whole world inside.” The curio cabinet that Ratcliffe came up with — which, aside from its backboard, is built entirely from solid white oak — boasts a stoic presence softened by elegant details. Curved handles create a surprising sense of depth and intriguing moments of shadow, while the unit’s deep-set legs and rich grain keep it from feeling too monolithic.
At WantedDesign Manhattan, furniture makers displayed a soft spot for stand-alone storage.