Part of the appeal of seeing new designs in a festival setting is that it makes it easy to spot bigger trends that provide a sense of where the overall industry might be heading next. Over the past two weeks, New York’s NYCxDesign 2022 festival featured a number of recurring themes that proved design’s greatest minds are definitely aligned on a few ideas.
We walked the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) and WantedDesign Manhattan from end to end, stopped into dozens of showrooms in SoHo and Tribeca and saw everything from a lampshade made out of eggshells to a hug machine designed by a group of students from New York’s School of Visual Arts.
A few particular standouts remain fresh in our minds. Here are four of our favourite NYCxDesign 2022 trends — plus some of the best photos that we snapped along the way.
One way to ensure that a design makes an impact in a crowded trade show: paint it in a bright colour. This strategy is especially effective when adopted by manufacturers in sectors like kitchen and bath that otherwise tend to steer clear of vivid hues.
Granted, an eye-catching design still needs to hold up to closer inspection — and in the case of Nichetto Studio’s upcoming Cube system for Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens, a fun colour combo was just the first of several draws. Displayed in a two-toned pink-red configuration, the system features ridged stainless steel panels that mimic the look of wood slats — adding up to a backyard statement piece that lands somewhere between a log cabin and a Donald Judd sculpture. And since the blocky design is modular, it can be scaled up or down to suit a variety of outdoor settings. It’s set to launch in 2023.
A few booths over, UK concrete basin manufacturer Kast unveiled a playful tapware collection, Alto, available in no less than 28 concrete colourways. (Coordinating metal components are offered in brushed brass, soft black, or soft white metal.) The collection’s trio of offerings includes a monobloc mixer, a three-hole wall-mounted mixer, and a deck-mounted mixer — all featuring circular dials that bear fun resemblance to retro stereo controls.
Design is always a reflection of the moment to some degree, but at ICFF and WantedDesign Manhattan, there were a few products that felt especially plugged into the cultural zeitgeist. As summer blockbusters make their triumphant return to movie theatres, designers are delving into fantasy worlds.
Building upon the ongoing fascination with stories that explore alternate realities (see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Everything, Everywhere, All at Once), lighting studio Juniper Design debuted its new track lighting system, Multiverse. The fixture was presented in a full range of colours presented against backgrounds of various shades and textures — effectively highlighting the system’s ability to thrive in a variety of conditions.
Syncing up just as perfectly with this summer’s upcoming Jurassic World: Dominion, Simon Johns unveiled his Future Fossils collection, which took home an ICFF Editors Award for Best Furniture. Moving away from the woodwork that the Québequois designer is best known for, these new pieces integrate sedimentary rock-esque forms made from gypsum cement and slip-cast stoneware into clean aluminum grids. In his description of the collection, Johns says, “The pieces are really furniture, but also seem like documents, celebrating the traces of something lost.”
Long a hotbed for entrepreneurial designer-makers, New York showcased an especially strong contingent of woodworkers demonstrating the poetic properties of wood.
At ICFF, the fair’s Editors Awards for Best New Designer and Best in Show went to first-time exhibitor Piscina, led by Brooklyn’s Natalie Shook. Her standout piece was the solid wood Ledoux shelving unit, formed from a stack of sinuous shelves that slot into hefty grooves in a wall-mounted column. Developed in collaboration with her husband, architect Wez Rozen, the modular piece is named for French architect Claude Nicolas Ledoux, whose column design for the Royal Saltworks building inspired the design’s boxy backbone. It can be made-to-order at any height, featuring any combination and configuration of 10 sculptural shelf shapes.
Meanwhile, at SoHo design gallery Salon’s exhibition Metamorphosis, Hamilton Holmes displayed the Peacock Table, which turns wood into a canvas for soulful artistic expression. Based on the Hamilton, Ontario-based studio’s Lakeside table and also building upon its previous Oxalino collection, the table’s surface is hand-painted with an oxidizing solution that causes a chemical reaction in the tannin-rich wood. The pattern reflects designer Nicholas Holmes’s deep research into the history of ornament, drawing influence from both the ancient Aztecs and the Byzantine Empire.
Notably, Holmes was just one of several designer-makers courting the commercial and collectible markets simultaneously throughout NYCxDesign 2022 — like Holmes, Anony and Simon Johns also had pieces on display at both WantedDesign Manhattan and Salon. (Anony’s Salon piece, a cloud of ceramic petals lit by LEDs, was created in collaboration with ceramicist Alissa Coe.)
Now a non-profit, NYCxDesign is more focused than ever on growing the city’s design community through outreach initiatives like walking tours and intriguing civic installations.
The most prominent of these was Filter, an installation by CLB Architects commissioned by Design Pavilion. By arranging steel columns in a ring around a tree, the architects created a place of calm refuge in the middle of Times Square. The wood and steel structure was fabricated by the Wyoming industrial manufacturers at Emit, who will give the pavilion a permanent home outside their office after the festival.
Civic engagement was also a big topic over at WantedDesign Manhattan. EcoSolidarity, a special exhibition curated by DesignTO artistic director Deborah Wang, highlighted design solutions to real-world problems. Launched by the European Union National Institutes for Culture, the project drew together nine participating studios from Austria to Slovakia to spotlight eco-friendly materials, thoughtful production techniques, and sensitive approaches to designing cities for everyone.
Among the innovations on display was a mould for casting squat toilets developed by EOOS Next, a social issues-driven offshoot of design studio EOOS. Designed with an integrated trap for redirecting urine to fertilize crops, the mold is currently being tested in a farming community in Nepal.
Another big draw was a site-specific totem-like structure by Bucharest’s Atelier Adhoc Architectura, which collected architectural components (think lockers and a birdhouse) from several of their community-focused projects designed to serve those without fixed homes. Given the urgency of the issues it explores, it’s no surprise that EcoSolidarity took home the ICFF Editors Award for Best Booth.
For more NYCxDesign coverage, revisit our preview blog highlighting other festival launches by Lambert & Fils, Bernhardt Design, Mohawk Group and Stellar Works.
We’re back from New York’s annual design festival and recapping the best of ICFF and WantedDesign Manhattan.