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Lithuanian artist Benediktas Gylys opened a portal between New York and Dublin this month, using cameras to broadcast the two cities to one another on large circular screens. While well-publicized incidents of public nudity and other misbehaviour put the high-profile project on temporary hold for several days, it eventually reopened with more limited hours. The first time I visited 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue after arriving in town for the 2024 editions of design festivals NYCxDesign and ICFF, the screen was black except for a small line of text: “Portal is asleep — back up soon.” New York may be the city that never sleeps, but design week can be pretty tiring. Even portals need a nap sometimes.

A view of a steel-framed glowing circular black screen with text in the centre saying "Portal is asleep — back up soon." Part of a recap of the best NYCxDesign 2024 and ICFF 2024 designs.
A view of a steel-framed glowing circular screen installed on a New York street. A man standing in front of it makes a heart shape with his hands while a woman next to him waves. Part of a recap of ICFF 2024 and NYCxDesign 2024.

When I returned on Tuesday morning, things were back in action. While essentially just a giant webcam, the installation had definite charm. People in Dublin waved, people in New York made hearts with their hands, dogs on both sides wagged their tails, and it suddenly felt like a small world after all. But even while experiencing these moments of connection with Dubliners, you hardly felt like you were there. As the pandemic and too many years of virtual events have taught us, it’s one thing to look into a portal, but it’s another thing entirely to actually enter it.

How rewarding, then, that so many of the designers working across New York Design Week’s various events had built immersive worlds for visitors to get truly lost inside. Here’s our recap of our time at ICFF and NYCxDesign 2024.

A room draped in pink curtains displays several new lighting designs by Lee Broom, including a large crown-like chandelier and two pendants hanging from leather straps. A marble table at the centre of the room holds candlesticks and an hourglass. Part of a recap of the best new product launches and designs at NYCxDesign 2024.
The Alchemist collection by Lee Broom, presented in the brand’s Tribeca penthouse
Friday: Dramatic Destinations and a New Little Italy

Lee Broom kicked things off with a tour of his penthouse showroom in Tribeca. Building on the mystical theme of his previous, spirituality-focused collection, Broom debuted The Alchemist, a new series of lights inspired by Paulo Coelho’s book about a young shepherd who goes off in search of treasure. References to elements of the book — as well as to other literary figures like King Arthur, the Gemini twins Castor and Pollux — shape the collection’s enchanting range of pendants, sconces and chandeliers. The room they were presented in skewed appropriately philosophical as well, draped with pink curtains and accented by candlesticks covered in wax drippings and antique globes and hourglasses.

Inside Quarters, a new showroom and event venue launched during NYCxDesign and ICFF 2024 by In Common With, features burled wood bar at the back of a room with hanging red glass pendants above a series of cocktail tables.
Quarters, a hybrid showroom-event-venue by In Common With

Also in Tribeca, In Common With — the Brooklyn studio best known for its whimsical lighting — unveiled Quarters, a hybrid showroom-slash-event venue executed in the style of an enchanted salon, rich with sumptuous textures and elaborate floral arrangements. In true Narnia fashion, this magical destination was tucked behind a nondescript gateway: a graffitied doorway in TriBeCa. Later that night, design studio Apparatus reimagined its showroom as “The Red Room” —  a sultry pop-up that showcased a new lighting collection, Cylinder, alongside bowls filled with licorice and red foil-wrapped chocolates. The dress code for the opening party (attendees were required to wear only black, white or red) added to the ambiance.

A group of people stand in front of a wall wallpapered with a pastoral landscape pattern. Part of a recap of NYCxDesign and ICFF 2024.
Memoir, designed by Jean Pelle for Calico Wallpaper

But one of the most evocative settings I visited during Friday night’s Mercer Street Block Party was also one of the simplest to construct. At the showroom that StellarWorks shares with Calico Wallpaper, the wallcovering brand debuted a pastoral pattern designed by Jean Pelle of Brooklyn studio Pelle. Depicting a field of flowers inspired by her father’s old photographs of her childhood in South Korea, the design’s expressive brushstrokes offered the feeling of life inside a landscape painting.

Two blue armchairs with large cushions sit in the corner of the Poltrona Frau showroom on Madison Avenue. Part of a recap of NYCxDesign and ICFF 2024.
Faye Toogood’s Squash collection at the opening of Poltrona Frau’s Madison Avenue showroom

Other showrooms functioned as international embassies. On Friday night, Irish brand Orior offered a taste of its homeland at its Soho showroom with a night of Guinness and oysters, which complemented the showroom’s array of pearly Bocci pendants. Uptown, big Italian brands staged a recap of Milan Design Week for anyone who couldn’t make it to Italy in April (or just wanted to relive some of the magic). Poliform welcomed its first outdoor collection stateside, while Poltrona Frau outfitted its brand new Madison Avenue flagship with Faye Toogood’s newly unveiled Squash collection. To mark the store’s official opening on Friday night, the brand also debuted a special “boutique edition” of its Leplì stool, reimagined in hand-woven wicker and limited to an edition of 50. Neighbours like B&B Italia, Kartell and Natuzzi held big Friday night parties of their own, cementing Madison Avenue’s status as the city’s new “Little Italy” of design.

A man in a white shirt browses a book display in an all-blue area. A red stage area is in the background. Part of a recap of the best designs and new product launches at ICFF 2024.
The main stage area at ICFF (left) and Phaidon library, both designed by Rodolfo Agrella.
Sunday: ICFF Continues Its Creative Rebirth

At the Javits Centre, ICFF exhibitors continued the emphasis on transportive environments. Building on last year’s successful look and feel, the show’s main feature areas went bold on colour. The stage was an attention-grabbing red, a soothing green “Oasis” lounge was enclosed by Greenmood’s reindeer moss panels and featured EQ3 seating, and another lounge area staged in partnership with Lumens mixed black sofas with burled wood coffee tables to evoke a debonair New York cocktail lounge. RADS, the studio led by Rodolfo Agrella, designed all three of these areas (not to mention several others), giving each zone its own mood but also creating a sense of cohesion between them that added to ICFF’s overall (newly refreshed) identity. Easy to spot from a distance, the show’s various colour-coded destinations also made for great wayfinding landmarks while navigating the floor plan.

Two wooden chairs and a curved stainless steel screen sit on a speckled rug. Part of a recap of the best designs and new product launches at ICFF 2024.
A vignette in ICFF’s feature exhibition The Crossroads featuring a rug by Liora Manné and furniture by Office of Tangible Space.

Adding to the strong visual impact was The Crossroads, a special exhibition jointly curated by ICFF, Rockwell Group and design editor Pei-Ru Keh that returned for its second year. Envisioned as the gateway between the main floor area (which showcases larger design brands) and WantedDesign (which focuses on emerging designers and smaller designer-maker studios), the show explored contemporary American design — from revived craft traditions to innovative sustainability efforts. Setting the backdrop to this year’s presentation was Superbloom, a vibrant, almost Wizard of Oz-like acoustic wall covering from designer Liora Manné’s Lamontage line made from partially recycled polyester fibers that are needle-punched together into a low-profile surface. Nearby, Manné’s new RE series of rugs made from 94 per cent recycled material grounded a vignette of aluminum furnishings from Office of Tangible Space and a mycelium floor lamp by MushLume Lighting. The overall effect was of a kind of design road trip, moving from the rugged ranch-like scenery of the American midwest to the sleek industrial stylings of the country’s metropolises.

A woman stands in a room below a trio of circular lights. The walls are covered in acoustic tiles by Turf. Some areas are pink and yellow and feature stripes, while one area recreates the look of a mountain range. Part of a recap of the best designs and new product launches at ICFF 2024.
A corner of Turf’s acoustically buffered hideout next to the main stage.

ICFF’s inspiring visual direction also spilled over to its exhibitor booths, with paper partition maker Molo, acoustic panel brand Turf and bathroom fixture manufacturer Grohe contributing three of the most captivating displays. Each one staged its own form of refuge within the busy fair environment. Molo’s snaking walls — some golden brown, others pastel pink — formed a labyrinthine passageway that led to an intimate inner sanctum. Meanwhile, Turf’s impressively quiet hideout successfully muted the loud activity surrounding it — a feat made all the more impressive by the fact that it was stationed right next to the main stage. And Grohe’s all-blue “Water Studio” took inspiration from nature with a calming fountain feature, which complemented a water bottle refill station showcasing the brand’s Grohe Blue tap, which can alternate between filtered and sparkling water.

People cluster around two sofas displayed on a white floor at a trade show. A group of glass side tables in blue, orange and green sit in the foreground. Part of a recap of the best designs and new product launches at ICFF 2024.
New introductions from Bernhardt Design included the Friends sofa by Luca Nichetto and Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance and the Ice tables by Daniel Germani.
+ Plenty of Product Launches

As many great feature installations as ICFF and NYCxDesign delivered, there was no shortage of product to focus on, either — with launches arriving from both big names and emerging talents alike. At ICFF, Yabu Pushelberg adapted aerial views of earth into a new rug collection with Warp and Weft, Karim Rashid unveiled a new seat with Zachary A. Design, and Luca Nichetto and Noé Duchaufour-Lawrence collaborated on a new sofa system, Friends, with Bernhardt Design. Daniel Germani also worked with Bernhardt Design on Ice, a series of hand-blown side tables. Younger brands were building out their catalogues, too: Cyrc graduated from 3D-printed vases to 3D-printed side tables, while Juntos Projects impressed with its second collection of made-in-Maine maple furniture.

Two men look at a group of curved tubular d'armes lighting designs displayed against a baby blue wall. Part of a recap of the best designs and new product launches at ICFF 2024.
D’armes introduced two new collections: 1979 designed by Will Choui (at left) and Dopplers designed by Florian Martin (at right). Both are shown in “Madonna blue.”

A nice full circle moment came at d’armes, which worked with Montreal designer Will Choui to put the brutalist 1979 lighting designs he had shown in last year’s ICFF Look Book section into production. (A second new collection, Doppler, is designed by Florian Martin, a former d’armes intern.) These success stories give hope to other emerging independent designers exhibiting at ICFF in the hopes of having their designs licensed.

A man sits on a chair at a trade show booth displaying a group of Heller chairs, side tables hung like the basket of monkey toys, and toilet brushes. Part of a recap of the best designs and new product launches at ICFF 2024.
Heller’s playful display (shot pre-opening before the crowds arrived) was packed with new product.

Heller is another manufacturer working to grow its product line with cool concepts from American talent (see also: last year’s Swell catchall, based on a student design first shown in ICFF’s Launch Pad section). This year, they had a bounty of fresh introductions to showcase — including the Fortune chair by Jumbo Studio, a design that Heller CEO John Edelman originally spotted on social media and has now put into production. Other introductions included the SOS stool, a side table with integrated cup holders designed by Josh Owen, and Excalibur, a reissue of a Philippe Stack toilet brush from 1993. Cleverly, the brand’s booth (another Rodolfo Agrella design) was built entirely out of Heller’s own product, with Vignelli benches stacked to create display shelving.

Little Wing Lee with three of the four sconce collections she launched with RBW.
A display of Lee’s research and development process, including a sweet childhood photo.

A final standout came on Monday night at lighting brand RBW, where designer Little Wing Lee (who was previously the director of Atelier Ace, and now leads Studio and Projects) unveiled no less than four new sconce collections. Each one has its own rich backstory — for instance, Cuff borders a glass orb with a sand-casted brass ring inspired by Lee’s mother’s jewellery. Lee documented her research and development process in a series of displays that proved that inspiration for design can come from anywhere — and that the outcomes often encapsulate emotions as much as aesthetic ideas. Sometimes great design is its own kind of portal — warping a simple physical space into somewhere else entirely, and leaving you feeling truly transported.

Click through the recap gallery below for more shots from our tour of the best of ICFF and NYCxDesign 2024.

NYCxDesign and ICFF 2024 Open Portals to New Dimensions

Touring the many transportive environments that immersed and inspired during New York Design Week.

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