ICFF Previews the World Ahead (It’s Better)
The reason we never miss the annual International Contemporary Furniture Fair (aside from springtime in Manhattan) is the window it provides not only into modern design trends but also what those trends tell us about the world in general. This year’s fair was typically upbeat—furniture design always is—but a practiced eye could see in the bright colors and plethora of materials a subtle theme of business NOT as usual. The design industry, like most other industries, is recognizing its role in making the world ahead better than the one we’re living in now, and ICFF offered some intriguing clues as to how that might happen.
O+A’s visiting team this year brought more practiced eyes than usual—Primo and Verda were taking part in a panel discussion, Dani was picking up an award for ARTIS Ventures, and Grace and Annmarie were on hand to scout new products. Among the trends they spotted:
Color! Whether it’s the two years we just spent indoors or the general ugh! of the last four or five, bright hues have an almost emotional impact now—an insistence on joyfulness whatever the surface: a desk and assertively un-matching chair, bookshelves, screens, fuzzy footrests. Black and white seemed the outliers this year. Annmarie noticed many furniture pieces in one solid color or texture. Was it purely aesthetic or a growing recognition that carbon footprints are lower when designers limit the materials they use?
Eco-consciousness ran through the fair as both an undercurrent and proud declaration. In the latter category were compostable storage boxes, basins made from 80% recycled concrete, and in a “Shark Tank” presentation of young designers’ work, furniture and lighting made from the byproducts of other processes—eggshells or cork scraps or old shoes. But even exhibits that didn’t wear eco-awareness on their green sleeves showed evidence of climate-conscious thinking. There was a notable emphasis on packaging this year, flat-pack shipping, minimal-waste delivery—that kind of thing.
And a notable emphasis, too, on versatility, durability—all the “-ilities” that add up to “utility.” Because practical application in a rapidly-changing environment is the baseline requirement of most design now. As Primo said of workplace design in his panel discussion with fellow ICFF Designers of the Year, “We’re going to work part-time from places. I call it ‘super agile.’ You now will pick your house as one of your working areas. Or the coffee shop down the street. Or you may trek all the way into the headquarters. It’s all going to depend on what task and what space facilitates that the best.”
So that was the message from ICFF this year: super agility, but with pops of color!