By Terry Trucco
One reason we like hotels is that the best are laboratories for design, jam-packed with decorating ideas you can try at home. So, of course, we love home design shows, and this is one of our favorites (full disclosure: we moderated the show’s New York Times designer seminars, but we’d be fans anyway).
This year’s Architectural Digest Home Design Show spilled into every nook and cranny of New York’s cavernous Pier 94. As always, the DIFFA by Design table settings created by a panoply of design teams were fantasy arrangements at their best.
Though the test kitchen was missing — there were so many product exhibitors the theater areas were smaller than last year – plenty of food samplings played the hall, including a new line of cream-filled do-nuts, baked instead of fried, from Baked by Butterfield that, if not completely guilt-free, offered a appealing alternative.
And if you listened to the weekend’s five design seminars as we did, you’d have learned that a painting or photograph can inspire the look of a room (thank you, Vincente Wolf), you should stick with three colors plus white if choosing colors terrifies you (bravo, Roderick Shade), and that you really can unearth great finds at flea markets and roadside antique stands (example: Darryl Carter’s $50 folk art horse).
What drives the show is the chance to see what’s new, be it from the big guys, like Miele, Le Cornue, Artistic Tile and Lefroy Brooks, mid-range companies like BDDW and Nancy Koltes or individual artisans. Here’s a sampling of what caught our attention as we strolled the aisles.
Stamp it “We saw a stamp and thought, why not make a rug?” says Julian Blair, owner of Rug Maker, a 23-year-old English company. After 12 months in the UK, Stamp Rugs made their US debut at the show. The rugs, handmade in Katmandu, come in a variety of colors and denominations set by the Royal Mail. The 1P rug must be purple, the 15P green. “And Her Majesty’s profile must be raised,” Blair says. Unaccustomed to having people walk over her, the queen initially requested that the rugs be used only as wall hangings. Eventually, she changed her mind. Long live the queen.
Fold it As we know from the Napoleonic campaign chair, folding chairs don’t have to be boring or ugly. The Flux Chair, which looks like a cool take on a fortune cookie, is neither. Constructed from molded plastic, the chair unfolds into a surprisingly comfortable place to sit in seconds, once you’ve mastered its origami aspects. Douwe Jacobs and Tom Schouten, two Dutch industrial designers, dreamed up the chair in 2009 while folding a piece of paper. New to the US, the chairs debuted at the show with a splash, seating everyone who attended The New York Times designer seminars. Available in adult ($199) and child ($109) sizes they come in a variety of colors. A strategically placed hole makes them easy to store on a wall.
Crochet it Forget yarn. Chicago artist Yvette Kaiser Smith crochets wall sculptures from fiberglass. That’s fiber made from spun glass, to be precise, and it often comes from old car windshields, a cool recycling detail. A strategically applied coat of resin opens the knots and gives Smith’s flat geometric designs shape and depth. Smith got the idea at the food store. “I saw tripe at the meat counter and thought of how it’s beautiful and ugly,” she says. She uses the principles of pi and Pascal’s Triangle to determine the sequencing of holes, spacing and other design aspects. And there’s a hotel connection. She’s done wall pieces for the Hyatt Regency in Scottsdale, Arizona and the Philadelphia Ritz Carlton Residences.
Polish it Taking the stodginess out of traditional silver teapots, serving bowls and vases is a mission for Kaminer Haislip, a Charleston, South Carolina silversmith. Her booth, lined with artful contemporary silver vessels, spoons and bowls polished to a mirror finish, attested to her success. Armed with a blowtorch and a MFA from Winthrop University, Kaminer started her business seven years ago. “I had a studio before I had a place to live,” she says. The results combine art and function and plant silver serving pieces firmly in the 21st century.
Light it We like these Bright Side Lights from Rich Brilliant Willing, a small New York City lighting design company. They’re green, literally and ecologically (the cast glass can be recycled). They’ve got a smart industrial back story (the design is taken from telephone insulators). They’re versatile (the glass can hang as a pendant or recline on its side as a laid-back table lamp) and at $125, they’re agreeably priced. RBW was founded in 2009 by a trio of Rhode Island School of Design graduates, Theo Richardson, Charles Brill and Alexander Williams. And now you know how the company got its name.
Shoot it Katniss Everdeen would be thrilled. Leaning casually against the headboard of a handmade wood bed, a quartet of wooden bows looked like sculpture – the kind you can use next time you’re being chased at a Hunger Games re-enactment or if you just want a quiet game of archery in the back yard. Each was subtly different, most notably the white bow shaped from holly wood. The bows are the work of BDDW, makers of handmade American furniture. In addition to fashioning exquisitely crafted bows – and arrows – BDDW hosts an informal archery club at its SoHo shop located next door to – hotel connection coming – the Mondrian SoHo.
Update it It, in this case, is the Windsor chair. “It never gets old but sometimes people think it does,” says Jonathan Glatt. His company O & G Studio (motto: modern furniture with an old soul) is out to prove doubters wrong. Their riffs on the Windsor are sleek reimaginings of the American furniture classic with updated turnings, elongated proportions and upbeat paint colors. Making its debut at the show was the Atlantic Table Stool. The O in the three-year-old company’s name comes from Sara Ossana, an architect and theatrical designer, who met Glatt, a jewelery designer, in a furniture welding class at RISDI in 2003.
Update it some more Rose Iron Works dates from 1904, making it one of the oldest participants in the show. Originally an ornamental ironworks, the company brought the metal art and craftsmanship of 19th- and early 20th-century Hungary to Cleveland, Ohio and turned out exquisitely designed classical and Art Deco pieces (an iconic Deco screen is on view at the Cleveland Museum of Art). The Depression forced a switch to industrial ironworks. Long story short: they do both these days, with the ornamental side offering recreations of historic designs as well as contemporary pieces. Metal artist Stephen Yusko created this wall-mounted forged steel coat hook that casts artful shadows on the wall and marries the look of art and industry.
Sit on it “I like working with my hands,” says Andrea Mihalik, who spent a dozen years developing pictures as a photographer for the Philadelphia Daily News. Digital cameras put her out of a job. So she learned a new trade. Her company Wild Chairy Studio, which made its debut at the show, features her one-of-a-kind chairs, a clever art-meets-function-meets-found object mash-up. Taking classic wood chairs she finds at fleas, yard sales and antique shops, she rehabs them and upholsters them in unexpected fabrics. The results are witty and amusing. She’s covered chair backs in landscape paintings, accent fabrics, even blackboard paint so the chairs can impart a message, like E=Mc2.
Import it As the name hints, the furniture Beck to Nature makes is eco-friendly (sustainable wood, no screws, natural surfaces finished in waxes and oils). The 17-year-old Hungarian company with an office in North Carolina made its US debut at the show with an attention-grabbing chest of drawers (pictured). The chest gets its array of colors from its array of woods – black walnut, walnut, maple, ash and birch. The shallow drawers, which make the chest a natural for musicians, make-up artists and jewelry collectors, are versatile – you can pull them out and use them as small trays.
Cool it We love objects that use materials in unexpected ways. This console table made by Brooklyn furniture make Jesse Hooker of Hooker & Co. is fashioned from industrial cold rolled steel. But with its slim lines and elegant raised detailing it could be a Brooklyn cousin to a Biedermeier. Hooker’s inspiration was a cherry console table he grew up seeing at his grandfather’s house in Florida. He pairs the console’s industrial body with a rough-edged English sycamore top. “It gives the piece a natural element,” says Hooker, who worked as an actor and boat builder before becoming a full-time furniture maker four years ago.
Blow it Casey Hyland, a Louisville, Kentucky glass artist for nine years, mostly does commissioned work. But his blown glass bottles priced from $100 offer newcomers to the glass arts an opportunity to own a handmade object, or two or three, bursting with personality. Most were in tinted shades of silvered glass. “It’s like when someone sits at a bar and sees the bottles in front of a mirror,” says Hyland, owner of Hyland Contemporary Handblown Glass. “I’m from Kentucky, so bourbon is a motif.” Indeed, dimpled bodies give his wittiest bottles an engagingly loopy look.