Monday, June 30, 2008

Northern Climates

nea studio, named for designer Nina Edwards Anker, is another small company based in both Oslo and New York.  Some of her work is a little bit harsh for my taste, but all around, there's no question she has talent as a designer.  

Whoever was working her booth, two guys, they were sitting around having a nice little conversation amongst themselves and couldn't be bothered to even acknowledge my presence, despite the fact that I was clearly interested in the work.  I think I even kind of glanced at them expectantly, but they didn't even see me.

Presumably still in the conceptual stage is her "Water Bench":
The precarious balancing act this performs is wonderful--perhaps like the precariousness of our planet's fragile ecosystem?

It's designed for outdoor spaces in regions with extreme climates.  It's a little difficult to tell, but I gather the water in it is sealed over with a thick sheet of glass on top.  In cold weather, it extracts heat from underground to warm the water, and on hot days, it feeds into the city's water supply to cool it down--so it will always be comfortable to sit on.  I assume it feeds the water back into the system uncontaminated, and relies on it only to control its temperature.

This is her "Cape Chair":

It would require the right environment to work really well.  It looks a bit scientific, but it's just so delicate and refined, also.  I think it's quite gorgeous, actually.

This is still my favorite piece of hers, the "Twisted Sofa," which she had on display at the show:

I think this is just exquisitely beautiful.  Very Important Conversation Guys were sitting on it and I guess I can't blame them; it looks extremely comfortable.  I love how the very simple twist of the cushions creates an armrest on one side, and a lounge on the other.  It's Minimalist but almost somehow organic at the same time.  It's actually two foams with different firmness, more firm for the seats, less so for the backrests.  It is a red again, but it's a little bit of a warmer tone that doesn't bother me, and I think the sort of velvety upholstery fabric prevents it from reflecting so much light as to make it jarring.  I kind of want one for my living room.

nea studio

©2008, Ryan Witte

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Rocking Papers

I absolutely adore the work of London's Tracy Kendall.  She consistently offers some of the most brilliantly conceptual wallpapers I've ever seen.  This isn't even just wallpaper, it's like do-it-yourself Installation Art.  It's very unfortunate, because she had a whole write-up in my first year's coverage of the ICFF, but I'd gotten carried away with the length, and hers ended up getting cut at the last minute.  She deserved to be in there, though.

She told me "Pleats" is new this year:

She's had similarly textured papers before, but this one in vertical strips has a bit more orderly texture, and I've not seen any of them in metallic foil before, either.

Kendall has done a lot of amazing thing with stitching into her papers, but her "Stitched" ones go well beyond that.  They're pretty much fully embroidered:

That's exquisite, from a visual standpoint at the very least.

I believe this "Flocked Text" is somewhat new, also:

Utterly classy.  The text is phrases of Shakespeare.

But my favorite is "Stitched Text."  This one completely blew my mind:
It's Midsummer Night's Dream:

Kendall really likes her sister's handwriting, so she asked her sister to write out a bunch of lines from the play.  The handwritten lines of Shakespeare are embroidered into the wallpaper.  Holy crap that's freaking awesome.  And once again, I love the idea of the words of a 500-year-old play being dealt with in a way that would not be possible without the very latest computer technology.  But it's historic and futuristic, formal and casual, graphic and thought-provoking, all at the same time.  I just love it.

Tracy Kendall Wallpaper
(UK) 440-207-640-9071

©2008, Ryan Witte

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Lurve the Curves

Like I said, I'm not talking much about contract furniture here, but I'm making a small post about Hickory Business Furniture of North Carolina for a couple reasons.  This new line of theirs, the "C Collection" is by Yves Behar, who's a fantastically talented designer.  I also thought these pieces would work just fine in a residential environment, although they are fairly starkly modern.  The modern stuff may not fit my tastes 100% of the time, but of course there is a place for it, and beautiful is beautiful.  Also, the booth rep was kind of flirty with me.  I didn't mention that sales tactic in my Booth Rep Critique Post, but let it be known, if you have good-looking booth reps, Flirty is always a good thing.

So here's the sofa, floor lamp, and occasional table:

The lines are very Minimalist, obviously, which I very much like, but it's also got a very strong presence and some muscle to it.  The rep encouraged me to sit on it because it's so comfortable, and it really was wonderfully comfortable.  I also happened to plop myself right down next to Behar, himself.

He was busy talking to someone on his other side, but he looked at me and I think I told him his sofa was very comfortable.  

Anyway, here are the chairs:

For some reason, I'm not feeling the black as much, but it's still very nice.  I love the white.  This is another one that could truly benefit from a creative choice of unusual upholstery fabric, although I'd want to be careful to not ruin the effect of this.

The side chairs I think complement the loungey pieces in such an interesting way:

It's like he's taken the same soft, simple, curving form and interpreted it in a different way, with the woodwork this time.  But these would look great in the next room over from the first pieces.

Hickory Business Furniture

©2008, Ryan Witte

Friday, June 27, 2008


I had the pleasure of including Vancouver's Straight Line Designs in my coverage of the show last year, but this is another company I will always keep up with, because Judson Beaumont's work is always so imaginative and fun.  Here's some of the new stuff he has this year.

This is "Canned Seat":

A sardine can, and I love that the key provides a little tabletop.  It's so Oldenberg.  This totally reminds me of that store Think Big.  Does anybody remember that from the '80s?  I used to love that store.

A major theme for Beaumont would seem to be pieces that are destroyed, broken, or are self-destructing--so here's the "Oops Cabinet" that he was displaying at the show:

Not at the show, but a new item I noticed on the website, "Sobey Dressers":

At first glance I liked this because it looks like a row of little buildings.  But it's really in the subtle details.  All the drawers have one knob, like shirt buttons, except for the top one, which has two, like eyes.  And they're all smiling.  I've said it before, but this is another case where if your furniture smiling at you doesn't make your day just a little more pleasant, I'd say you can't possibly have a very good sense of humor.

But the thing I think I was most delighted to discover at their booth this year is that they've started working with ceramics.  Here's their new Vase:

So the flowers are like faces.  Awesome.  They had some all white ones that they'd evidently baked RIGHT before the show, and I guess they don't have images of them, yet.  I think I preferred those, because in all white, you maybe don't notice right away what they are.  In fact, I had to see it from the side, actually, to notice that it was a shoulder and arm with hand-in-pocket.  That moment of discovery was just great, though.

I guess maybe I have a thing for anthropomorphized design objects, but those are really fun, so I'm not apologizing.

Straight Line Designs
(BC) 604-251-9669

©2008, Ryan Witte

Thursday, June 26, 2008

There Must Be an Angle

Los Angeles' Test Collective would appear to be a collaborative effort between two designers, Chris Adamick and Piotr Woronkowicz.

By Adamick, here's "Offset":

I thought this was a little strange at first, then I realized that the moon-shaped cushion can slide into a number of different positions, depending on how you want to sit:

Very clever, interesting, and adaptable.

Here's his "Smith" lounge:
It's very sleek and Space-Age, actually.

This is Woronkowicz' "Facet Table":

Designed using computer modeling software.  I think its geometry is really striking and, along with the Corian section, makes the table surface more useful in a variety of ways.

Test Collective
(Woronkowicz) 323-422-7920

©2008, Ryan Witte

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Making Fun

New York's Areaware is always a group to keep your eyes on.  Every year I find something new in their booth that's either disturbingly clever, wackily bizarre, or just plain funny.

First, just something really nice looking.  Wooden clocks by Singgih Kartono:

This is the small one and the large one, there's also a medium-sized one.  I really like how they recall radios from the '60s and '70s, but they're obviously new.  I don't see any technical specs, but wood has beautiful resonance.  They're mp3-player compatible, too.

These are really funny, "Self-Portrait Mirrors" by Choe & Tomlinson:

If you're not quite ready to grow a mustache like I did.  Here's one where you can be a pirate:

Did you hear about that new pirate movie?

It's rated "Arrr."

This is Barnaby Barford's "Solitaire Olive Dish":

Sorry the images are a little small.  These are all brand new pieces not even really in their catalogue yet.  You probably don't want everyone fingering your olives before you eat them, but that's still pretty fun.  I don't know if I could eat that many olives by myself, either.  I love olives, but I don't think I love olives THAT much.

Here are "Honesty Stamps" by Dominic Wilcox, for all the lines that repeatedly come up in relationships:

That one says What do you mean I'm always too busy? which actually makes it so delicious that it's a stamp.  The others are hysterical, too:

All I ask for is one last chance.
In all my life I've never met anyone as beautiful as you.
I sincerely apologize for all the trouble I've caused.
I swear on my mother's grave I'll never do that again.
I know in the past I've found it difficult to say these words but I LOVE YOU.
You're right, the key to a strong relationship is communication.
It wasn't my fault! and
But I've changed!

These are really cute, too--"Taz Ah" by Attua Aparicio Torinos:
There's a snout on the bottom of the mug, so when you go to drink from it, it looks like it's on your face.  There's a whole bunch of different animals, here's the dog nose:
The only problem with this is that if you get a group of people drinking from these and they get the giggles, the risk of spraying coffee out your nose would rise dangerously.

I also really think I want a lightning shirt:

That's very cool.

92 Spring Street
2nd Floor

©2008, Ryan Witte

Beyond the Valley of the Ultramods

The further we get from the 20th Century, the more I'm starting to realize I'm no longer much of a Modernist.  I just don't think it's conducive to creating warm, pleasing environments.  Having said that, I can't deny that Nolen Niu out of Beverly Hills is doing some really stunning work.

Here's their "Divide" line, the chair and ottoman:

This was nice enough, but then I saw that the ottoman actually fits perfectly into the chair upside-down, which I thought was very sleek.  I don't suppose it has any other function that way, but certainly allows it to remain beautiful when saving floor space.  I think I like that heathery gray the best.

Here's the sofa in red:

I'm really not feeling this bright primary color, to be honest.  They show a lot of their pieces in colors even more blinding than that, too.  I think it's redundant on such a modern piece, and does the form of it a disservice.  For me, anyway, I think something as modern as this deserves a warm, earthy color, even upholstery with a big, striking floral pattern to make it more dynamic and interesting.  If your heart's set on red, I'd also like to see this with the recesses upholstered in a much lighter red, to play around with what the piece is doing with light and shadow.

The white one would probably stay clean in my apartment for a total of about 37 seconds:

Now, despite what I said about the harshness of the bright red, ironically, I think the black & white is so hot.  Personally, I'd ask for a blue so dark it almost looks like black at first glance, but the way it reveals only the thinnest, most tantalizing slivers of black is totally getting all my Minimalist juices flowing.

Here's the "XO" sofa.  Maybe I'm insane, but there's something almost obscene about this that I can't quite put my finger on:

The fact that it's pink probably isn't helping.  Nevertheless, the angular forms of this piece are so strong and powerful:

From every angle it causes the most amazing geometric relationships:

And this is their "Zero" chaise:

They show this also in red with black trim, which is a little bit too 1980s for my taste, but in all black it's just so simple and virginally pure I can't help but think this is perfect.  The base is mirrored chrome, which gives it the illusion of disappearing, as if the lounge is floating magically in mid-air:

The black & white is very successful also, though maybe not as pure:

I suspect the only way this could be more heavenly than the all black one is if your walls were pure white (which I couldn't handle, myself, I like color too much).

Nolen Niu

©2008, Ryan Witte