Sure, I’m a “Lighting Guy” but it is impossible to visit showrooms, galleries, design show floors and window-shop without seeing things outside of lighting that attract attention and ultimately will interact with lighting in the residential environment. While exploring the International Contemporary Furniture Fair and the streets of New York, the following items could not be ignored.
A New Finish Direction?
I immediately fell in love with the new Umber finish show by THG called simply “Umber”. If you’ve been around metallic finishes for a while, you might remember the Burnished Umber or Umbered Brass finish popular in the late 1990s. It was created by oxidizing brass and polishing off the oxidization into a sheen, rather than the matte found in antiqued finishes. The oxidization was brownish. The new THG Umber has more black with red undertones. Darker than the brass now used, this could be a nice brass/bronze finish alternative, or next-gen brass direction. The same finish is also available in a matte version, equally interesting.
Plumbing & Texture
I was struck by the addition of textural elements in some new plumbing products. Brizo showed the new Tulham faucet with a glossy faceted ring on the end of a matte ensemble. This small ring detail was a nice way to extend the idea that some accessories are indeed, the “jewelry of the home.”
Similarly, Samuel Heath, the British “tap” manufacturer used a faceted ring around the handles of their One Hundred Collection. Stiloform, an Austrian company displayed a faucet with a knurled shaft that extended the texture idea into new areas.
Perhaps some of the most interesting and amazing faucets in the whole show were on view at Uniq-e! an Italian concern that appears to be reinventing all of the known parameters surrounding faucets. A quick look through their website information will provide an idea of their creativity.
For the last couple of decades, vessel sinks have been sucking up all most all of the creative air in the bathroom space. Thankfully, that era is at an end. Placing the proverbial nail in the coffin, a number of manufacturers were helping designers to ease out of their reliance to these ubiquitous sink options. Perhaps the most engaging and “fun” were the cast concrete sinks shown by Kast. In fresh colors and interesting shapes, these will quickly allow a homeowner to forget they ever hear of a vessel. They can read as modern, deco, mid-century or slightly retro. These are exciting options for the progressive home.
The LaCava Linea sink has reinvented the vanity and enclosed it within an invisible frame of square tubing. Add to the mix a delightful collection of colors and it immediately ups the appearance of any bathroom. There is also a wide variety of frame configurations available. I like this look.
I am a sucker for almost anything Philippe Starck does and his White Tulip collection for Duravit is no exception. With just the gentlest of curves, the standing sink opens at the top to serve as a beautifully sculpted tower sink. The tub and surface mounted sink feature the same appealing curve. This is a stunning bathroom suite.
On the opposite end of the aesthetic spectrum are the handmade sinks from Whitebirk. Made in England, these sinks are beautifully crafted, but lean a touch more traditional. Again, color is being used to better differentiate what is available from a high-quality supplier and that which is purchased through mass-retailers.
The partnership between Danver and Brown Jordan has produced exciting outdoor kitchens in bold, unusual colors (notice a pattern here?) Danver showed an electric yellow outdoor kitchen and a contemporary pink option. The acceptance of colored laundry room appliances, then high-end ranges (or was the progression reversed?) has allowed consumers to feel comfortable using big ticket items in something other than stainless steel. I think this is a wonderful step forward. We can never have too much color in a home.
Opiary is a Brooklyn creator of concrete outdoor furnishings. The product is so fluid and organic that it belies the tough material employed in fabrication. Seating, water features, tables, planters and surrounds are all built for an unyielding outdoor reality, but look as if they are delicate and born of the earth.
Interestingly, I’m seeing fewer and fewer new and exciting things in furniture. Yes, I liked the Bernhardt seating and I loved the joint between leg and top of the Ethnicraft PI tables. I also loved the student presentations of a table (Johannes Lu) and chair (Lara Villa) in the ICFF Studio. Despite that, I’m just not seeing the next “big thing” beyond the reemergence of beige I discussed in the 2021 report.
Wallpaper continues to be BIG, BOLD and exciting. A quick review of the options available from Wow Papers reveals an explosion of color and patterns. Even the staff manning the booth were dressed commensurately. The patterns replicated illuminated surfaces with blasts of neon and lighted tubes. Flavor Paper options were tame in comparison, but not when set aside toile versions of the past. Both of these companies believe that if a wall is going to be covered, it may as well be for a reason…a very bold reason. I love these extreme wall covering options!
Two different accessories stood out to me. JD Staron creates rugs like Flavor and Wow create wallpaper, big and bold. This bespoke creator can deliver a variety of custom handwoven rug options. Each is more beautiful than the next.
Equally interesting were the mirrors shown by Zieta. One might initially believe these are fabricated from blown glass, but instead they are metal formed in Poland using the internal pressure, FiDU process. This involves welding thin plates of metal together at the edge, then inflating the assembly to create the interesting shapes. Sort of like a balloon made of metal! Construction process aside, what really matters is the amazing result. Airy mirrors, “blow-up” tables and ice cube columns. Really amazing stuff. I encourage you to follow the link below and check out some of their other projects.
I’m always challenged to understand how personal fashion connects with home furnishings. Window shopping New York revealed light, feminine colors and fabrics and dainty jewelry for women and a wider color palette of equally light materials for men. The dichotomy here is the shoes. Sure, there is an occasional spike heal and slim brogue, but most women’s shoes were heavy, clunky and dark, while men are being sold heavy sports sneakers. What does this mean? Do we want a carefree life of fun and excitement, but our feet must be firmly planted on the ground to do so? Is the weight a counterbalance to the fluff we encounter daily? Are we both serious and goofy at the same time? The differences certainly make for an interesting conversation starter.
Faith Ringgold – The New Museum
Perhaps the single more interesting thing I experienced in New York this spring was the Faith Ringgold retrospective at The New Museum. This was a fascinating review of a 50+ year career that explores and attempt to understand the life of a Black, female artist in a world that is primarily centered on white European men.
She supplants herself in classic European cultural environments, places where no African descendants were likely to be found. It forces one to ask, “But, why not?” why wasn’t a Black artist, or simply a female amongst the masters in Arles? Shouldn’t a Black artist or writer have been involved in the roundtable conversations at Gertrude Stein’s Paris salons? While not invited and not expected, her art forced the viewer to see her image there and ask, why this is not a reality. Why would she have been relegated to Alice B Toklas’ separate room each Saturday evening?
Her artistic questions do not stop there. She brought the same perplexing questions into her later work. Women and Black individuals are missing from so many of our cultural milestones. Today we see images of Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi and Ketanji Brown Jackson, but we are well into the 21st Century. Ringgold’s art forced the point decades prior. Is it possible her work established a path to these “firsts?”
Ms. Ringgold remains an active artist, now well into her 90s. She continues to force everyone to recon with the failings of an American society to include ALL of its citizens. By doing so, through her art, Faith Ringgold explains the losses and missed opportunities we all face.
No, I did not spend all of my time working in New York! I caught some exciting new shows on Broadway. A Strange Loop and POTUS should be on your list! I also ate at some dynamic new restaurants. Consider a visit to the inventive, Ernesto’s, Kimika and The Commerce Inn. By considering all a city has to offer, a better idea of where we are going can be imagined. I can’t wait to go back and see what is next!