A few years ago, the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), was a show struggling to find its meaning. It wasn't an office furniture show, and most companies like Knoll and Herman Miller that used to have exhibition space at Javits Center in New York for the event stopped showing. It wasn't a true residential show either as most of its furniture was, as the name of the show would suggest, very contemporary and definitely not for the mass market.
Then the market shifted. Residential and commercial furniture married and ICFF, which started Sunday and runs through today, found a new purpose and new vigor. How is contract furniture and residential furniture different? Who cares. ICFF found itself in the midst of a furniture revolution, and it is in the right place at the right time.
The market change has brought back some of the office furniture makers as well — at least those who play in both areas. Kartell Contract, Humanscale, Poppin, Bernhardt and a number of others were in New York participating in ICFF. Many others hosted events at their New York showroom as part of NYCxDesign, the other major design event held throughout the city at the same time.
The show hosts 900 exhibitors from across the globe who showcase the newest frontier of “what's best and what's next for luxury interior design.” More than 38,000 attendees from the design industry attend.
The contract companies were not at all out of place at ICFF. Humanscale was there celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Freedom Chair. The company's stand featured the original prototype of the chair design by Niels Diffrient. Humanscale founder and CEO Bob King gave a presentation on the chair and its design, and Diffrient's wife, Helena Hernmarck, was in attendance.
One showgoer described ICFF as “inspirational,” and as a show, it certainly is. The show pushes the boundaries, allowing small companies a stage for some wonderful (and wacky) designs. Major companies show at ICFF, like Kohler, Delta and Wilsonart, but smaller brands also shine. It may be too much to call some of these companies “smaller brands.” Some of them are better described as makers.
Products run the gamut from pool tables to faucets, ceramic tiles to lighting.
The furniture found at ICFF is beautiful. The show is a celebration of materials as much as forms. From wooden bathtubs to concrete sinks to macrame chairs, designers seem to be pushing the limits in terms of materials.
JM Lifestyles was showing off wood form concrete products it makes in Randolph, New Jersey. The tables look like they are made from slabs of wood, but they are actually made of fiberglass reinforced concrete, which is surprisingly light and durable. The dining table they showed cost $11,000.
Eugene Stoltzfus Furniture from Harrisonburg, Virginia, was showing off furniture made out of cork. Designer Adam Steiniger said the cork comes from post consumer waste — the leftover cork from wine bottles. “You can treat it like wood, but there is no grain so you can cut it in any direction you want,” he said.
And if you feel like your pet is left out while you sit on your cushy sofa, fear not. Barkiture was showing off fancy furniture for your pooch. The furniture for Fido costs about $3,000 from the California-based company that started out making people furniture.
ICFF is a surprisingly international show. Furniture could be found from Italy, Poland, Austria and the U.K. ICFF has more than doubled in the past three editions and become more international in composition.
Show organizers say attendees include architects, interior designers, developers and visual merchandisers. The fair is also a resource for thousands of retail buyers representing the best in luxury retail establishments. Industry decision makers come to ICFF to find new and unique ideas and concepts, and to find inspiration and innovation.
ICFF is the anchor event for NYCxDesign, New York City's official citywide celebration of design drawing a crowd of nearly 340,000 design enthusiasts, including more than 144,000 new visitors. That should come as no surprise to anyone in the office furniture industry. New York City is home to more than 7,700 design firms and 52,500 practicing designers, making it one of the largest design hubs in the country and the world. New York City is also home to 10 prominent design and architecture schools and graduates twice as many design and architecture students as any other city in the U.S.
Changes are coming to NYCxDesign. In January 2019, it announced the selection of Sandow as the operator of NYCxDesign for the 2020 edition of the program and beyond. Following a successful seven-year period growing the festival from inception to its current scale, it was determined the program would realize its full potential being managed by an external entity. After review of the proposals submitted in response to a public search, NYCEDC selected SANDOW. SANDOW already runs the NYCxDesign Awards.