ICFF veers toward mainstream

Carole Sloan, May 26, 2003

It was a good show, but symptomatic of the economy and design direction in home furnishings today, the 15th annual International Contemporary Furniture Fair offered a showcase of mainstream design with few offerings that caught the eyes of attendees. (See photos on page 10.)

But visitors were not disappointed with the overall array of product, which this year was not as gimmicky and artsy-craftsy as in previous years.

Rugs — especially those in the high end of the price and quality segment — were increasingly influential. Hand knots, silk and sophisticated color and texture combinations were clear favorites. Surprisingly, textiles played a narrower role.

From a fabric perspective, spongy, high-tech fabrics used as super-strong covers for furniture, a plethora of furs and unique weaves for furniture covers, were important developments.

"One of the more interesting directions was that there was a lot more reusable, recyclable and collapsible items," said Krista Hartman, fashion coordinator for Bloomingdale's. "There also were a lot of uses of natural materials and plastics. And there was more Scandinavian design influences from accessories to furniture. In color it ranged from black and white to lots of color."

"There was a lot of '60s retro," said designer Aaron Donner of Design Works Intl., especially with the fabrics that reminded me of California in the '60s. There was so much that was minimalist."

For designer Jean Baudrand, highlights included "amusing kids things and the beautifully made Italian bedrooms.

Looking overall at the show, Judith Rose, vp of Textillery, said, "It was very safe with no surprises and no new colors that spoke to me." She pegged the show as a middle-of-the-road exhibit in terms of design and direction. "But today that's not a bad thing," she added.

For Katie Mark, president of Stone International, the use of wood rather than other materials as the predominant statement and the proliferation of artists vs. "real furniture" were the two main statements of the show. "There was some nice warm contemporary designs, but there also was an overkill of '60s retro," she said.

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