Embracing the past at ICFF

The industrial era may be due for a comeback if the International Contemporary Furniture Fair is any indication.

I had a chance to attend the fair a few weeks ago and was both surprised and impressed with the range of product designs that seem to embrace what you could easily categorize as “steam punk” sensibilities (the fantasy fueled grey area between ornamentation and instrument). Typically this genre revels in looking to the distant future as told from the dueling perspectives of the Victorian and post-apocalyptic ages.

Lamps by VIM and VIGOR – spun metal with cut and fold post process accents

I saw highly polished beautifully modern forms and silhouettes, although they seemed to be overshadowed by Etsy-inspired items (looking as though they could be one-of-a-kind — though, of course, they aren’t).

I also noticed a blatant shift toward embracing the past with an attempt to produce insightful parallels within the principals of what can be considered as “modern design,” through materiality, simplification of form and edited tie-ins to nostalgia.

Impressive hand knit “clothing for furniture” by Sinje Ollen

I saw plenty of nouveau-inspired work as well with attention to whimsical details and elegant expressive forms. While sustainability continues to be a theme across most range of product consideration, there was a quiet undertone of cleverness and witty appeal for some other works.

Yet, what really surprised me was how much some designs skewed heavily to a past genre without being reimagined for a modern design-conscious audience.

Modern lighting balanced with the charm of old style “carriage lamp” by FEEL

ICFF says their goal is to lure those in pursuit of design’s timely truths and latest trends. So how does all of this inform my design thinking?

There’s definitely value in understanding design genres of the past. These qualities tease the core of the human spirit and set the products apart.

The key is to tap into the best of these forms and then apply modern considerations to create something that’s much more than just another shiny product.

Enjoy the photos.

— JJ Mendoza

Gorgeous examples of “steampunk” detail

Audio products from SYMBOL. Truly bridges the past and present.

Geometric series from BEND – an interesting expansion on wireframe furniture

News landing page