The year New Yorkers went nuts for pink, rediscovered 1980s postmodernism and made design political, reports Sam Eichblatt.
Pastel power surges at NYC x Design
If 2016 was the year a particular shade of retro-vibe pastel became Millennial Pink, then we hit Peak Pink in 2017. At this year’s NYC x Design – the three-month design festival that includes the ‘luxury furniture’ festival ICFF – the shade was everywhere. Its continued relevance and association with gender fluidity was even the subject of a New York feature. The blush obsession dovetails neatly with young designers’ rediscovery of the Memphis Group, the short-lived Pop Artinspired 1980s movement led by Ettore Sottsass. Away from the social-media frenzy, however, other designers (many of them working outside the main centres) are quietly producing work that draws on the country’s industrial-design heritage, Shaker-style craft, and sustainable production to establish a pragmatic, timeless American design vernacular. In response to the current political climate, some designers withdrew from large commercial events in favour of smaller, more maker-focused shows such as Site Unseen. Others, such as Egg Collective, the star of last year’s festival, worked with an alternative voice in Designing Women NYC, and Chelsea’s Chamber Gallery offered outright dissent with a roster of female- and female-identifying artists in Room with its Own Rules, the “parallel, post-patriarchal reality in which an all-female show is a normal phenomenon”. Furniture ‘Tension’ by Claste New Montreal-based studio Claste showed ‘Tension’, its first collection, at the ICFF. Made from only three materials – glass, pink onyx and bianco quartzite – the spare, almost stark designs are unexpectedly engaging up close, with textural ripples of subtle colour. ‘And Here I Sit’ is a quartzite chair with a seemingly unstable base. When light passes through it, the material becomes slightly translucent, illustrating the theme of the collection, which aims to capture the tension between fragility and stability, similar to an architectural cantilever, or a stroll over a glass bridge. claste.ca
Tableware by Very Good & Proper With its echoes of 1940s utility-ware china and sturdy farmhouse casserole dishes, a new range of hard-wearing grey tableware from London studio Very Good & Proper harks back to a time when such everyday objects were both utilitarian and a delight to use. Led by Ed Carpenter and André Klauser, the hands-on studio launched in 2009 with a range of furniture and accessories that builds on similar classic, functional and often previously mass-market designs by ensuring they are manufactured responsibly in the UK and Europe. verygoodandproper.co.uk
‘Tree House’ coat rack by Office GA A successful new format for Site Unseen Offsite, the annual installation of the best designers featured in the online magazine, allowed a curated group of 25 established designers more space to show their wares. Alongside his main booth, Jonathan Gonzales of Miami-based design and fabrication studio Office GA showed a series of simple leaning racks fabricated from the same kit of parts – solid aluminium bars powder-coated in soft green with a round ash base. The playful display shows the iterative process of a design via a single industrial design object. officega.com
‘Double-wall’ coffee maker by Yield A much quieter movement in American design is establishing a standard of craft using sound industrial design practice to create simple, fit-for-purpose objects. Yield, a youthful studio based in St Augustine, Florida, which focuses on ethical production, showed a glass coffee maker alongside a range of other beautifully modest homeware. The double walls both insulate the liquid and allow for easy handling, since the heat is not transferred to the outer wall. yielddesign.co
Furniture by Eny Lee Parker The emerging designer from Savannah, Georgia, created one of the most heavily Instagrammed booths at the Site Unseen Offsite show – which is fitting, because the show’s curators originally discovered the Korean-Brazilian furniture designer and ceramicist on the social-media platform. For the show, she combined her two disciplines, displaying a series of tables made from traditional, wheelthrown terracotta pieces, alongside a collection of furniture in mossy green and dusky pink. The shapes nodded to the postmodernism of Michael Graves and the Memphis Group. enyleeparker.com
Right Utilitarian ceramic tableware designed by Ian McIntyre for Very Good & Proper. Far right A collection by Eny Lee Parker, an emerging designer from Savannah, Georgia. Below The ‘Tree House’ coat rack by Office GA is a display of simplicity in powder-coated solid aluminium.
Left Glass, onyx and quartzite make up the ‘Tension’ collection by Claste, a new Montrealbased studio. Below Ethical production and sound industrial design practices form the basis of Yield Design’s philosophy.