While I have previously expressed my opinions on the merits (and demerits) of various shows, I’ve yet to share my views on ICFF (the International Contemporary Furniture Fair), held annually in New York City. One could easily guess that I am a fan of the show, simply because it is in New York City, but there are of course other reasons, not the least of which is that you can see the best of contemporary design, often before it’s written about in the magazines. Suffice it to say, the show is not rug centric, yet many progressive, or should I say fashion forward rug companies do choose to exhibit. In short, if you are serious about making or selling contemporary rugs (not in the bastardized style sense a but in the actual time sense) it’s worth attending and/or exhibiting. So before this gets too long as it often does, here is what I saw and thought…
The Ruggist’s 2009 ICFF Review.
GAN (Gandia Blasco USA) won the ICFF Editors Award (See Interior Design) for Carpet and Flooring for its Mangas Carpet by Patricia Urquiola. Prior to the announcement of this award though, I had already decided to write about GAN for what they had done at the show. Just as New Moon provides their catalog on a DVD, GAN had produced their catalog and pricelist on CD in PDF format. I like this concept for many reasons. It’s easy to pick-up and carry around, it is less bulky than a catalog, it’s compact (like the “C” in CD) and to the purpose of the disk, it gets the images and info out there to presumably at some point sell some product. Of course, one can argue about the pros and cons of indiscriminate image dissemination but by putting product into the public domain, it is something we must all face, and even with the added problem of inconsistent colour rendering I still think it’s a good thing in concept. The carpet which won the award however, is not included in the pricelist, and while it is true they had no way of knowing in advance what would win, does it not make sense to include everything you are showing? Now for the carpet….
What do you think I think of this rug? Some people might not hazard a guess, or guess that I dislike it. In fact, I love many things about it. That it is made of wool and it incorporates a variety of textures both visual and tactile, and that the palate is colourful yet subdued and the irregular shape adds interest to what could have potentially been a pedestrian striped rug. While the shape won’t appeal to everyone, it is very appropriate for those living in more modern settings, or even an airy sea side cottage. Overall, even not knowing the price (which may better in this case) I think it is a nice rug, one definitely different from what we typically expect, and worthy as as successor to last years winner: Amy Helfand.
Classic Rug Collection
Having just praised the CD/DVD catalog, I feel I must expound upon the concept just a little more as commentary on another ICFF exhibitor. The success of anything is in the execution thereof, but unfortunately for Classic Rug Collection, there is a fault in execution and I don’t know what their collection looks like. They provided a CD, presumably of images et cetera, but in a 3in CD format. For those of us with a slot loading computer (iBook and iMac in my case) the drive will not accept such a small CD. So with the execution off, and as I don’t care enough to chase down a CD drive capable of reading the CD, I have nothing further to add. Hardly the result they were looking for I am to guess.
As mentioned, Amy (See Amy Helfand) was last year’s winner of the carpet and flooring award and she continues her aesthetic this year by showing beautifully coloured, large scale graphic designs inspired by her trip to Nepal last spring. While they are interpretations of some of her photography, they are hardly literal, and only after I pointed out the elements to my husband was he aware of them. This is great design. I thoroughly enjoy rugs that keep you guessing and “learning” more about them every time you look at them. Thus, when the purchaser of one of Ms. Helfand’s rugs makes the discovery on their own, it will be grand! (As a disclaimer I did not discover the elements myself, but had read about them in her pre-show literature.) Her rugs are made by a top quality Nepali producer and are worthy of a look for those who appreciate modern design.
Florence Broadhurst Handmade Rugs are brought to us by Cadry’s of Australia. I had the honour of meeting several members of the Cadry family (who still run the business) including Bob Cadry and Jessica Cadry. They are both a delight and I must add that it was so nice to meet someone (Jessica) in my age range in the rug business. The line is represented exclusively in the USA by Ali Nikrooz who formerly represented Stile BK, and are designs licensed from the estate of Ms. Broadhurst, a prolific Aussie designer of noted wallpaper fame, who was mysteriously murdered in 1977. If you know anything of current rugs trends: Wallpaper/Fabric Design + Rugs + Intrigue = Success!
I was treated to a full tour of the line (apparently due to my Ruggist “fame”, see note below…) and it is quite fresh and a throwback to a bygone era. Namely the 1980’s. I am not in anyway saying the collection is dated though, in fact quite the opposite. It is on the cusp, the leading edge of the grand return to the glam styling of the 19080’s but with a sophisticated glamorous component reflective of the origins of the designs. Sweeping florals and curvilinear designs, brightly coloured and optimistic, perfectly suited for the soon to be post recession market of, I am guessing, ostentatious consumption, at least for the moneyed class. The line is currently available in LA and I noticed a salesperson from a well known and resepcted east coast dealer in their booth, so attention is being paid. Overall I like the collection and I think the Cadry’s and Mr. Nikrooz will do the namesake justice with their entrée into the United States’ market.
This is my standout favorite of the show. MUNI Carpets is an interesting pairing of a Japanese Company with traditional Chinese production and design. In fact, the tagline on their booth banner promoted that they are “Bringing back Traditional Chinese Carpets”. Aesthetically, and perhaps as a detriment to their broad appreciation, they are using traditional Chinese motifs and designs reminiscent of rugs we’ve all seen and sold before. I am quite unsure of the wide acceptance of Chinoiserie in this day and age, and following, their target market must be small. Why then are they my favorites? In one word: Quality. I could try and describe it, but that will not do their carpets justice. They are simply the best made carpets that were exhibited at ICFF this year, and furthermore are high ranking in the world of rugs at large. Great wool, excellent attention to detail in the finishing, and rich inviting colours. The solid field 3×5 they exhibited was an inviting pool of cool green grey that has all the merits, and thus is superior in my mind, of full spectrum colour. Honestly, I may be biased because what I am doing with Red Spruce has some parallels to MUNI, but at the same time, maybe MUNI is a little bit ahead of the curve. If the Florence Broadhurst Collection is timely, in a few years Chinoiserie will return.
Reuber Henning has yet to exhibit at ICFF as they are a relative newcomer to the United States market and the world of rugs at large, but I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with Thorsten Reuber for an afternoon meeting in the lobby of my hotel, the newly minted ACE NY. I was taken in by not only their sophisticated carpet designs, but also their overall style, and in what seems to be a theme this year, the exuberance of youth. The carpets are of a quality we have come to expect in high-end names and the designs are quite unique, different and very livable. In fact, I want to live in their photography. The cover of their (well designed and produced) brochure has the viewer looking out through the open doors of a beautiful country estate, bicycle on the ready, off to explore the world. This is the life to which many aspire…
Bennett Bean Studio
Bennett Bean and his collaborator Elizabeth Rand put on a great exhibit this year. The complexity of his designs paired with the copious use of silk create carpets of a truly distinct look. If I had to compare them to others in the marketplace I would immediately name Zoë Luyendijk and CariniLang. After a wonderful conversation with the two of them I am confident that they will become one of the goto people for artist commissioned rugs and carpets.
Also, I would like to praise them for their efforts to re-use an often neglected dirty little secret of the rug industry. Rug samples. No matter the size, there are hundreds/thousands of neglected, rejected, and sometimes downright hideously ugly samples sitting around gathering dust. Whether the result of failed projects or product development these samples just accumulate, and in the case of some companies, accumulate in the face of a paralyzing inability or unwillingness to do anything with them. Well not at Bennett Bean! They took some samples (presumably of origins previously described) cut them into little 2in x 2in squares and attached company info to the back creating wonderfully tactile business cards. These are even better than the CD/DVD because you get to touch the product, and due to the fact it is only 4 sqin, you can’t see how bad the design may have been. Huzzah!
emma gardner design
It was, as always, a pleasure to see Patrick and Emma. They are both always so hospitable, and really know how to market their product line. Yes that is right, product line, not just rugs! ICFF saw the debut of the prototype cases from the Wendell Castle Collection that feature the designs of Emma Gardner. Although I didn’t get a chance to discus them in too much detail, and case goods are entirely not my speciality, they looked great and have a sleek lacquer finish, that in a nod to my lovable mother, looks easy to keep clean.
Returning to rugs because at least I (pretend to?) know what I am talking about when referencing them, I must say I am please to see the apparent trend away from tufted into hand-knotted for Ms. Gardner. Why am I such the rug snob?
Just as I am personally guilty of violating the cardinal rule about information on websites, so is rug fanatic, with just a placeholder. Their production is all tufted and is of New Zealand wool, the classic entry point for a rug company of this aesthetic. I didn’t get to speak with the actual fanatic herself as she was not tending the booth while I was there, but I do like the look of her designs, and find the saturated colours a nice break from the slightly green cast that has persisted for the last few years. Also, she gets points for saying: “Modern rugs”, and I think she could excel by bringing nice designs and colours into a lower price point.
The Ruggist Fame
A little shameless self serving promotion if you will. An anonymous source at ICFF very kindly introduced me to some associates while I was at the show. “This is Michael Christie” so it began, the speaker very emphatic in what was being said, “The Ruggist. He writes a blog on rugs and carpets, and is the number two (2) goto guy in the country for all things rugs, he also owns a company, Red Spruce that is making….” Thinking to myself, “Number two?”, speaking I responded very gratefully “Thank you”. The speaker continued “Whenever we need anything we call **NAME OMITTED** first then Michael…”
Thanks to the unnamed speaker for the compliment, and to quote my beloved former neighbor who is in her eighties. “Don’t worry Michael, you can outlive the problems…” I don’t know how old “Number One” is, but I am guessing she/he has a few years on me.
Which reminds me. It was my birthday during ICFF, as it has been the last several years and I enjoyed spending it working and not making a big fuss. Thanks to Ned Baker for the two Hendrick’s and Tonic Lunch and for the super styling Tyvek wallet. Referencing the quote above, as I always tell Ned when he says “That’s a good idea”, I remind him that I have one month’s more experience than him.
Just like the swallows to San Juan Capistrano, contemporary furnishings to NYC signal the rebirth of spring and the hopeful anticipation of summer. ICFF was smaller this year, but the quality of both the product and the attendee was higher. A little winnowing of chaff as it were. The mood was positive and expectant of good things to come. Remember the post recession eighties?
Speaking of post recession eighties. The surest sign yet of a return to decadence ala the 1980’s was the finish offered up by Kohler for kitchen and bath fixtures: Polished or Brushed Gold (Kohler Vibrante PVD).