If I was a magazine I'd have to be a double issue right now. The months of May & June were just one giant international design fest on my calendar. From NYCxDesign which caught me visiting the city a few times to catch some of the spread out events of TEFAF, ICFF & Sight Unseen Offsite to 3 Days of Design in Copenhagen and I tied in that trip with picking up some inventory in Helsinki.
Working and traveling is my specialty so let's also tie in the couple amazing interior decorating/ editing projects I'm currently working on. The search for the perfect collection of items is really what I live for so it makes sense to always be on the lookout for ideal pieces for my clients.
So where do I start? I could possibly write a whole volume if I focused on every amazing new designer, furniture launch or exhibition I saw. If you really want to see all the vintage finds and new discoveries I make follow along on Instagram @the_empty_apartment or on Facebook to get more design news and information on young designers and projects happening. Here, I'll mention a few design launches that personally moved me for reasons being that the end goal of design should be to improve or inspire us to be happier, live better and cherish more our personal space. So here we go:
I'm going to mention again the collection by Studio Snng only because I found the design quite impactful and the designer, Shengning Zhang, was so eloquent in explaining the inspirations behind his creation. Getting designers to talk about the thought process behind creating a piece and the inspirations seem hard to come by these days. Most designers are creating with cost effectiveness and manufacturing processes in mind before actual functionality or purpose. The Boro wall display is a modular system that can easily grow by adding on additional pieces. The same unit piece can be a hanging rack or flipped over to be a shelf. The Wedge Shelf is also modular and can be added on horizontally or vertically. It does not require screws or additional hardware, the piece is held together by wooden pieces that lock into place like a puzzle. The Miro table has a center compartment hidden under a simple wooden slab that serves for storage. Check out www.studiosnng.com for more collection pieces and projects.
TEFAF (The European Fine Art Fair) is a game changer for the landscape of design fairs in NYC. The quality of the exhibitors and condition of vintage pieces is unparallel. The fair which establishes itself as a bi-annual show in the city of New York is originally from Maastricht, Netherlands and has been running since 1988. The Spring edition of the fair in NYC focuses on artifacts from the 1920s to the present and featured many galleries that would have otherwise participated at Collective Design, another collectible design fair exhibiting later the same month. TEFAF also turned out to be somewhat of a competition for Frieze Art Fair. Even though contemporary art and design are complementary markets it seems the terrible rains in NYC in May made for fewer people to visit Frieze on Randall Island and the Park Armory became attractive entertainment for a rainy day, not to mention Frieze closing a whole day due to the rains- but that's event gossip. Even if you are not on the acquisitions committee for a museum, TEFAF is worth the visit for sheer admiration. These dealers are leaders in their field and visiting them is an opportunity to gain some historical design knowledge. Learn more about TEFAF here
The 1.41 Flax Chair comes as a collaboration between designer Christien Meindertsma & Enkev for Label/Breed. Meindertsma graduated from Design Academy in Eindhoven in 2003, she has been studying the production life of flax as a material from which linseed oil, linen, and rope have their origins. Enkev is the leading processor of natural fibers since 1982 in The Netherlands. Together they have created a heat-pressed chair that combines the natural fibers of wool and flax with strong bio-plastic fibers. The material is quite unique, aesthetically it's simple, and beautiful in its honesty. This chair won the Dutch Design Award in 2016 and has been purchased by the Vitra Design Museum. It is not yet available on the market but we can only hope these will be the next mass produced chair for its little environmental impact. Per-ordering is available here
Lindsey Adelman's studio space was exciting to see on the list of exhibitions to visit during NYCxDesign. The exhibition was not only light fixtures by Adelman but also fixtures by Adelman's studio design director Karl Zhan and Australian designer Mary Wallis. On the floor a landscape of cushions by the textile company Print All Over Me. Lindsey Adelman was one of the many female designers whose work were featured during NYCxDesign. Group exhibitions of all women designers were rightfully recognized by the press. I'm highlighting Lindsey Adelman here because I believe she has come the farthest in terms of market recognition and yet her work is still not mass produced or enjoyed in a larger public scale. Perhaps this is not what Adelman wants for her work, I am unaware of her intentions but I think it would be interesting to see more design that was designed by women in public and commercial spaces as part of our every day in the U.S.. The example that comes to mind is when you arrive at the Copenhagen train station and the chairs used at McDonald's are the Trinidad chair by Nanna Ditzel designed in 1993. I believe this is when you know equality runs deep. Of course, it needs to make sense design wise, but one can only hope this is where we are headed. On that note...
I recently read the book Now I Sit Me Down, from Klismos to Plastic Chair: A Natural History by Witold Rybczynski. The book was a very entertaining history of the chair and highlighted the chair as the design piece that truly reflects not only aesthetic taste in a society but also socioeconomic status, and cultural beliefs. A number of anthropological studies can be made through a single chair. The exhibition The Danish Chair, an International Affair reminded me very much of this book in format. The exhibition focuses not solely on what Danish design is but how Danish designers applied their perspectives on designs of historical chairs such as the Windsor chairs, the folding chair and stool, the Shaker chair, and many others. The collection in the exhibition of interpretations by classic Danish designers is a beautiful account of the focus on materiality and quality in production. It's not about reinventing the wheel but making it better and even striving for perfection.
Of all the design talks I went to during 3 Days of Design in Copenhagen I found the Frama Studio Apartment talk with founder Niels Strøyer Christophersen to be the most organic and sincere. Not speaking about industrial production restraints or manufacturer/designer relationships like other Danish brands, Niels Strøyer Christophersen focused on the experience of finding a space and experimenting with materials and the history of the building during the remodeling process of the apartment. He retrofitted the building to his needs and created products that were not available on the market that satisfied with purpose and aesthetic. While he admits he is not a designer his aesthetic vision and focus has launched a brand that revolves around a concept and lifestyle. There is a deep respect for historic architecture and Danish design history in the Frama brand and I find this very refreshing. So many of the products on the market are void of ideas or essence and too manufactured lacking craftmanship. It's important for a younger generation to be looking back in history in order to find and exalt ideas in new products. For more on Frama click here
Another inspiring living space was the home of architect and designer Alvar Aalto in Helsinki, Finland. You can buy a single ticket to visit both his home and studio which are walking distance from each other. I highly recommend this if you travel to Helsinki. Homes to me are the most personal of all spaces so I'm just going to mention Aalto's home for now. The outside is very nondescript from the main street and upon entry, you are immediately forced to select an entry way into the living room, the kitchen hall, the staircase leading upstairs or the now reception area of the museum which previously was the entryway to the office spaces. Aalto initiated his design firm in his home and also entertained many guests, so these areas in his home are well segmented. Throughout Aalto's home and in his designs you can feel that he is vigorously looking forward to creating a Modern life. His designs from the 1930s and 40s are deeply rooted in a spirit of innovation. Aalto was interested and inspired by nature/ natural light, Modern Art and reinventing an already existing technology such as bentwood to produce more efficient and long lasting designs. The personally collected items also reflect much of his interests and inspirations. A passion for Japanese culture showcased in the Japanese paper weaving ottoman and tatami mats used as wall coverings. Collected art gifted by friends and books on Italy and the Mediterranean contribute to creating the portrait of this influential designer.
Finding the right vintage pieces can certainly be a process depending on how much of a collectible you'd like to find. The condition, rarity, and history are all contributing factors. Even if a particular piece is still in production, there can be slight production variations throughout the years that can make the same item unique and more valuable among others of the same kind. At whatever level you'd like to purchase vintage furniture what's important is starting with an appreciation for a piece that has a history and purchase designs that you find interesting and inspiring. While building your collection whether it be contemporary or vintage design pieces, your home should tell the story of who you are, your ideas and influences. Create the space you need and as unique as you are.