Whether it is a sign of a renewed economy or just excitement over contemporary furniture design, the annual International Contemporary Furniture Fair attracted 31,000 visitors to view 629 exhibitors (an 18-percent gain over last year) at the iconic New York City show. The event was May 17-20 at the Jacob Javitz Convention Center.

Exhibitors from around the world showed off their work for the audience of design professionals that regularly identify this show as a global trend setter. Some major international participants included the British European Design Group, representing more than 30 companies, the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM), Design Philippines, the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, Brazilian Furniture, Ceramics of Italy, Inside Norway, Interiors from Spain, and Portugal Brands. There were also exhibitors from Asia, including cutting edge Japanese designers.

One of the biggest trends on display at the show is the same trend that has been growing at the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show and the International Builder Show. That is the growth of the importance of plumbing. Woodworking businesses might be tempted to ignore all the emphasis on designer faucets and fixtures, but these things not only affect the physical design of cabinets, they also add or subtract from the budget for projects. And not all the fixtures are metal. Wakei & Company displayed a beautiful cypress wood soaking from Hinokisoken in Japan.

Another trend on display was the increasing numbers of companies offering outdoor living options. Creative and color outdoor furniture was on display in many booths. It ranged from a wide selection of lounge furniture and side tables to even an ingenious self-contained and covered outdoor seating unit displayed by Oasiq of New York. Lots of booths also displayed indoor and outdoor recreation furniture such as ping pong tables, billiard tables, and foosball tables.

Back to traditional furniture trends, there seemed to be a number of booths offering small writing desks. With the trend away from desktop computers to laptops, tablets and other mobile devices, desks can do with less real estate and return to the classic small secretaries and compact writing desks of a former age.

In contrast to recent years where designer dark and New York black seemed to be preeminent color trends, a lighter, happier, more whimsical color pallet was on display in many booths. Bright, almost cartoon colors showed up in many places, reflecting the much more optimistic tone of the exhibitors. The explosive growth in lighting products, especially LED lighting, also added a brighter feel to the show.

Exhibitors seemed very happy with the traffic at the show. According to show officials, the 31,400 attendees this year represents a 12-percent increase over last year and also another positive sign of a recovering economy.

Less anyone think ICFF has forgotten its designer-builder roots, a whole section of the show was devoted to the manufacture and printing of textiles used in furniture production. Fabrics and Fabrication: The ICFF Presents Textiles with PhilaU was an exhibit area sponsored by Philadelphia University. The display included live digital production of printed fabrics and illustrated displays of the production process. Studio furniture fans and makers made sure to visit The Furniture Society’s booth, where not only designer furniture was on display, but also a Powermatic bandsaw giveaway.

Student work is also always an important part of ICFF, with furniture and design departments of prominent schools filling booth space to show top student work. One of the most popular and intriguing displays was from the University of Cincinnati. It was an ingenious disaster relief structure made out of CNC-machined plywood. The structure is covered with Tyvek for weather resistance and incorporates fold-out beds, seating and tables. In another popular booth Wilsonart showed off the results of its annual student design competition (see sidebar).

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