ICFF + Wanted Design Manhattan have come and gone for the year, but for the time it lasted, I feel as though the energy and excitement could’ve powered a small city. The opportunity to meet with familiar acquaintances, as well as new arrivals, certainly had me gripped with anticipation. Perhaps it was the expectations I had going in, knowing that ECO Solidarity, a global design collective pushing the boundaries of sustainability, was going to be featured through the exhibitors and programming.
For me, it was a signal that the furniture industry not only acknowledged the role it played in the climate crisis, but that it was going to pursue innovative solutions with gusto. And sure enough, there were plenty at the show doing just that, in addition to taking the function of their designs down to a deeply personal and human level.
Restorative rug patterns, 3D-printed chairs made from plant waste and mushroom-like blooms of noise-dampening acoustical foam: the range of products, their stories and functions ran wide and deep. Too deep to include all in one article, so I picked eight that stuck out to me in particular while I was at the show.
The Assorted Lightworks of Mirei Monticelli
Graceful, flowing, organic shapes burst with light from within. One part artwork and one part light fixture, the work of Mirei Monticelli is defined by a commitment to culture and sustainability to its core. Currently residing in Milan, Mirei draws heavily from her own cultural roots from the Philippines in the design and creation of these fixtures, with local artisans handling everything from the growth of the material to the final weaving of the forms around the LED lighting elements.
The fabric that makes up the main body of the shapes, known as banaca, is a highly-durable and malleable material woven from the fibers of the banana-abaca tree. It’s a material used throughout the Phillipines (and by Mirei’s mother as a fashion designer) and represents a deep cultural connection, one that Mirei uses to help provide a response to the cultural heritage crisis.
The On-Bin Dining Chair by Tomoki Design
The understated outline of the On-bin dining chair presents itself as a casual fixture with a noble goal. In Japanese, On-bin means gentle, quiet and peaceful: avoiding conflict. Its this definition that belies the intention designer Tomoki Nomura had when designing the furniture peace. It’s a dining chair meant for commercial restaurants with relaxed, intimate conversations and engagement being at the heart of the patron experience.
Having had a chance to speak with Tomoki over the design while seated in the chair, I noticed the two of us settling very naturally into our conversational positions. The lower back invites users closer to one another, while the arms offer a spacious platform for support. The only downside is it’s not yet available for sale, but hopefully, that will change soon.
The ReCLIPS Collection by HOUE
Founded in 2007, HOUE is a Danish design house focused on indoor and outdoor furniture with sustainable luxury in mind. And their ReCLIPS line takes that idea of sustainability to an entirely separate level. Made from 97% household plastics (the other three being color pigments and UV protection), ReCLIPS uses modular lamellas on an aluminum frame to create a fully recyclable, cradle to cradle product.
What elevates the product in its mission of sustainability is that all of the household plastics sourced come from the same city where the manufacturing plant is located. The product line comes in lounge chairs, bar stools and rockers, and, owing to the modular design of the lamellas, are easily fixed in the event of one of the parts breaking. They’re also stackable, which means less space is needed to transport them.
Fractal Fluency by Mohawk Group
A collaborative effort between Mohawk Group, 13&9 Design and Dr. Richard Taylor, Head of the Physics Department at the University of Oregon and Fractals Research, the Relaxing Floors Collection uses fractals, the building blocks of many patterns found in nature. And with them, the teams have created a set of designs leveraging art, science and human-centered design to create regenerative environments.
Fractal Fluency is the latest addition, using compositions of lines and blocks to create greater patterns meant to represent twigs and pebbles scattered across the ground. Though simulated, these assortments are designed to guide eyes as nature would through subtle variations and soft color patterns that blend into one another.
Mohawk also fully embraces transparency in all of their products, and have embedded themselves in LEED, the Living Building Challenge and the WELL Building Standard with all of their products.
Tremella by Turf Design
Known for their beautiful, borderline artful acoustic products, Turf is diving into more biophilic exploration with Tremella. Blooming across the walls, Tremella is inspired by the undersides of mushrooms, lily pads and sculptural art pieces, turning an otherwise flat surface into an eye-catching display that also adds acoustical insulation. It’s a simple move, but the extra dimension added by the orientation really does elevate the humble felt material and adds a soft textural element to design.
As with all of Turf’s systems, Tremella is made from 60% pre-consumer PET plastic, manufactured on demand to keep waste low, and is shipped from Turf’s warehouse in Chicago, Illinois to keep associated transportation emissions low for buyers in the United States.
The Solis Adirondack Chair by Model No.
Constantly pursuing innovation in materials in manufacturing, Model No. created a striking beauty with their new age take on a classic chair. The Solis innovates on its manufacturing and materials through the power of 3D printing technology, taking a frame of FSC-certified hardwood and printing the shape of the seat over it with upcycled, plant-based materials. The end product is an ergonomic and highly-durable variety of seating made from an entirely unique material for the product.
As with all of their one-of-a-kind pieces, the Solis Adirondack Chair is made to order to avoid inventory and related waste issues. The company also uses completely nontoxic materials in the design of its products, so not only are the chairs better for the planet, they’re also better for the people that get to use them. The Solis also comes with all the classic comfort of an Adirondack, so it’s the perfect seating for one to relax and decompress in.
Oasis by Float Studio
Oasis is less an individual product and more a collective. It’s a human-centric space made possible through an assortment of products and designs, flowing, undulating and purposefully undefined in its usage. Oasis encourages guests to engage with the seating area in whatever way is most comfortable or conducive to the conversations and interactions taking place.
While not a specific product, it is a certainly inspiring design that allows Float Studio to engage with the idea of what a flexible, multi-purpose space can provide in commercial environments. It’s also unique in how it is able to create borders and separation through an almost forest-like orientation of fabric draped from overhead. There’s an article about it and the concept of multifunctional spaces written from last year’s ICFF for those interested.
Bonus: The Entire ECO Solidarity Booth
I couldn’t have an article like this without mentioning the works of those as a part of ECO Solidarity. Bringing together a diverse group of design practitioners, the entire focus was an exploration of what can only be described as ‘radical sustainability’ in architecture, urban planning, product design and development, energy and waste.
In some noteworthy examples, the booth featured a therapeutic light lamp and spirulina farm in one (NASDRA Conscious Design, Poland), combining nutrition, wellness and sustainability into a single product; a 3-D printed, cavernous bioplastics stool called the Naked Stool (crafting plastics! studio, Slovakia); and the Forest Chair, which incorporates upcycled cork, wood from cargo pallets and waste material from forest floor (SUSDESIGN, Portugal).
Other participating designers and studios included: EOOS NEXT (Austria), Herrmann & Coufal (Czech Republic), Livable Platform (Flanders, Belgium), MOYA Birch Bark (Germany), AHA Objects (Malta) and Atelier Ad Hoc (Romania).