Contemporary furniture: Can you feel it?
NEW YORK — For those who have to touch everything they see in stores, the International Contemporary Furniture Fair was more like Candyland.
In nearly every booth, there were irresistible surfaces to play with: Women with PDAs and sheaves of project plans hugged pillows. Stylish men slouched into fuzzy felted sofas. And even the most soignée of sophisticates couldn't resist a quick fluff of the candy pink wool rocking sheep.
And why fight it? Texture was a big theme at the show, with more than 600 exhibitors from every corner of the globe. Curvaceous stainless steel chair legs were cool and smooth. Richly patterned wall hangings, when caressed, enveloped the arm. Burnished stone tiles were warm; thick piled rugs were luxuriously springy. Foam invited poking.
"I think people are looking to bring warmth and a real sense of livability into their homes, and texture is one of the best ways to accomplish that," said Ruth Gottesman of Alpha Workshops, which presented a Texture Collection of wall coverings.
Woods were everywhere, from Tucker Robbins' tamarind tables to Nori Morimoto's gently sculpted pendant lamps, to a whole host of unusual, exotic-looking laminates for cabinetry or walls.
There was also a strong emphasis throughout on eco-friendly manufacturing processes; sustainably harvested trees, recycled metals and glass, low-impact dyes. And that meant more textures to play with.
"With the current emphasis on organic and green, designers and homeowners are striving to include natural materials that offer many texture options," said Leilani Norman-Young, whose Spectra Decor collection of hardware employs castoff hubcaps, lead-free pewter, trash glass, eco-resins and natural shell.
Nori Morimoto, a carpenter and artist, uses elemental "tools" like water, heat and air to coax unusual textures out of his woods. His sculptures, light fixtures and furniture reflect the movement and feel of wind, waves or grasses.
Europe's Graviti Zone rugs also use the elements of nature in designs that interpret grass, eddies of water, earth and the rough surface of animal fur. At the show this year, they debuted a more urban-themed pattern called Meatpacking that evoked the cobblestones of New York's Tribeca neighborhood.
Other rugs were heavy on feel: Beatrice Girelli's IndiB label showed multilevel cut and loop rugs in wool, viscose and silk with color-saturated images of gingko leaves and branches. Canadian Bev Hisey presented two multihued rugs designed to mimic her grandmother's oil paintings; the wool was worked into what seemed like brush strokes on a canvas.
Wall coverings ran the gamut from rich, grainy metallic wovens at Phillip Jeffries to wax-coated papers at Trove — an ICFF Design Editors Award winner — that featured evocative photoprinted images of blossoms and butterflies.
Sofas were cloaked in warm felts and buttery leathers, while chairs were crafted from extruded foam, sleek polycarbonate, exotic plantation-grown or engineered wood, and polished alloys.
Whether designers scrounged their materials, or employed the most sophisticated of technologies, they all seemed to be considering texture.
"Once you put texture on your walls or floors or furniture, you're inviting people to touch and sit a while," Gottesman said. "A room with texture is the opposite of standoffish."