Friday, March 31, 2017


For the past couple years Dining by Design has paired with the Architectural Digest Show sharing an entrance fee allowing you to see both venues under one ticket. The Arch Digest show occupies the larger space, Pier 94. Pier 94 has a t-shaped configuration. If you go to your left as you enter you'll find mostly small shops with little inventory in very specific categories ending in a lecture space where design royalty hold panels on current design issues. If you go to the right you'll see more established vendors and if you go straight ahead you'll find that is where the big guys hang out selling mostly kitchen and bath appliances and design.
The first several days of the show are supposed to be for design professionals only but clearly a lot of client types roam the aisles during this time as well. The last day of the show is then open to the public for a fee of $40 a head.
I went over to the show on the weekend and did a three hour tour of both the Arch Digest Show and Dining by Design using my free pass as a designer. I had a few things for clients I was looking for so there was a bit of purpose to my search.
I headed right and unexpectedly I ran into some old friends. ILevel is a terrific source and a company we have contracted on numerous occasions. They hang art and they really know what they're doing. We've worked from plans we've previously drawn out with very precise measurements for a picture wall that they've laid out meticulously and they've also worked with us when we've had no preliminary plan and we were out there winging it. They're not cheap but knowledge and creative ability comes with a cost. You try to hang a wall with twenty images in a grid and have the space between measure exactly 1.33" between all twenty. Or try hanging a seventy pound sculpture on a wall without dropping it and cracking it into a million pieces.
We'd just come from The New Traditionalists' showroom at 200 Lex where we had purchased a gorgeous sofa for a new client so it was good to see them represented at the show. They have a quirky take on design that makes their product unique and youthful.
Novacolor was a new find for me. They're a wallcovering company with some innovative product. The product itself isn't that new, others have developed metallic and concretes but Novacolor did it the best I've ever seen. Their dripping rust spots were spot on. Where others have tried to duplicate these surface materials Novacolor has done it so that the lines between reality and faux are indiscernible and I like that.
Jan Kath is a company I come back to every time, and every time they come up with a new look for rugs that the industry continually rips off and reproduces. My guess is you'll be seeing these patchwork Boro rugs showing up at ABC Home in the next six to nine months. Borrowed from an ancient Japanese technique of combining worn-out remnants of silk, wool and nettle rugs and sewing them together the look is elegant and an instant heirloom.
The technique of over-dying old Persian carpets that I first saw in their booth well before it became a trend at other rug manufactures was also taken in a direction I hadn't seen until this show. Here they've incorporated metallic threads into their worn-out Persians to a totally dramatic effect.
I hadn't seen Gargoyles, a Philadelphia based company, at the show in quite a while but they were there and had a presence again this year. They specialize in antique and vintage accessories and their collection is right where the current trends are hanging out. Their booth this year was a little tattered but the quality of what they were showing was still worth a very deep look.
Another company that tried to cash in on a trend was Classic Rug and their Gee's Bend collection. I've seen this done before and with much better success. Reproducing the patterns with hooked wool was interesting but too clean lacking the funkiness of the real pieced quilts of Gees Bend.
I don't usually spend too much time in the long part of the "T" that makes up the configuration of the Pier's interior. It's mostly kitchen appliances and I'm sure I should be paying a lot more attention to the newest innovations but I'm no techie and the sales pitches are so ardent I tend to breeze on by. But there were a few vendors who did stand out, not so much for the their technology but for their design. Brown Jordan was one I really loved. Their rusted version of the outdoor kitchen was beautiful. It also came in several different finishes but this rusted version really stood out. I'm sure the cost is in the tens of thousands but would I love to add this to our wish list for our new backyard patio? The answer is a definite yes!
Smeg is always a kooky alternative to the standard appliance fare. There signature is a throwback to the fifties but they've gone completely loco with these new highly decorative designs. Not for my kitchen but it was great fun.
The final leg to the left as you entered the pier focused more on the small entrepreneur. Ercole has been a long time favorite with their mirrored and ceramic mosaics. I loved this metallic table. I just need to convince a client that the money is worth the design.
Glass artists are also a big find in this section of the show. I have my favorites and Vetro Vero Glass and Gordon Auchincloss are two of them. Vetro's round disks, vases and pitchers in these rich colors always stop me in my tracks.
The beautiful shapes created by Gordon Auchincloss
were only bested by his lyrical lighting fixtures in seafoam and brass
The furniture made from reclaimed plastic for Glow by Kim Markel were another innovative use of material transforming traditional furniture forms into untypical pieces of art. The transparency of this green material is amazing to look at especially with the right kind of lighting to make them look more like mirages than actual pieces of furniture.
A last note as to diversity. This always surprises me at the show. I know the Amish are famous for their furniture but it still throws me when I see so many of them attending the show. I'm sure it's a way of culling out new ideas for them and I'm not so sure that many of the artists are too keen on them coming if their goal is to rip off their ideas but since they are so identifiable it's a nice remembrance of how tradition and innovation can come together and meet in a common place.

In memorial
Don Jumping over Hay Roll no.1, Monkton, Maryland, 1999
Rodney Smith, photographer
Available at

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