The Educated Eye

On a grey Tuesday afternoon, as ICFF exhibitors and attendees prepared to depart the confines of the Jacob Javits Convention Center after the latest edition of the design fair, I went to Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn. There I sat down with Marianne and David Russell at the airy, light filled indoor patio of Le Petit Cafe to catch up with the design retail duo, principals at Miami’s iconic design store Arango. This year, during the fair, I was busy with my video project screening at the Boffo Showhouse and attending parallel events outside the fair, so I had seen very little of the fair’s new design offerings. Their refined, educated, and experienced eyes, lead me to ask Marianne and David to tell me what I missed. Here are 5 highlights of what they saw and what they had to say about them. The words are Marianne’s:

  1. One piece that stood out in simple sculptural form was the Plateau Chair designed by Danish designer Erik Magnussen. This is a comfortable lounge chair and work chair, with a high back perfect for relaxing and TV watching, while the right armrest is designed to hold a cup, glass, iPad, book, or laptop. Plateau Chair was awarded the prestigious Red Dot Award in 2011 when it was first introduced in Europe. We were impressed by the quality and workmanship. Each chair’s upholstery is hand-stitched in the same manner as the Egg chair. The Plateau Chair is the best example of an elegant and personal design.

Lighting was the most interesting category this year, with LED technology generating stimulating new design concepts. Pablo’s Circa Lamp, one of several using flat panel LED light source, was unique in its design allowing the panel to pivot to direct the light where needed, and giving a warm balanced ambient light.


Events and exhibitions outside the fair were even more interesting, with great finds. Down the street from Javits, at Wanted Design, we ventured into the stand of the American manufacturer Kontextur. They were introducing a new WC Line of bathroom accessories, designed by Josh Owen, made of durable sanitary silicone and tanoak. The most beautiful, I may even say poetic, piece being the tissue box cover; all pieces from plunger, toilet brush, to waste bin are available in pure white, black, and terracotta red.


Also at Wanted Design, Josh Owen was presenting “Metaproject 02,” an impressive exhibition of work by students from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). Glass designers were paired with industrial design students in projects utilizing recycled glass. Of the many interesting solutions we enjoyed was “The Receiver” by August Kawski–an object derived from the constant cultural clash between technology and community. The Receiver, a large round glass dome with a handle cast in form of a classic Dreyfuss handset, is intended to hold and mute mobile phones during social gatherings, leaving everyone free of distractions and able to interact with one another. A beautiful frosted glass prototype was on display.


In Soho we went to Alessi to see the results of “Metal Workshop: Cranbrook for Alessi.” An exhibition of prototypes from a collaboration of a mixed group of recent graduates from the 3D Design and Metals program at Cranbrook Academy of Art, working together for a week in the metal shop to explore techniques and forms, which might later translate into Alessi products. Presented were four pieces selected for production. Our favorite was VTray designed by Adam Shirley.


A stunning piece of highly polished stainless steel, about 16″ long, folded in a repeated V profile with separate clear acrylic elements fitting into the folds. A perfect tray for fruit, cheese and crackers, crudités and condiments, also great in the office for paper and pens, paperclips and note cards, or in the bathroom for Q-tips, soaps, and small towels. This well-thought-out product is sure to be a commercial success.

8-Interior of Arango, Dadeland Mall, Miami

To comb through the array of new products and designs offered each year is no easy task. It takes a well trained eye, like David’s and Marianne’s, to go over countless stands and showrooms in search of items that are not just “cool,” or “pretty,” but that actually have the function and price that can make it into potentially a new design classic.  After doing so many fairs, here and abroad, and successfully carrying Judith Arango’s legacy into today’s highly competitive design consumers’ market, it is safe to say that the Russells know a thing or two about how to select product. The items highlighted here, other than ‘The Receiver’ which is a study project, are sure bets and will be in their Miami store this Fall.

Paul Clemence is an award-winning photographer whose work is part of many collections, including the Mies van der Rohe’s Archives and house by MoMa, New York.  He exhibits  both in the US and on the international fine art circuit, from classic B & W prints to large scale photo installations. A published author, his work can also be seen in major design and lifestyle publications. His “Architecture Photography” Facebook page ( receives over half a million hits monthly.

Categories: Furniture, Industrial Design