10 Designers on Big Breaks & Lessons Learned at ICFF

ICFF 2011

Before Jeffrey Bernett worked for B&B Italia, Ligne Roset, Herman Miller, and Knoll, he was an unknown designer setting up his first-ever booth at ICFF and hoping someone would sign him. That year, he won "Best of Show" and a deal with Cappellini. Fifteen years to the date, other young hopefuls are in that same position, and Jeffrey's still coming back to the show to see what's new. That's the beauty of ICFF…… it's simultaneously a launching pad for unknowns, a place for more established designers to show their best stuff, and a platform for collaborations that might not happen otherwise. We spoke with a range of designers at different places in their careers — from a 24-year-old Brit to an industrial designer who's reinvented herself countless times. All of them had valuable insights into what it feels like to put yourself out there at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair.

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Jeffrey Bernett (shown sitting in his Landscape Chair for B&B Italia) is a well-known name in the design world — he's worked with Ligne Roset, Herman Miller, Knoll, and other high-end companies. He got his start as a 30-year-old designer exhibiting at ICFF 1996, when he won "Best of Show" and Cappellini picked up his first collection.

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Charles Brill of New York firm Rich, Brilliant, and Willing says they've learned to honor materials in the design process. They describe their studio as a "laboratory-style workshop," and for their first appearance at ICFF they're showcasing a collection of locally sourced lighting. The "Channel" lamp, for instance, is made with wood from a New York broom-handle supplier and an aluminum channel frame — the kind of basic raw material you'd find at an industrial supply warehouse.

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Shanan Campanarom, head of Brooklyn wallpaper and fabric studio Eskayel, says that ICFF gives her a chance to collaborate and display her work in new ways. This year, she's sharing her booth with furniture from RH Gallery.

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Gayle Zalduondo of Puck and Blossom is debuting the prefab Cabana Life backyard shed she designed with her husband, Andrew Kelly. An industrial designer who's worked in the past with big companies like Crate & Barrel and Room & Board, she says she loves the energy and immediacy of a show like ICFF, as well as the chance to connect with industry people one-on-one.

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Seattle-based Urbancase and Connecticut studio Teroforma used ICFF as an opportunity to collaborate on a bar cabinet with a diamond motif that's repeated in cut-crystal glassware. Darin Montgomery and Trey Jones (Urbancase) designed the cabinet, and Andrew and Anna Hellman (Teroforma) created the glassware.

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For German-born, UK-based wallpaper designer Katja Behre, ICFF represents a chance to show her work to an American audience. Her digitally-printed papers can be customized with different motifs. Papered strips and display books in her booth allow her to show a wide range of available options.

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Los Angeles company Astek specializes in wallcoverings by a variety of different designers, and their booth is a mini-gallery that shows the range in their collection. Designer Erik Dell created the black geometric pattern hanging over his head — he says he created the custom design for Ashton Kucher's new home.

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Last year, Cleveland firm Objeti won ICFF's New Designer Award, and designer Joseph Ribic says it's the big break that catapulted their business. Over the past year, they've appeared in Surface, Dwell, Metropolis, The New York Times, Fast Company, and — of course — Apartment Therapy.

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For New York wallpaper designers Trove, ICFF represents a chance to showcase new technologies. This week, they're debuting StoneGround, a collection of waterproof, rip-resistant wall"papers" made from about 80 percent calcium carbonate (mineral powder) and 20 percent resin.

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Twenty-four-year-old John Green is a UK designer showing his work for the first time ever at ICFF. (He jokes, "I'm from old York not New York.) Although there's a great deal of expense involved in coming overseas (supported in part by grants from the UK government) he says as long as he can find distribution for his designs and make the right contacts, it's worth it.

Photos: Sarah Coffey

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