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Scandinavian at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York

The 19th annual International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) completely overtook New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Center during a few May days, turning it into a global haven for design aficionados. The convention center bustled with some 25,000 (up 8% over 2006) interior designers, architects, retailers, designers, and manufacturers.

With more than 600 exhibitors and a cluster of stuff to sort through, where does one start? There’s a lot of temptations, or how about a rocking bed – red – from a South African company? Or some upside down flowerpots hanging from the ceiling in a German booth? And there are bamboo containers over seven feet tall. What to do with them is anyone’s guess, but they are impressive to behold. As usual, among the Scandinavian exhibitors – Denmark shines. Just look at the quiet beauty of the pleated Le Klint lamps.
“Le Klint is a traditional family company founded in 1943,” explains CEO Kim Weckstrøm. “The first lamp shades were these pleated ones, designed by Poul Christiansen. But we’re bringing lots of new things. Like the Undercover, a lamp which is very popular in Europe. You can change the look of it by putting a different shell underneath a clear glass. It won the Red Dot design award in Europe.”
Dorthe Rud Michaelsen is Press Manager for Danish Crafts.
“We put together the best contemporary Danish crafts that we market abroad,” she says. “Here at our booth you can see the works of twenty four Danish craftsmen. Most popular during this fair? Probably the Rocking sheep, by Povl Kjær.”
Maybe you’re in need for something a bit more practical? How about a soft alpaca throw? Mary Berin, founder of Berin Design, has some for you, and in pretty colors, too.
“I found these beautiful throws, baby blankets and pillows from a new Danish company called Elvang. I just fell in love with them!”
Off we go to one of two booths with products of Swedish origin – Svan of Sweden, a maker of award-winning children’s chairs, high chairs, and baby bouncers, which are all of ergonomic, safety-certified and beautiful. Says designer Anders Fallman:
“We launched the baby bouncer in May, and it got a great boost last week when it was featured on The Ellen Show on TV. But we actually began with the Svan Chair, a strong concept in Europe and we’re aiming at the international market. We only work in bent wood.”
It is interesting to note that two of the Scandinavian exhibitors won 2007 ICFF Editors Awards — Normann Copenhagen for accessories and the other exhibitor with roots in Sweden, Kinnasand Carpets, for carpet and flooring.
Back at the fair and off again, were heading for a look at Danish Rais and “the art of fire”. Whether it’s the eye-catching form or the praised function – Rais stoves are quite intriguing. Executive Vice President Tomas Bruun shows a stove mounted on a turntable for optimal control of the flow of the heat.
“It’s a mix between a traditional stove and a design stove,” Bruun says. “And every Rais-stove is EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)-certified,” Bruun explains.
Let’s see what the rest of Scandinavians are up to. Pan-Nordic team Sari Syväluoma from Finland and Norwegian Johan Ørbeck Aase are exhibiting a modular dollhouse system that can turn into a complete play area.
“It’s a play system based on architectural boxes in miniature,” says Aase. “It’s not as ready-made as a regular dollhouse and therefore more open for a child’s imagination. And when your child outgrows it, you can use the boxes as bookshelves or for storing toys. We worked on the idea for two years, and decided to participate in this fair 3-4 months ago. We are looking for manufacturers, as this is only a prototype.”
Juju Design Party is a group of seven Finnish designers working in ceramics, graphics, and glass. Their little booth is filled with smart and beautiful things. A salt-and-pepper shaker set in the form of a heart (appropriately named Darling) or an elegant sake set in white porcelain on a wood tray.
“That set is very popular,” says one of the designers, Susanna Vesalainen. “It’s sold at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Our things are handmade and we still have a small-scale production. We’re here at this fair to look for a company willing to produce our designs.”
From small-scale to big-time design. And few things are bigger and hotter than Normann Copenhagen. This year there are some new products worth checking out.
“We began a new kitchen series with pots and pans,” says Louise Dyhrberg, Sales Manager. “And then we have small things like key chains, credit card holders, and they have attracted a lot of attention here.”
For something different, let’s check out Danish porcelain designer Anne Black. Black is an established designer who already sells her things through boutiques in the U.S.
“But I’m always looking to expand,” she smiles. “I handmade my things up to a few years ago, and now we produce them in Vietnam. I do utility goods and jewelry.”
I’ve spotted another Finn – Ari Kanerva, a furniture designer who was invited to participate at ICFF when he presented his lounge chair Poka (which means Frame) at the international design fair in Milan, earlier this year.
“I actually made Poka specifically for the Milan fair,” Kanerva says. “And then I was invited to come here. It’s not only the first time I’m at the ICFF, it’s the first time I’m in the U.S.”
Kanerva is looking for a producer for Poka.
“I’ve had several people showing interest,” he says. “But nothing for sure yet. I’m waiting for that. So that I can move on to my next chair!”
Danish Fritz Hansen has manufactured design furniture since 1872, producing new pieces as well as revitalizing old favorites. And working with designers like Arne Jacobsen, Piet Hein and Kasper Salto has given Fritz Hansen to superstar status.
“We just re-launched Jacobsen’s chair ‘3208’,” says Glenn Ludwig, who runs the US sales office. “It was originally designed in 1972. Sometimes it’s referred to as the Lily Chair.”
“It doesn’t look like it’s 35 years old,” I say.
“No, it’s an eternal youth!”
And that, of course, is the secret to why the Danes always dominate these design fairs. Instead of twisting themselves out of shape, they rely on good, solid design that stands the test of time.
The ICFF is produced and managed by George Little Management, LLC (GLM). For more info, see www.icff.com

Text and photography: Eva Stenskär

Finnish furniture designer Ari Kanerva in his Poka chair at ICFF 2007.

Le Klint CEO Kim Weckstrøm shows how the Undercover lamp works. With a swift change of the shell you have a “brand new” lamp!

Tomas Bruun, Executive Vice President of Rais, and a Rais stove.

Anders Fallman, designer of Svan and Svan’s babybouncer.

Normann-Copenhagen’s new line of pots and pans.
Louise Dyhrberg, Sales Manager for Normann-Copenhagen.

Juju Design Party’s elegant sake set, Kotori (which means small bird in Finnish) has soft lines setting the stage for a perfect Japanese meal
Designer Susanna Vesalainen of Finnih Juju Design Party.

Anne Black’s porcelain cups in light blue and green. Porcelain designer Anne Black.

Mary Berin of Berin Design. (Right)” Alpaca throws by Elvang sold in the U.S. by Berin Design.

Danish Craft’s popular Rocking Sheep, and Dorthe Rud Michaelsen, Press Manager for Danish Crafts.

“We just re-launched Arne Jacobsen’s chair ‘3208’,” says Glenn Ludwig, Vice President of Fritz Hansen. “It was originally designed in 1972. Sometimes it’s referred to as the Lily Chair.”
The Lily Chair, also known as 3208.

Johan Ørbeck Aase and the modular dollhouse. The textiles are made by Finnish designer Sari Syväluoma.

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