ICFF billboard
Courtesy ICFF

What Not to Miss at ICFF 2024

During this year’s NYCxDESIGN festival, the International Contemporary Furniture Fair brings the most innovative design to Manhattan’s Javits Center from May 19 to the 21.

This year, ICFF returns to the Jacob J. Javits Convention Center with a jam-packed program celebrating the fair’s 35th anniversary with the best of contemporary design. Just one of the many highlights of New York’s NYCxDESIGN Festival, ICFF is set to showcase innovative products from more than 450 exhibitors across 35 countries from May 19-21. 

While design fairs are historically major generators of waste through the use of single-use exhibition materials, ICFF’s approach illustrates the brand directors’ ongoing commitment to sustainability. “As show producers, sustainability is a challenge,” says Odile Hainaut. “We made some drastic decisions like removing the aisle carpet completely. Most of our signage is digital or being re-used for three years. The walls are rented, and nothing is built to only be used for 3 days.” Claire Pijoulat adds, “We aim to communicate this to our exhibitors and encourage them to do the same so that they can take it as a design challenge and rethink the way they build their booths.” 

Rendering by rockwell group
Courtesy Rockwell Group

The proof isn’t just in the production, but in the programming as well. “You’ll find great sustainability content at the Oasis and the Crossroads,” Pijoulat says. “We are opening up conversations with experts to inspire, find solutions, and connect people” through conscious design. 

While this might not be your first ICFF rodeo, there are plenty of new activations and happenings in store for this year’s iteration, that you don’t want to miss. Keep reading for our top picks.

image of a wood motorcycle
Arca Ebenisterie, Wood Eagle. Courtesy Antoine Duhamel Photography.

1. Bespoke: The Art of Making

ICFF’s Bespoke: The Art of Making is a new exhibit that showcases the pinnacle of custom craftsmanship in furniture design. The multisensory space celebrates the meticulous skill of high-end artisans in furnishings, textiles, and architecture. At the heart of Bespoke is the Bespoke Salona unique space designed by MA | Morris Adjmi Architects (ICFF Designer of the Year, 2023) that features daily activations hosted by AD PRO. “The lounge is outfitted with thoughtfully crafted furnishings and accessories—many bespoke—that are both worldly and curated but never matchy-matchy,” Adjmi says. “Elegant partition walls frame the space to provide a sense of perimeter and, in turn, protection, from the hustle and bustle of the fair outside. Inside, salon-style talks take place, but there is also a spirit of ease that allows fair-goers to find a moment of respite in between more formal programming both within and beyond the lounge. Music will accompany the design thanks to a self-playing Steinway piano.”

mushroom lighting
MushLume Lighting will be on view in ICFF’s Crossroads of American Design exhibition.

2. At the Crossroads of American Design: Sustainability in Practice and Spirit 

Returning in 2024 at the heart of the Fair, The Crossroads is a collaboration between the ICFF brand directors, Rockwell Group and Founder David Rockwell, and independent curator and Editor Pei-Ru Keh. “Sustainability, in its complex and multifaceted form, serves as the focal point of The Crossroads’ second iteration,” explains Pijoulat. “This year’s exhibition will spotlight the way designers seek to preserve long-honored craft traditions, together with how they push the boundaries of circularity to consciously re-think the legitimacy of material use. It will also highlight the different ways creative communities can make design more accessible to all, whether through more inclusive cultural representations or deeper community-wide engagement. By considering the concept of sustainability in both a formal and ethical sense, The Crossroads hopes to spark new ideas on how the American design community can make its way forward with respect, fellowship, and meaning.”

The exhibition is organized into several sections, including a demo area at the entrance, seating for design dialogues and panels, a central circulation area for connecting with designers in person, a gallery showcasing the diversity of design in practice, and a casual seating arrangement for visitors to explore and reflect on the breadth of contemporary design. These varied spaces highlight the possibilities of sustainability through the work of 18 different design studios across America.

image of students in honda design workshop
WANTED Design Schools Workshop. Courtesy Honda Design.

3. WANTED Design Schools Workshop

This year, WANTED (the feature of ICFF, previously known under WantedDesign Manhattan)—includes the Schools Showcase, Launch Pad, Look Book programs, and for the first time at the Javits, the Design Schools Workshop. “All WANTED programs are focusing on emerging designers and bring a unique energy to ICFF,” explains Hainaut. The Design Schools Workshop is a collaborative four-day course where 35-40 international design students work together to create a solution based on a given brief, with this year’s theme focusing on the future of mobility. The workshop will be held in a dedicated area next to the WANTED space and is presented with media partner Core77 and sponsored and conducted with Advance Design Division of Honda R&D Co., Ltd., in partnership with Pratt Institute, La Fonte Co., Ltd. The workshop space is sponsored by MOLO, Montana, Teak NY, and Visual Magnetics.

image of a book called designed for life
Courtesy Phaidon

4. The Library, in Partnership with Phaidon

If you need a break from the floor, guests can spend a contemplative moment at ICFF’s new Library, designed in partnership with global book publisher Phaidon. Within a curated library adjacent to the Main Stage, the publisher has created activations for the new release Designed for Life: The World’s Best Product Designers. The book is a captivating exploration into the impact contemporary product design has on our daily lives and showcases 100 leading designers from around the world, across graphic design, art, craft, fashion, and architecture. With rich visuals and expert commentary, the book is perfect for design enthusiasts and professionals alike and emphasizes new materials, processes, and technologies that center aesthetics, functionality, and human experience in product design. The Library is sponsored by Ligne Roset, Kasthall, String Furniture, and Midgard.

image of the parsons healthy materials library
Parsons Healthy Materials Library. Courtesy Nicholas Calcott

5. ECO Solidarity 2024: Ethics in Materiality / Restoring Sustainable Balance

ECO Solidarity returns to ICFF this year with an exciting panel titled “Ethics in Materiality: Restoring Sustainable Balance.” Moderated by Jonsara Ruth, co-founder and design director of the Healthy Materials Lab at Parsons School of Design in New York, the panel will introduce functional designs that respect local resources, use healthier materials, and consider the product’s end use. Panelists include Angel Mombiedro, architect and designer, Armombiedro Studio; Vlasta Kubusova; Paulina Grabowska, founder, NASDRA Conscious Design and Mood.farm; Dagmar Zvonickova Fredholm, co-Founder, Identity Designers and Novavita Design. “Ethics in Materiality: Restoring Sustainable Balance” will take place Tuesday, May 21, at 1:30 on the Oasis Stage at ICFF.

Learn more about the 2024 edition of ICFF, and see the full program.

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