Highlights of Design Miami 2012

A review of furniture and decor from Design Miami 2012.

With the excitement of Art Basel Miami Beach and DesignMiami behind us, we recall the stress of trying to see it all: the countless parallel fairs, special satellite exhibitions, the designer talks and, of course, the many parties where one had the chance rub elbows with the likes of Kanye West or Pharell Williams, who held the launch of his new book Places and Spaces I Been at the DesignMiami tent. When it came time to check out this year’s offerings at the fair I enlisted the help of my friend and design connoisseur Marianne Russell, principal and owner at Miami’s renowned pioneer design shop Arango Design, recently named “Best Independent Retailer Globally” by the iconic design manufacturer Alessi. As we walked through the shows, here’s what caught her eyes. R18 ULTRA CHAIR stood out at DesignMiami. This innovative and super comfortable chair is produced by the same machines and similar materials used in the production of Audi cars; it is designed for Audi by Germany’s Clemens Weisshaar and America’s Reed Kram in collaboration with the car company’s engineers. By using composites in a thin carbon sandwich on the seat with high strength folded aluminum legs, they developed a sturdy chair, with a comfort-flexible back, weighing just 77 ounces (4.85lbs) or 2.2kg! Audi plans to use the chair in their offices and showrooms. I wish it would also be made available for purchase by the public.


GLASS BOWLS, designed by the Danish, Tora Urup, are handmade in solid glass in a limited edition of five per color. The difficulty in making the bowls and their extraordinary beauty lies in their clarity, and a sensation of one bowl being suspended, floating, or nesting within the other (each with a price tag of 4,800 Euro).

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PINKIE FLOOR LAMP, designed by America’s Wendell Castle, makes you smile. The large bubblegum pink lamp is made of fiberglass-re-enforced plastic coated with custom color auto paint. It stands 41 inches tall and uses just one bulb (meant for a serious collector at $35,000). Presented by R 20th Century, NY.


BLOWN GLASS STOOLS, created in a workshop in France at Cirva in Marseilles, by Belgian designer Sylvain Willenz. The stools are hand made using heavy (55lbs or 25kg) globs of molten glass mouth-blown into a form in a quick 45 second process; this fast action is necessary before the glass hardens. The solid and sturdy stools challenge the fragility of glass. (Available in a limited edition of 10 per color for $12,700). Presented by Victor Hunt Designart in Brussels.


MARBLE TABLE is handcrafted in a single piece of elegant Carrara marble and designed by Ifeanyi Oganwu. The low, organically carved table displayed its legs widely for maximum stability, posed on the dark “Playing with Tradition” carpet by Dutch designer Richard Hutten. Presented by Priveekollektie Contemporary Art I Design, The Netherlands. The items Marianne and I chose cover a wide range of what was in display, from the creative uses of existing technology, like the R18 Chair, to the most basic traditional craft of the Cirva’s blown glass stools, with room for some fun, like the whimsical creations of Wendell Castle (albeit very serious fun, as Marianne correctly noted; the price tag on one of his lamps was $250,000! Overall the fair had a good balance of vintage modern, new fresh designs, and boundary pushing ideas. Of course prices quoted there are exorbitant  (very 1% oriented), but it’s important to see these in context, the fair being a place for design galleries that cater to sophisticated international collectors rather than a wholesale trade show. And while it’s featured pieces might not reach everyone’s living room, the influence of the concepts and ideas shown there can be quite far reaching.

Paul Clemence is an award-winning photographer whose work is part of many collections, including the Mies van der Rohe Archives and housed by MoMA, New York.  He exhibits both in the U.S. 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. Photographs by Paul Celemence.

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