Say goodbye to 1960S-style molded plastic and Plexiglas. For contemporary home-furnishings designers these days, it's all about natural materials.
At the recent International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York City, exhibitors featured everything from rugs that look like grass or moss (no, not Astroturf) to tables made of driftwood. Fabric designer Angela Adams showed hand-tufted, one-of-a-kind rugs inspired by the natural beauty of the island off the coast of Maine where she grew up. Even some of Herman Miller's classic pieces were displayed in natural woods with felt upholstery, in an exhibit called "Get Real."
"Craft has been absent from the diet for so long, it feels new to a certain generation of designers," says Murray Moss, owner of Moss, a popular New York City design store. "Thirteen years ago, injected molded plastics were the fascination. But that has kind of played itself out. Now wood, paper and ceramic feel new."
Many young designers, including Lian Ng of San Francisco--based Publique Living, are molding and braiding wood. "There is a lot more use of wood in nontraditional applications," says Ng, a former graphic designer who creates lamps out of strips of maple or walnut veneer that are then woven into braided patterns. "With so many new products, I wanted something that is innovative yet familiar at the same time."
James Dieter, a designer whose company, dform, sells wood-veneer lamps cut into interlocking patterns, attributes the popularity of natural materials to improvements in manufacturing. "There are really amazing things that can be molded with wood," he says.
At the "Raw" exhibit of next-generation design stars, Denmark's Anne Bannick and Lene Vad Jensen displayed cutlery made from corn. Another wild idea: Eric Bergman's sandals with seeds for soil-cleaning plants buried in the soles. Now that's back to nature.