Design for everyday life

Photo: Thor A. Larsen. Norwegian children’s designer Stokke was also represented at the ICFF, showcasing the products such as the Xplory stroller to the popular Tripp Trapp chair.

INSIDENORWAY at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York City

Arlene and Thor A. Larsen

Fishkill, N.Y.

Anyone who has even the slightest interest in contemporary interior design, current trends in furniture design, textiles or other home furnishings would have had quite a treat at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair held at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City from May 19 – 22. More than 500 exhibitors from every corner of the globe displayed their latest imaginative products with bright lights and vivid colors in a massive arena for North America’s premier showcase for contemporary design.

The Norwegian products were all conveniently contained within four quadrants at a location not very far from one of the main entrances. The sponsor of this overall display was “Insidenorway,” an initiative of the Norwegian furniture industry, represented by Mr. Knut Skoe. Skoe provided us an overview of the efforts underway, including this show, to enhance the presence of Norwegian furniture and related products into the American market place. “Insidenorway” works closely with the Royal Norwegian Consulate General in New York, represented at the fair by Ingrid Moe.

Several of these displayers have had no presence in the U.S. Røros Tweed AS representative, Erling Digernes, detailed aspects of their incredibly beautiful and durable wool blankets. The colors that caught our attention are based on the use of pigments developed by the Swiss firm, Ciba-Geigy. All the wool used is from Norwegian sheep and the blankets are manufactured in two factories in Norway. Røros utilizes top fabric designers in Norway and at this show, debut a prototype blanket designed in collaboration with the Norwegian architectural firm, Snøhetta. Digernes also demonstrated the effective moisture repellent capability of these finely woven blankets.

Sundays, a maker of outdoor furniture from Kristiansand, introduced their new line called Frame, designed by Andrew Smith.  With more than 40 years of experience in the making furniture for the marine industry, Sundays certainly knows how to create sturdy furniture that can withstand the weather challenges of all-year outdoor furniture. The designs consisting of cushions and frames are sleek, graceful and ergonomic with as many as 500 colors to choose from. The sloped seat and back cushion provides very comfortable seating. The cushions can tolerate water due to the water repellent fabrics used and the unique foam cushions that have an internal mesh structure which allows water to drain easily and air to flow through the cushion. These materials and innovative designs avoid mildew, mold, and rotting associated with some outdoor furniture cushions. The aluminum frames are protected with chrome coating plus a final powder / sand coating that gives an interesting and sensual feel to this attractive furniture.

An expert on ergonomic, minimalist, yet graceful designs is Variér Furniture based in Haahjem, Norway. In 2006, Variér Furniture separated from Stokke and became a company focusing on seating furniture for home and office. The range of seating from dining chairs to lounge chairs or bar stools all follow a design philosophy that the human body is central to design.

One of Variér Furniture products we are most familiar with is their Variable balans chairs designed by Peter Opsvik and came on the market in 1979. A current version was on display at the ICFF show. In keeping with the need for a chair to keep the human body in mind, the balans line of chairs that offers a sloping seat and knee rests. Although often referred to as a “kneeling chair,” the actual locus of lower leg support of the balans seat is below the knees and at the shin to reduce potential loading at the knees. A friend of ours purchased one of these balans chairs in the mid-1980s when he had back surgery and he was amazed how well he felt using the chair for a good part of the day working on the computer.

Another Variér product that caught our eye was their Move chair. The Move chair consists of a saddle-like seat on an adjustable height rod mounted onto a slightly rounded base plate. As such, the Move is very effectively used for people who stand for long periods of time to rest, and relieve body stresses. As noted, the seated person can easily use the Move to move to another location. Studies have been made by different agencies around the world and these studies have indicated that the use of the Move for a week significantly reduces feelings of tiredness in feet, legs and significant reduced tiredness of the back muscles for people who stood for significant portion of their work day.

Stokke was founded in 1932 in Ålesund and made a wide range of furniture with focus on ergonomics, uniqueness and functionality. As noted above, the adult furniture business was spun off to become Variér and the balance of their business is products in the best interest of the child. The ICFF show had three of their finest products. The wooden Tripp Trapp chair is adjustable in height so that it is a chair that could take you from baby to adulthood. The versatile crib known as Sleepi is an oval design with the ability to be four beds in one, enabling it to be the bed from an infant until the child is 10 years old, a very clever design! Stokke’s baby stroller known as Xplory places the baby in a position to not only face the stroller pusher, but the seat can be raised so very high that the mother or whoever is pushing the carriage will be very close to the baby, a general philosophy of Stokke products, that the baby is kept as close to the parent as possible.

Finally, to inspire new designers to enter the furniture industry, ‘Insidenorway’ sponsors future students in the design of new products, some of which were featured at the fair. Specifically, there were prototypes of chairs and lighting fixtures and lamps. We were particularly intrigued with a lamp designed by a master’s degree student, Kristine Five Melvær, whose graceful design had a multi-sided base and shade made of a delicate semi-transparent, mesh-like fabric shade.

Knut Skoe confided that while some business was done at the exhibition, the contacts that come about from the Fair will be more important. After our experience reviewing these well made, attractive and innovative home furnishings from Norway, American home decorators and retailers will be clamoring for more.

This article originally appeared in the July 13, 2012 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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