Lynn Byrne

Lynn Byrne

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What Went Down During NYCxDesign

Having just completed its third successful year, NYCxDesign (pronounced NYC by Design) is a 12 day celebration of all aspects of design and has become a magnet for other design and art events, even if they are not technically under the NYCxDesign umbrella.

The 12 day period was packed with must-see affairs including the opening of the Kips Bay Show House, Wanted Design, Collective Design, the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), and the Frieze Art Fair. I was in design and art hog heaven, skipping around the city, attending all of these happenings. Any one of these events could easily fill an entire post, so what follows is my single most favorite takeaway from each venue. Talk about an impossible task.

Kips Bay Show House

By now the Internet is littered with images of what I thought was a wonderful show house, but was there an overall theme? In my opinion, Kips Bay screamed a revival of full-on traditionalism. The much talked about dining room by Mark Sikes is the quintessential expression of this movement. Sikes used pattern upon pattern, sometimes matching them around the room. Blue and white ceramics played a starring roll. And like almost every other designer in the Show House, Sikes featured a lovely, and yes, BROWN, antique piece. If you thought antique brown furniture was over, you would be wrong.

Kips Bay Show House Dining Room by Mark Sikes
Mark Sikes’ very traditional dining room celebrates pattern.

Kips Bay Show House Dining Room by Mark Sikes

Designer Mark Sikes celebrated traditional blue and white ceramics and features several antiques in his dining room.

Wanted Design NY

With “good” design being very much a subjective eye of the beholder determination, I would characterize Wanted Design NY (and its sister in Brooklyn-sadly I didn’t make it there) at the opposite end of the spectrum compared to the Kips Bay Show House.

It’s Wanted Design’s mission to provide a platform for new designs and to support the international creative community.
Top of the list of my favorite new designers is the work of textile artist from Ireland, Claire-Anne O’Brien. Claire creates 3 dimensional, knitted fabrics for interiors. She uses traditional techniques of weave, knotting and basketry, and assembles tubes and rolls into unique structures that celebrate knit. With bold color and exaggerated scale, she produces a range of knitted wool furniture as well as bespoke commissions.

Claire-Anne O'Brien's Knitted Furniture from Wanted Design NY
Claire-Anne O’Brien’s knitted furniture recall a warm Irish sweater.

Collective Design
This venue celebrates decorative arts both old and new, so it’s no surprise that this decorative arts aficionado loved it. It is also for that reason that I can’t pick a favorite so I am cheating and sharing several. I welcome any opportunity to see the furniture of masters like Jacques Ruhlman, Jean Michel-Frank, Jean Royere and Finn Juhl and all were in attendance. I also love being exposed to what is new in “art furniture”— pieces created today that are worthy of a museum. Here I fell hard for a chair created by Sharon Sides in bronze and acid-etched brass.

Sharon Sides’ Flor Chair, Dazzles in acid-etched brass and bronze
Sharon Sides’ Flor Chair, one of 12, dazzles in acid-etched brass and bronze.

But my most important takeaway from this event is a lesson: never say never when it comes to design. Recently I covered the origins of the Memphis Group on my own blog, Décor Arts Now, following T Magazine’s proclamation that it was being revived.

Would I have the designs of Memphis in my own home? Um, I would have said absolutely not. But then I saw them surrounded by other furniture against a backdrop of Fornasetti wallpaper and they looked good.

Memphis Group Furniture and Fornasetti Wallpaper
Fornasetti wallpaper proves to be the perfect backdrop for furniture by the Memphis Group.

Never say never.


Ha! Picking one single thing to report on from ICFF, a behemoth of a trade show located at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, is frankly absurd, so I am going rogue here.
I am not choosing my top favorite but rather showcasing a vendor that I thought was great but didn’t seem to get much attention from anybody else.

Drumroll please…that vendor is Guilded based in the UK. Guilded represents British workshops, studios and individual makers who offer art and furniture of exceptional caliber. I met Guilded’s founder Charlotte Bowater at ICFF and it was clear to me that she had an astute eye for emerging talent. I loved the shell art by Blot Kerr Wilson, an artist exclusively represented by Guilded.

Shell Art by Blot Kerr Wilson
The shell art by Blot Kerr Wilson would be fabulous installed in a bathroom.

Here are two more favorite exclusives.
Philip Hawkin’s Low Table made of English Burr Oak

Philip Hawkin’s low table beautifully showcases English burr oak.

Jonathan Baring's Credenza featuring Grey Shagreen Doors
Jonathan Baring’s credenza features grey shagreen doors.

Guilded represents a number of other artists and artisans and their website is well worth exploring. You can buy the pieces shown or commission whatever your heart desires.

Frieze Art Fair
Freize is like ICFF—choosing just one is maddening, so I am taking the same approach. But first I want to urge you to actually GO next year.

Located on Randalls Island—a place I had previously only visited to attend my son’s rugby matches—Frieze seems dauntingly difficult to get to, but it is not. Take the ferry. It’s fun, cheap and easy. To avoid being overwhelmed when you arrive, explore the Artsy website before you leave, which will post notable artists not to be missed.

As for my under the radar favorite at Frieze, I choose the oil paintings of Sasha Pierce. Yes she made her way to a few Instagrams, but she is not in the New York 2015 Frieze Art Fair book, which of course I bought. I am so happy I posted one of those Instagrams or I could have easily forgotten her work, given all there is to see at Frieze.

The folks at the Jessica Bradley Gallery where her work was shown, explained that it takes her about one year to complete a painting. Understandable, when you consider that those angel hair strands are not thread woven by a machine but hand done with oil paint. The artist squeezes the thin strands from a plastic bag and uses a ruler to line them up. Amazing.

Sasha Pierce’s Oil Paintings Resemble Woven Threads
Sasha Pierce’s paintings may resemble woven threads but she creates her thin strands from oil paint.

So have I tempted you to book your trip to the Big Apple for next year’s concentrated period of art and design? May is typically lovely in the city, and while it’s not Paris in the springtime, to paraphrase Audrey Hepburn, New York is always a good idea.

Especially during NYCxDesign.

Photo credits: Except for the Hawkins coffee table and the Baring credenza, all other photographs by Lynn Byrne.