Top Ten 2021
What can we say about 2021? Perhaps a good place to start is that it was an improvement over 2020? At least 2021 didn't include the world of production coming to an abrupt and catastrophic halt. Where A&D is concerned, 2021 felt like a resumption and a return—perhaps not to complete normalcy, but what is normal anyway? And while we continued with the trend of virtual experience, at least we saw in-person events at NeoCon, Design MIami, NYCxDESIGN, and supersalone. Indeed, these shows debuted some excellent, innovative products. But given the cache these products have already earned, we decided to focus our 2021 Best of List on less-lauded items. So here are our top 10 products reviewed this past year. We hope you enjoy.
The word translates as "square" or "frame," and this demountable architectural glass system makes all the world look as if it should be displayed in a museum. Quadro's recessed reveal and snap-on trim create a seamless transition between walls and doors: never have the mundane goings-on-behind-the-glass looked so good.
Quadro by Muraflex paints a pretty picture.
9. Bit Chair by Normann Copenhagen
Every bit counts with this clever and versatile furnishing by Normann Copenhagen that also happens to be made of 100% recycled household and industrial waste. Bit demonstrates that something is to be done about our ubiquitous plastic problem. In this case, it's a multi-use furnishing that references a classic terrazzo aesthetic.
The pixelated bits are from 100% reclaimed material.
8. EverySpace from Kimball International
Pay attention to the Y in EverySpace, because this is the key to achieving visual cohesion while also encouraging personal customization. This modular system of workplace furniture uses an elegant y-shaped base as a canvas, while offering a system of bookcases, storage modules, media units, screens, and tackable surfaces to be stacked above—along with an accompanying palette of exciting colors, textural fabrics, and innovative materials.
EverySpace looks better than your living room.
7. Emeco Truss
This year we had the pleasure of an exclusive interview with Erwan Bouroullec, fresh off the heels of the debut of Truss, his slim and simplified series of benches, tables, and sofas. Bouroullec credits Emeco for the inspiration and the final product: an elegant and elemental confluence of aluminum, Doug Fir, and the inexorable insistence of the simple triangle.
Truss: "A kind of transparency... when the nature of things appears"
6. General Glass Direct-to-Glass
We admit that part of the allure of the Alice Direct-to-Glass printing process is its absolutely magnificent iteration throughout New York's Moynihan Train Station. The process involves a ceramic frit paint that's digitally jetted onto the surface of OptiWhite glass. And the upshot is hyper-real digital imagery on the glass, so vivid and true that it seems as if you're gazing through a window at the life occurring beyond.
Direct-to-Glass Digital Printing: a temptation to step into the reality beyond the glass
Simple stripes and subtle gradients of color conspire in Knoll Textiles' Stripe It. with a classic motif and an innovative fabric (an anti-microbial and bleach-cleanable all-loop épinglé pile textile), Stripe It not only reminds us of the unending versatility of the simple line, it also points to the prescient know-how and enduring legacy of Florence Knoll.
A confluence of color found in the simple stripe
4. Polis Modular Marble by Lithos Design
This architectural wall covering is one of those jaw-dropping products that will have you mentally exclaiming "How did they do that?" In spite of its otherworldly aspect and arcane appearance, the answer is just simple artisanal exactitude. Polis is a painstakingly molded stone tile that creates an effect of ancient symbolism latent with meaning: "fascinating ancestral carvings with a compelling decorative rhythm."
Polis Modular Marble: discover the secrets of the universe through tactile exploration
3. Artist's Hand from Niamh Barry Studio
Artist's Hand has been lauded as the lighting product design of the year, but that doesn't stop us from placing at in the third spot on our list. An audicious concept that uses strip LEDs and malleable bronze sheet, Artist's Hand celebrates the ethereal, abstract, and one-of-a-kind. That last quality is quite literal, as this as a custom concept, whose forms and finishes are tied to artistic whims and imaginative incarnations.
Echoes of Picasso drawing on the air with naught but a stick of light
2. Plico Chair by Carl Hansen & Son
MId-Century Mod, Scandinavian Design, Form-as-Function... pick your cliché and assign it to Plico if you must, but this is one chair that endures, continuing to speak to us and our innate attraction to intelligible design. We celebrate this 2021 incarnation of the iconic Fabricius Kastholm chair: its flawless folding mechanism, its perfect angles and elegant details, its wonderfully tactile mix of materials.
1. Matière Gris Auster Secretary
The moment in Paul Auster's New York Trilogy when the protagonist's phone rings and the voice on the other end says, "this is Paul Auster calling," never fails to send chills up my spine. So perhaps I'm unfairly inclined toward this clever, compact, and somewhat surreptitious miniaturized desk. Or perhaps it's an authentic appreciation for the way it encompasses and implies the tools of the trade—space, economy, resiliency, and, as James Joyce says, the facility for remaining within or behind or beyond or above the handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails."
It's the little things: pen, paper, and a place to put them
Honorable Mentions: Original BTC's Boom! 32 Pendant, Landscape Form's Take Out, F. Schumacher's Flight of Fancy.
Flight of Fancy
Looking forward to more awe-inspiring products in 2022... Happy Holidays!
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