Secret Design Studio was recently assisting some of our Sydney clients through our Skype Design Review service and I suggested a company that they should check out for some living room furniture. They had spent a fruitless weekend afternoon at the one of the big annual home shows and another afternoon browsing some of the big box retailers, but couldn’t find anything that they loved that complemented the aesthetic of their mid-century modern home. Sure there was lots of furniture that was comfortable, liveable and even likeable, but a lot of it was fairly generic, and nothing that they fell in love with. They asked the question “So how do designers know how to source the cool stuff?”
It is a question that I had never really thought about before, but deserved an answer. It would certainly be very easy to browse all of the eye-candy that is on sites like Houzz and similar, but selecting furniture is not just about how it looks, it is also about the quality, the comfort and how it feels to the touch. What finishes are available? What is the lead time? Can any changes be made? Is it an original design (preferrably Australian), or is it a low quality reproduction? All important questions that can’t readily be answered by just looking at pretty, photoshopped images.
One of the ways that I build up my knowledge of what is available is to try and attend as many of the industry trade shows as possible. April’s Salone Internazionale del Mobile (Milan’s International Furniture Fair) is the biggest (and best) annual furniture trade show in the world, but sadly not very convenient. Most people would not have heard of Melbourne’s Denfair 2016 unless they are in the design industry.
One type of trade show is something like the Home Show which is open to anybody walking in off the street (including families with overtired toddlers) that has a broad, generic appeal, and is quite expensive for exhibitors. These types of trade show tend to attract the mass-market exhibitors who are wealthy enough to afford the stands, and there is often an entry charge for the public. I do try and attend these shows every few years and I usually come away with sense of disappointment, a magic vegetable slicer and corer, and a better understanding of what trends will be exhibited in the next batch of project display homes that are being built.
The other type of industry trade show is not as well publicised and it is a little bit harder to get in. For Denfair the process was to place an online “application” with company details, including ABN and website details. Once the application is approved you are registered and issued a pass with your details and position. This type of trade show, is a much smaller, more intimate event. The public crowds who are looking for a cheap outing are excluded, so the exhibitors have fewer people to deal with, and fewer “tyre-kickers”. There are lots of smaller stands, and smaller businesses being represented. Smaller businesses can often address niche markets, and a lot of their products are less generic, and sometimes a little bit more fun and quirky. In addition the people manning the stands are often the designers or craftsmen themselves, instead of a spokesmodel who has been contracted for the event to hand-out brochures.http://www.denfair.com.au/
A trade show gives me the opportunity to test out the furniture, look at a piece from all angles (including the back), look at how the joints and connections are made, see what options in fabrics and finishes are available, and to get an idea of lead times and the manufacturing process. Here are my 10 best highlights, which I will be filing away for future reference:
The good news for those that would like to see all of the wonderful stands and products at Denfair 2016 is that there is a public open day on Saturday 4th of June. There may be some overtired toddlers, but I promise you that there are no magic vegetable peelers and corers.
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