Denfair is a furniture, lighting, art and accessories fair held in Melbourne Australia. The 2017 edition was the third iteration of the fair and each year it gets bigger and better. This year a number of major distributors joined in so the product mix included undiscovered new talent courtesy of the Front / Centre emerging designer platform, right through to major international brands - just what any good fair should be about.
The winner of this years Best Large Stand award was Danish furniture and lighting importer Great Dane. I can't say it was my favourite but hats off to Great Dane for pushing the boundaries of stand design. Their 72 square metre space featured a floor entirely of moss while the ceiling of the stand was simply a giant cluster of black umbrellas. Design daily is unsure whether this is a comment on Scandinavian or Melbournian weather - either way the stand was well received and reminded everyone attending that stands don't need to be a solid structure if imaginatively conceived.
Australian lighting designer Volker Haug won Best Small Stand this year for his semi-transparent cube made from a polycarbonate honeycomb material. Internally the stand was quite plush, complete with pale pink wall to wall carpet and ink blue velvet curtains.
Australian design was well represented and innovative with great new products by Coco Reynolds of Marz Designs (see her new Bermuda wall sconces above and brass 'Furl' sconces at the start of this post), a beautiful new outdoor collection called 'Trace' by Adam Goodrum for Tait (below left) and a wonderfully simple and to-the-point display of Henry Wilson's body of cast metal work (below right). Wilson was also launching the finalisation of a long term project - a configurator for architects and interior designers specifically designed to allow the customisation of his ingenious 'A-Joint' table system. The new website allows interior designers to create custom versions in a variety of finishes and get instant quotes.
A trade fair isn't the best place to showcase handmade tiles it has to be said but Porcelain Bear are never afraid of giving things a go. For Denfair they launched a new wall and corner tile called 'Polar' and tiled and grouted their stand for several days in an effort to suggest how their pieces might be used. The result offered three completely different looks: luxe black and gold, minimal glacial white and a nature inspired blue and white.
Sydney designer maker Jonathan West showed at Denfair as part of the Handkrafted platform along side makers such as . His 'Brass Cabinet' is a big departure from his past more rustic work in timber and bent steel. The interior drawers are in walnut and are lined with velvet. West is the maker behind many of Sydney's best cafes and bars including Cornersmith in Annandale, Mecca in Alexandria and the Archie Rose Distillery in Rosebery.
Cult's new stand alone Australian design brand Nau made its Denfair debut with a lovely stand made with tobacco coloured cork tiles. The brand has launched with a large range of indoor products - the 'Bilgola' collection by Adam Goodrum, The 'Strand' table and chairs by Adam Cornish (the first chair design Cornish has ever released) Nau has also launched a new modular seating system designed by Cornish called 'Converse' that comes in 700mm square blocks that can be configured in multiple ways, from sofa's to benches and tables (seen below left in blue)
Cornish also designed a shelving system for Nau called 'Frame' (seen in the background below). Other pieces in the Nau collection include the 'Takushi' table by Gavin Harris, the 'Rev' stool by Adam Cornish and the 'Bell' pendant by Adam Goodrum. These join a number of other Australian designs that have previously been presented under the AG x Cult banner.
In the past Australian design fairs have relied heavily on established companies to make things viable and have generally ignored the need to provide low cost space for up and coming designers. Denfair is working hard to encourage a greater presence from small studios and young designers. Last year's ID. x THE SNAP collective of Australian designers curated by Anne-Maree Sargeant was replaced this year with Front / Centre, a platform supported by a variety of government funded design institutions across Australia including Craft ACT, Artisan – Centre for Queensland Craft & Design, JamFactory, Designed Objects Tasmania and Workshopped in association with Australian Design Centre (ADC).
The quality of the selected work at Front / Centre was extremely high and formed the focus of the entrance to Denfair along with a conceptual stand and information desk for fabric house Kvadrat Maharam by Emma Elizabeth for Local Design. Shown below are a few examples from Front / Centre which was kindly sponsored by commercial furniture company Schiavello. Below left are the finely textured black ceramics of Hobart based Lindsey Wherret. On the right is the 'O-Bench' by fellow Tasmanian, Scott Van Tuil.
The Kvadrat Maharam stand showed a number of pieces by Elizabeth and her Local Design associates Tom Fereday and Tom Skeehan in special one off colours and Kvadrat fabrics. The vivid blue veiled stand was rather difficult to photograph but the colour ideas presented were beautifully executed including hand made suits and garments for the stand attendants designed by Elizabeth in signature Raf Simons Kvardat fabrics.
Zuster have become a major force in Australian furniture over the last 10 or more years and have helped to improve the visual quality of Australian bathrooms with their recent collections for Reece's Bathroom Life. Oak has always been the brand's material of choice and they continue to make most of their pieces in this material but they have moved away from the simple geometric lines of the past to a far more complex and detailed style. The newer collections Halo. Knighthood and Embellish offer a greater mix of materials including brass, mouth-blown glass and luxurious stone, leathers and fabrics.
Plyroom is a new Australian brand dedicated to producing design led products predominantly in plywood. While much of their product range is designed for children's rooms that are notoriously hard to buy for, many of their shelving and storage products cross over to general lounge room environments.
Danish and Swedish importer Fred International presented a wonderful stand wrapped in woven cane featuring a host of new products launched at the Stockholm Furniture Fair from Swedish brands Fogia, and Rubn.
Beyond being awarded Best Australian Designer and launching new collections with Nau and Tait, the design powerhouse that is Adam Goodrum also created a new screen design for regular Denfair participant, The American Hardwoods Export Council. Made from American cherry, the screen uses a house of cards motif to create an open but geometrically regular look that can be stretched to any length by adding the panels together.
And now its time to blow my own trumpet:
Like last year Design daily worked with SeehoSu to create a stand for Denfair. Reusing last year's pine framework we added woven cane backing panels, used Molo's kraft paper 'Softwalls' and painted the floor and plinths new colours. A low key make-over but it worked a treat with the colours of the products and the stand working beautifully together. New additions to the Maruni range the 'T&O' stools and chair along with the exquisite 'Hedwig' armchair and 'Madonna' dining chair from Gärsnäs added newness - as did the 'Julius' sofa - also from Gärsnäs.
This little stand's next appearance (although in an all new guise) will be at Sydney Indesign in August. Its amazing how many incarnations a simple pine frame can sustain.
The third and definitely the best Denfair to date, the 2017 edition cements the Melbourne event as Australia's premier furniture, lighting and interior accessories fair. Hopefully Denfair's current three day duration will soon become busy enough to warrant expansion to a five day event with a three day trade and two day public timeframe so that more of this type of quality design is available for viewing by the Australian public. Australia has a large problem with the acceptance of replica products and low grade imports and it is only through greater exposure to high quality design events like Denfair that this will ever change.