ICFFirst Timers

I&S looks past the big names and the old pros to speak with the rookies of the 2013 International Contemporary Furniture Fair.

One month after ICFF, the buzzing tradeshow floor may seem a world away, but for many young companies on display, the story is just unfolding. In the weeks and months following the show, budding designers are often negotiating through make or break deals—and keeping their fingers crossed for specification orders big enough to take their business to the next level.

This year, we looked past the big names and the old pros and spoke with the rookies of ICFF 2013 to find out just what it’s like being a new face in the crowd. Here we present an 8-part series featuring the designers celebrating their first year at Javits. Stay tuned as we post one new profile each day, for the next seven business days. To get the ball rolling, we’ll kick off with featured company Justin Donnelly, Ltd.

Justin Donnelly, Ltd. Masters Facets Down in D.C.

Professionally-trained architect and self-taught furniture maker Justin Donnelly broke into the furniture design world in 2010, when he snagged a co-op workspace in his hometown outside Washington, D.C. This year his partnership, Justin Donnelly, Ltd., debuted at ICFF with the Orion Collection, a finely crafted series of tables, consoles and chairs featuring lustrous wood faceting, knife-edge tapering, and floating mortise joinery.

“We tried to come up with something that was elegant and refined, but a little bit edgy with these hard, clean lines,” says Donnelly, who continues to expand his co-op space as real estate becomes available.

Pieces came custom-designed for the tradeshow floor, with a semi-gloss finish that stood out amid a sea of matte rubs and natural grains so prevalent at ICFF.

“There’s no natural light in the convention center, and we needed to make sure people could read the facets,” Donnelly says. “If you have a window the facets explode almost like a gemstone.”

The Orion Collection was born of Donnelly’s ”exhaustive process,” making minute changes across dozens of prototypes until the contours were right for “a basketball player or a gymnast.”

“A lot of faceting isn’t getting sold because it comes out bulky, a little bit student project-y," he explains. “It’s hard, and to make it both comfortable and elegant took a lot of experimentation.” 

Now that the show is over, Justin Donnelly, Ltd. plans to expand the Orion Collection with new materials, colors, and finishes. Pieces are designed with residential settings in mind, but are fit for certain commercial and hospitality projects as well.

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