Joe Doucet peers into the hypnotic surface of his VisAge mirror, a walnut cone with an amber-colored surface. It debuted as part of his new On Time project, which greeted visitors to Wanted Design this year.

At New York Design Week 2012, Part IV: The Rest

At 8:15 AM on Monday, May 21, I heard it in my sleep: thunder, really loud thunder, loud enough to wake me up and send me flying to the window in a panic. The Noho Design District's 22 Bond space had shown signs of roof leakage during setup earlier that week, and with torrential downpours seeming imminent, I threw on shoes and glasses and rushed meet Jill at the space to begin damage control. Thus went the day, as we scrambled to clean up puddles and position buckets underneath the growing indoor deluge, our dreams of making it to the rest of New York Design Week's offsite shows slipping away from us by the hour. We'd seen Wanted Design and Matter the day before, but as fate would have it, there would be no Boffo Show House for us this year, nor would we make it to Model Citizens, despite a valiant effort which saw us sprinting up the stairs of the venue fifteen minutes before the show was scheduled to close, only to find that almost everyone had packed up early. Luckily the American Design Club's Raw + Unfiltered exhibition at Heller Gallery — part two of the Karlsson's Unfiltered project — remained on view later that week, so we paid it a belated visit. (The Boffo house is up through June 4, though as of press time we hadn't been able to get there quite yet; ditto for the Herman Miller pop-up shop, on until July 1.) Next year, if they haven't quite perfected cloning technology just yet, we at least hope to nip this problem in the bud with a more foolproof modern invention: interns.
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The sleeper hit of this year's NDD? Modern Craft at The Merchant's House Museum, curated by us. The museum, which dates back to the 19th century, is NYC's only family home that remains intact from that era. We installed the work of five designers — including Andrew Rumpler of Nine Stories, whose bar stools are shown here, and Colgate Searle, who made the masks behind them — amidst the beautiful time-capsule interior.

At New York Design Week 2012, Part III: The Noho Design District

The question we get most often about curating and producing three years' worth of Noho Design Districts isn’t “Can you spare an invite to the VIP party” or even “How can I show my work with you?” but “How on earth do you two do it?” This year was our biggest and best event yet: We had two new hubs (the empty former print lab at 22 Bond Street and The Standard, East Village hotel on Cooper Square); two new international partners (London’s Tom Dixon took over the basement of the Bleecker Street Theater while DMY Berlin hit the American circuit downstairs at 22 Bond); and exhibitions so big that one of them stretched across two different venues (The Future Perfect’s showcase busted the seams of its Great Jones flagship, continuing up the street at 2 Cooper Square).
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The undisputed winner of the weekend was Matt Gagnon’s Knit Fort, which was constructed on-site from bars of teak and rubber cording by the designer and his team over the course of a single afternoon. (André Balazs was rumored to have considered keeping the fort for his planned hotel renovation but ultimately declined.) For those who climbed the stairs from the hotel lobby, the fort emerged dramatically into view; for the rest, it beckoned invitingly from its perch on the patio’s raised platform, turning the terrace into something like summer camp.

At New York Design Week 2012, Part II: Hotel California

How could we have possibly known, when we first decided to host an exhibition of California design during our third annual Noho Design District, that we would be blessed with four straight days of glorious, Los Angeles–style sunshine? (Followed, of course, by a day of downpours, but more on that tomorrow.) Springtime in New York is a fickle beast, and when we first began to plan how best to use the gorgeous second-floor terrace space we’d been given at the new Standard, East Village hotel, we said a prayer for mild climes but also engaged in fretful what-ifs with our hotel ambassadors, talking of contingencies like awnings, tarps, and the possibility of moving everything — save for a nearly 50 square foot teak and rubber fort constructed on-site by Matt Gagnon — inside.
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With very little prompting, Derek Chen, founder of the San Francisco–based furniture company Council, opted to wear the new Twig chair by Chad Wright around his neck. Despite being incredibly thin and svelte for a chair, it was incredibly heavy as a necklace, so we had to work quickly to get the shot.

At New York Design Week 2012, Part I: ICFF

We may have spent most of our New York Design Week(end) tending to the most successful Noho Design District ever — wrap-up post coming soon! — but this year we were determined to see as much of everyone else's presentations as possible, including spending more time walking the International Contemporary Furniture Fair at the Javits, checking in with old friends while discovering new talents. And since Roll & Hill opted not to reprise the bar they plopped in the middle of the fair last year, plying us with beers and chips as we charged our phones and completely lost track of time, we were able to do a relatively thorough sweep before racing back out into the sunshine again. We started out just snapping products we loved, but then couldn't resist adding a Sight Unseen twist, so we asked some of the more adventurous designers and brand ambassadors to strike a pose with one of their new pieces — which turned out to be a welcome break from the tedium of spending one's days doing business inside a windowless convention center. See our highlights here, then stay tuned for our roundup of this year's offsite shows.
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For the Sight Unseen Shape Shop, we gathered the geometry-obsessed work of 30 designers who hail from Los Angeles to London. At the heart of the shop are three tables — a triangle, a circle, and a square — cut from raw OSB and washed in gray paint, designed by the talented Brooklyn firm The Principals.

The Sight Unseen Shape Shop at Creatures of Comfort

By the close of Sight Unseen's four-day pop-up during the Noho Design District last year, we'd come to realize a few things. One: that we quite enjoy being shopkeepers — the merchandising of objects, the banter with the public, the satisfying swipe of each credit card through our handy Square readers. And two: that four days was not nearly enough. As we watched the objects we'd put so much effort into procuring move on to more permanent retail homes, we felt a vague sense of deflation, almost like a break-up, and we immediately began plotting for pop-up number two. Never, though, did we dream what would happen next: We were approached by Jade Lai, owner of the impeccably curated Creatures of Comfort store in New York and Los Angeles, to create a Sight Unseen pop-up in the gallery space of her New York store, which had previously played host to temporary outposts from the likes of Confettisystem, Textfield, and the Japanese housewares shop Playmountain. After months of planning, we finally debuted the Sight Unseen Shape Shop this Tuesday at a blowout party.
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At the 2012 Stockholm Design Week

Last week, the editors of Sight Unseen toured the former Cooper Square Hotel, which is in the process of blossoming into a gorgeously rendered East Village branch of the Standard. We met with the organizers of Wanted Design to talk about New York Design Week, and a planned alliance between offsite shows including the American Design Club, Model Citizens, and our Noho Design District. We had an ungodly amount of $1 oysters, bought a new pair of Warby Parker glasses, and got into a glaring match with an Apple Genius Bar employee who refused to replace a power adapter that had met an untimely death. What we did not do, however, was attend Stockholm Design Week — we stayed put this year while our friends braved jetlag and below-freezing temperatures to experience the annual unveiling of all things new in Scandinavian design. And yet rather than totally miss out on all the action, we found a willing scout who, while she preferred to remain anonymous for various reasons, was happy to report back on the goings-on in and around the fair — all with a Sight Unseen slant, of course.
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The biggest part of the fair took place at the former gas power plant recently re-christened as 751 D-Park. Next to the city's once-hip 798 arts district, it's dedicated to fostering Beijing's design industry. The wood was part of a larger installation by students from Tsinghua University and the Swiss school EPFL, who went through 600 pallets and 11,500 feet of rope.

At Beijing Design Week

When you live all the way around the globe, visiting China for the first time for any reason — even for work, even for an international design fair, even to a sprawling modern metropolis like Beijing — is going to be mostly about visiting China for the first time. The way the pollution shocks your system, the deliciousness of the food: These are the kinds of experiences you begin eagerly tracking the moment you leave the airport. It's no wonder, then, that I enjoyed Beijing Design Week so much — almost all of the work, whether international or Chinese in origin, was presented in ways that made you feel like you couldn't have been anywhere else.
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At the London Design Festival, Via Dan Rubinstein of Surface

We at Sight Unseen are very busy people. We have babies to nurse (congratulations, Jill!), articles to write for other publications, subjects to spend hours and hours interviewing for this publication, and designers to hassle about finishing their submissions for our still top-secret online shop, set to launch in a little over a month (trust us, it's going to be good). Thus, we sometimes don't have the chance to attend events like the London Design Festival, even as we cringe with regret watching invitations roll in for Established & Sons and Phillips de Pury dinners, friends' exhibition openings, and dozens more chances to take the pulse of one of our favorite local design scenes. When that happens, we reach out to folks we trust and ask them to report back on whatever highs, lows, and drunken blurs they may have witnessed on the ground. Here, Dan Rubinstein, the intrepid editor of Surface magazine — both Jill and I are contributing editors — shares some of the details and moments he was privy to during last week's LDF, which he somehow managed to take time out of his own busy schedule to attend. As for us, you know what they say: There's always next year.
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The third outfit from the left in this piece, Patrick Ervell’s, features a jacket punched through with thousands of rusty staples, then paired with pants made from a trompe l’oeil photographic print of the stapled fabric.

At the 2011 Arnhem Mode Biennale

If you travel all the way from New York to Arnhem just to attend the fashion biennial in this relatively obscure Dutch city, half the size of Pittsburgh, you can expect people to notice. Your waiter will witness your accent — and the fact that you’re not drinking a huge glass of milk with lunch like everyone else — and ask if you came just for the show, and well, did you like it? Your jolly white-haired cab driver will crack a few embarrassing jokes about the Big Apple before waxing poetic about how lovely it is when the festival’s on. And despite Vogue calling the $2.5-million production the “Greatest Fashion Event You’ve Never Heard Of,” it will seem, when you’re there, like Arnhem's gravitational pull has shifted in some small but significant way.
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At ICFF 2011, via Pin-Up’s Felix Burrichter and Dwell’s Sam Grawe

If you've been paying attention, you know by now that the Sight Unseen team spent nearly all of New York Design Week this year holed up in an abandoned lumber building, manning our very first pop-up shop and attending to all the talents we had on board for the second Noho Design District. Did we experience the rest of the weekend's offerings to their fullest? Not by a longshot. But we couldn't quite move on without offering readers some kind of behind-the-scenes take on the festivities, so we enlisted the help of two friends whose viewpoints we trust entirely and asked them be our eyes and ears: Sam Grawe, the endearingly burly editor-in-chief of Dwell, and Felix Burrichter, founder of Pin-Up magazine and local man-about-town. Grawe offered us a mini-photo album of insider moments he particularly cherished — including the back room at the Javits, pictured above, where "judging the Editors Awards requires collateral and fluids" — while Burrichter made us a list of his top 10 (er, 11) highlights from this year's show, perhaps the next best thing to cloning ourselves. See things their way right here.
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“I have always been fascinated by the lively Icelandic cultural scene as well as its geographical uniqueness,” Vendramin writes in her project description, echoing our sentiments. “It is in the Icelandic landscape, in fact, that many artists like Katrin Sigurdardottir, Ragnar Kjartansson, or Olafur Eliasson find the inspiration to create.”

DesignMarch 2011 in Reykjavik

What Iceland may lack in sunshine — getting, on average, less than half the amount of rays New Yorkers enjoy annually — it easily compensates for in natural beauty. When it's light outside, the landscape is an almost otherworldly sight, with blackened crags of lava softened by bright heaps of moss and glaciers melting into never-ending expanses of steel-blue sea. When it's dark, there's a symphony of northern lights to behold. With all of that visual stimulation surrounding them it's no wonder Icelanders are aesthetically gifted, with a fashion sense that rivals Stockholm's in its cacophany of colors and textures and a community of designers that needn't look further than their own backyards for inspiration. When Sight Unseen was invited to Reykjavik this past weekend to attend the opening of Iceland's third annual DesignMarch festival, that was precisely what struck us most: Whether the work we saw directly referenced the country's landscape and culture or just told a story about its current state of affairs — as with one designer we met who had to shutter her architecture practice after the bank crash and start anew — the show felt like a singularly local celebration.
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