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Design,  Work

4 Takeaways from the Architectural Digest Design Show

Last month, I had the privilege of attending the Architectural Digest Design Show at Piers 92 and 94 in New York City. Every year, the world’s leading brands come together to celebrate design with hundreds of vignettes, design seminars, and culinary demonstrations. The show also offers thousands of products such as furniture, accessories, lighting, art, and building materials for attendees to source and shop.

Now, this wasn’t the first time I heard of the AD show. I was somewhat tuned into the industry since I wanted to be an interior designer at once point in my life. Though, I didn’t have a thorough understanding of the show until I was tasked with writing a blog about it for two clients in a previous job; one was an interior designer and the other worked in upholstery and millwork. The more research I did, the more I wanted to attend. After I published my second blog for one of these clients, I told myself “I’m going to go to this event one day.”

Flash forward to a year later, and I’m sitting in a second-round interview with the CEO of a marketing communications agency that specializes in high-end interiors, building materials, and lifestyle products. She began to talk about the different events the agency plans and attends. One of which was the AD show and my jaw dropped. I thought to myself “I simply HAVE to get this job so I can go to this event!”

My wishes came true and after four weeks on the job, my butt was on a 5:30 a.m. train to New York City. 

I didn’t know what to expect. I took home the most recent copy of Architectural Digest I could find in the office and read it cover to cover the weekend prior. I scoured the website for brands I knew I should make a visit to, and circled them on a print-out of the show floor. Though nothing prepared me for the moment when I checked in when I realized I was considered an exhibitor because I was part of the PR team for Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet. How cool was that?!

Before I took my place at Kalamazoo’s booth, I had an opportunity to explore the show floor on my own. From shiny objects to jaw-dropping vignettes, here are my takeaways from the Architectural Digest Design Show told from the viewpoint of a young first-time attendee. 

The Show Floor is also a Runway

I love fashion. I carefully take notice of what people are wearing around me because it gives me a sense of who they are as a person as well as what’s important to them. As I was walking around the show floor, I noticed outfits spanning from the ordinary jeans-and-sweater combo to the extraordinary skin-tight glitter dress and sky-high heels combo — complete with one glitter glove worn on the left hand. I did a double-take and thought it was Lady Gaga.

Was she really there? I will never know for sure.

From that moment on, I started noticing that other women were wearing looks of that nature in luxury brand names like Gucci or Chanel. I genuinely thought they had just stepped off the runway or came to life directly out of an issue of Vogue. And. I. Am. Here. For. It. 

Nothing says “I’m in my element” more than high fashion at a design event in New York City. 

It’s Not Just for Furniture, Lighting, Kitchens, and Baths

Given this was my first industry show, I thought there would be a lot of lamps, tables, bathtubs, and kitchen countertops to peruse. Indeed there were, but there was SO MUCH MORE! Everything a home would need, such as stationary, candles, blankets, teas and more, were available for immediate purchase in the shops. But my eyes were focused on bigger things…

Gorgeous sinks in an array of colors and patterns dotted the walls of the London Basin Company’s booth. 

Courtesy of London Basin Company’s Instagram

My personal favorite is this blue one here. It looks like a flower. 

Kaiser Sudan, a Lebanese artist, let his childhood run wild with this installation that makes passersby stop and smile while thinking about the good old times. 

Marmiro Stones put together such a cute woodsy-inspired display at their booth. I had to go back again for a second look!

The dark blue and white chevron pattern is to die for. 

Lush greenery is my weakness. It’s my safe haven where I can reconnect with nature and feel grounded again. Dark greens are especially soothing to me, and Opiary Design certainly made use of this luscious shade at their vignette. I didn’t want to take my eyes off of — or move my feet away from — this wallscape.

There is Simply Not Enough Time in the Day — or Even the Weekend — to Soak It All Up

I’m one of those people who could spend five minutes staring at a tablescape, vignette, or expertly curated pendant collection in silence. I like to soak in every detail, think about the meaning behind the art, and oftentimes, play the “if I had the money” game and think about how I would decorate my home with the pieces that were on display in front of me. 

Multiply five minutes by more than 400 brands (I’m not even counting individual items here) and you see my dilemma. 

I went to the AD show for one day. Though I was grateful for the opportunity, I wish I was there for the entire duration of the show. There’s just too much to take in: The AD Apartment area had many hidden gems spread throughout the space, 400+ exhibitors on the show floor would certainly take days to completely navigate, and I didn’t even make it to the shops because there was so much to look at! However, there was one space in particular that I’m so glad I had a chance to go to.  

DIFFA’s Dining by Design is an Absolute Must-See 

Every year, the Architectural Digest Design Show partners with DIFFA (Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS) to raise awareness for the treatment, care, preventive education, and advocacy for individuals impacted by HIV/AIDS. Dining by Design is the annual culmination of this effort, where many designers, design students, and even marketing agencies in the industry have the chance to showcase creativity and glamour with one-of-a-kind dining environments. 

The dining environments are on display throughout the show. On the final night, members of the design community have the opportunity to attend the Closing Night Gala. Purchasing a ticket will not only provide attendees the satisfaction of donating to a good cause, but attendees will also have the chance to wine and dine within the environments! 

I was in awe as I was walking through the show floor. The attention to detail, the artistry, and the carefully crafted themes had me mesmerized. 

I was greeted at this door with this breathtaking “1,000 Folds of Hope” display by Gensler New York.

Courtesy of Gensler New York’s Instagram

Another design that had me utterly shocked was this tablescape, which ended up being my favorite. Inspired by The Peacock Room by James McNeill Whistler, Barry Richards of The Rockwell Group partnered with natural lighting company Ketra to create this colorful display. The peacock-feathered, gold leaf paper-covered lamp served as the focal point of the vignette. 

Here’s where I started playing the “if I had the money” game. This tablescape by Brenden Jo Studio would have worked perfectly at my wedding last summer. 

Finally, this moving tablescape by Novità PR, Design Calendar and Maiarelli Studio made me reflect on my need to read more books. Yes, I do believe that reading is an exercise in empathy as well. 

Overall, the few hours I spent at the AD show were so impactful to me. Sure, I would see photos of luxurious items and places on the internet, but it wasn’t the same as admiring them in person. This was my first real taste of the design world and I can’t wait to have more. Look out design world, I’ll be headed to Chicago and Denver soon!