2016 First Look
First Look is a quintessential New York event; other multi-showroom events across the country may be larger or more elaborate, but First Look sets a cohesive baseline for good food, good networking and great products all coming together for one quick night. For the last qw years, usually about a month after NeoCon in Chicago, the New York Design Center (NYDC) at 200 Lexington Ave comes alive with fresh contract products and high spirits, hosting top design talent from around the area. Last Wednesday was the 2016 edition of First Look, and it was a genuinely good time.
I try to hit as many showrooms as I can during the four-hour event. Starting all the way on the 15th floor, the top of First Look, I entered the DIRTT showroom, which looked wonderful as always. Inside, Akua Lesesne, DIRTT’s team leader for global branding and innovation, gave me a great tour of their exciting new developments for residential and hospitality, most of which were told in photographs. While I was there, I bumped into local rep Sally Hinderegger, who secured appointments with two new design clients at First Look that night.
“I’m hearing such great stuff tonight,” said Sally, who began recounting her conversations with customers: “’Why would anyone want to build out a project conventionally anymore?’ and, ‘I didn’t know DIRTT could provide a full interiors solution.’ It’s been a great First Look!”
Further down the hall, I ran into Ken Gibson, who was planning a First Look after party at his showroom, Gibson Interior Products. “So far, we’ve had a full house that has been mixing a solid array of our dealers, design firm clients, and end user,” said Mr. Gibson. “The First Look event has become an evening to enjoy the company of our peers and a sort of mini-NeoCon for us; our manufacturers get one-on-one time with so many of our clients at the same time. One VP commented to me that he was just as busy last night as he was in his showroom in Chicago last month; it doesn’t get better than that!”
Indeed, this was easily the best attended First Look I have seen, and the excitement was everywhere.
[Image: 14Decca_showroom.jpg], caption: Decca Showroom at First Look
[Image: 14skyline_glass.jpg], caption: Skyline: art with glass
One floor below, I made a dash to the Aristeia Metro showroom, home to such manufacturers as Skyline Glass, Source International Seating, CF Stinson and Snowsound acoustic panels. This was the first instance where I didn’t get a chance to see most of the items at NeoCon, and I was glad to see them in such a positive atmosphere. Skyline’s multi-paneled, multicolored bold stroke of interior design immediately caught my eye; it is truly a work of art. It was great to catch up with Shannon Picklesiemer from CF Stinson, especially after CF Stinson’s big win at NeoCon this year. Their new healthcare collection is as good looking as it is affordable.
Across the hall at Krug, it was clear the showroom had undergone a tremendous renovation. Krug’s wonderfully sensible furniture looked great in the new space, especially the height adjustable tables. Next door at Decca Contract, the company continues to tell their story with wood. The addition of Elan by Decca in recent years has rounded out this collection and made it a high-end go-to brand for many designers.
Turning into the always-sophisticated Luna Textiles showroom, I was delighted to see my friend Courtney Brooks working with the company now. “Luna is a breath of fresh air when it comes to textiles, and I am happy to reconnect with so many old friends tonight,” said Ms. Brooks.
Spinning around to the other direction, I spotted Cindy Allen, editor-in-chief of Interior Design magazine, making her way to the Arc-Com showroom with much fanfare. I believe this was the first year Interior Design partnered with NYDC to bring us First Look.
“The partnership between NYDC and Interior Design magazine has turned First Look into the premier product design event in New York City,” said Jesse Davis, director of marketing for Arc-Com. “We have had a steady flow of quality designers walk through our showroom during the evening, and we couldn’t have been happier.
The other side of the 14th floor contained the showrooms of Gordon International and the Levine Calvano Furniture Group, two companies with a long tenure at the NYDC. At Gordon International, I was enamored with an interactive digital display on the wall; it seems to have similar capabilities to other products in the marketplace, but at a fraction of the cost.
“This year set a new bar for attendance and enthusiasm,” said GI President Peter Spalding. “As successful as First Look has been through the past decade, I believe we are just hitting our stride now. The most rewarding thing to see is designers enjoying and showing real interest in our new products, and really having a great time visiting with us.”
At Levine Calvano Furniture Group, Matthew Levine was having a great time catching up with friends and showing off his latest and greatest products; in other words, he was in his element.
“First Look is always a great time,” he said, between sips of watermelon cocktail, “but this particular First Look is shaping up to be both fun and profitable.”
Two winning combinations, for sure.
Making my way to lucky floor number 13, I noticed that KI, First Look newbie last year, found its stride and made the friendly confines of NYDC their New York home. For some reason – I still can’t put my finger on it – I felt instantly at home in the KI showroom. They had a guitar player, plenty of food and drink, and the casual atmosphere was in abundance.
“We are all part of the big happy design family at First Look,” said KI sales rep Christina Gigstead. “The camaraderie and good times have carried over from Chicago, and I have a feeling this will be my best year yet with KI.”
The Pallas Textiles used for upholstery throughout the space looked wonderful.
Over at Harbor Outdoor Australia, marketing manager Camille Jalandoni spoke about her First Look success:
”This was a great turnout by the A&D community. Their interest and feedback for the new collection we introduced was fantastic. I am really looking forward to following up on all the leads that were generated tonight.”
Design heavyweights Napier + Joseph + McNamara were busy hosting guests and holding court in their spacious, elegant series of showrooms. Housing everything from Halcon to Davis, even Wall Goldfinger and Enrico Pellizzoni, Casey McNamara and his dedicated staff were nothing but gracious and welcoming to everyone that night.
By this point, the hallways had become quite crowded; one could barely take a step without running into an old friend or colleague in line for a drink or the elevator. Networking at First Look is always great. You have the chance to run into some genuine characters and have some decidedly left-of-center conversations, if that is what you are open for. But, it is equally easy to keep it moving and focus on the products as well.
The 11th floor of the NYDC holds the Versteel showroom and some of the biggest product revelations of the night. The Maker Project, a series of tables with a heavy industrial finish, really impressed me, as I had not had a chance to see it in Chicago. Available in work, counter and stand-up heights that include heavy-duty casters or glides, the butcher block finish with exposed steel welding is the center of a series which includes work tables, occasional tables, benches and a presentation white board.
“Designers are very positive as business climate and projects remain strong,” said Pam Mathias, VP of sales and marketing for Versteel. “Traffic has been steady from start to finish with designers taking lots of time and showing great interest in our product introductions. This has been a very productive evening for Versteel.
Across the hall at Keilhauer/Primason Symchik, laid back elegance was the order of the evening. The shimmering, sparkling showroom housed some great new introductions from Keilhauer and a stunning table display of Prismatique.
“Tonight, our design friends are our family,” said Carol Symchik. “First Look gives us a chance to reconnect with design professionals we have not seen in a long time. It’s a great evening.”
Next door at Andreu World, plenty of people were gathering to try out the new seating introductions, which are sprinkled generously throughout the space. Further down the floor, the Darran showroom was rocking and rolling, and the clean lines and spare forms of the new furniture look great. But, I do wish they would warm up the super-blue LED lights they have in their showroom.
On the ninth floor, my final First Look stop was the Bright showroom. Chris Adam and Lisa Sternheim had a full house and were more than willing to show off the treasures in their showroom. New lines like Troscan and Hellman-Chang were placed strategically throughout the space. Overall, this showroom flowed the best of the evening. Soaking in the showroom, Daniel Hellman and Eric Chang of Hellman-Chang were quite conspicuous as they moved around, but maybe only a design nerd like me would notice. Relaxing in Bright furniture is the best way to wind down from the double shot of networking and alcohol from the previous few hours. Soon I felt rested and rejuvenate, prepared to re-enter the city and ride off the inspiration.
It was clear to anyone paying attention that this was a complicated event to pull off. A warm thank you to Dennis Cahill, Leah Blank and the fantastic team at NYDC. Well done!