Furnishing the Future: Fringe Furniture Exhibition Showcases New Design from Old Materials

In its 26-year history the Fringe Furniture Exhibition has proven to be an accurate barometer of emerging talent, trends and ideas in interior design and architecture.

So much so that it now has iconic status as a central part of Melbourne's annual Fringe Festival, a showcase of innovative and cutting-edge art across a range of genres.

The theme of this year's exhibition, 'Dancing in the dark', fittingly deals with the elephant in the room when it comes to the future of design, and indeed Life As We Know It - sustainability. Forty-five up-and-coming furniture designers have responded to what seems like an overwhelming environmental challenge with a tiny 'dance step' towards a greener future. Their work is showing in an industrially themed space fittingly located in the picturesque Abbotsford Convent.

There were plenty of enthusiastic visitors when I popped along last Saturday afternoon. Some of the works opted for a homely aesthetic that privileged function over form. But a number of works delighted the eye as well as the conscience.

David Davenport's square table with diagonal legs, made from recycled Australian hardwoods, was an example of classic elegance melded with contemporary design. Christopher Shaw's 'Maeva' cabinet, made from Sydney bluegum, and Ryan Straford's 'Red Hill' seat, made from oak wine barrels, both used shape and texture to create warmly pleasing furniture. MacGregor Knox's 'Rosa' (pictured below) a bold curvilinear lounge chair made from salvaged sequoia wood and reclaimed soft urethene, created visual impact through exaggerated form.

The lightshades in particular shone - pun intended. Who knew recycled champagne bottles could be so attractive? Ashley Allen, that's who. Then there was Sally-Anne Mill's flamboyant chandelier collection, 'Spring collection II', made from salvaged springs. This collection deservedly won the Best Design Addressing the 2011 Fringe Furniture Theme award, as well as the Lighting Design award.

But the highlight for me was the collection of 'Mr.Cooper' pendant lights by Kate Stokes (pictured above). Inspired by the old tin can telephone, the lights are made from spun copper and combine modern simplicity with a charming retro feel.

The exhibition is on at the Abbotsford Convent, 1 St Heliers St Collingwood, in the Industrial School building in the Sacred Heart Courtyard. It runs until 8 October, from Thursday to Sunday, from 11 am to 5 pm. Entry is free.

Until next time!

If you enjoyed this post, you might like Kylie Kwong Partners with Oxfam to Bring Fairtrade Design to Your Table.

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